More travel bussinesses need to be culture sensitive, says one of the major hotel groups in SA. Picture: Australian Traveller.
More travel bussinesses need to be culture sensitive, says one of the major hotel groups in SA. Picture: Australian Traveller.

Why hotels need to be cultural sensitive

By Time of article published Feb 16, 2017

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changing world means changing travel patterns, and the hospitality industry has

to adapt – or face the risk of not connecting with the travellers of tomorrow.


chief operating officer for Marriott International, Middle East and Africa and Business Leader for Protea Hotels in South Africa, Mark

Satterfield, said in the last 20 to 30 years, they had seen the growth of the

middle class globally and improved air routes, which has allowed for the rise

of new travel markets.


meant that young people from states that previously restricted their citizens

from travel now have the freedom of movement their parents could not enjoy.


outbound travel markets are opening up, and this is changing the face of travel

throughout the world. The traditional dominance of travellers from the United Kingdom,

North America and Western Europe is now being challenged by significant

increases in the number of international travellers from countries like China,

India and the Middle East,’ he said.


believes that the success of the travel industry in catering for these new

travellers hinges on a number of factors, of which cultural sensitivity is one key

issue.  “The corporate hospitality

industry grew out of the United States and countries in Western Europe, and so

the way we dealt with guests in the past was based on these countries’ cultures

and behaviours.  But this has to be adapted

to take into consideration the many new travellers we now host from varied

cultures around the world. Our need for an evolving approach is not just

because of our desire to deliver relevant hospitality – it is necessary for the

future successes of our business,’ he added.


President and CEO of Marriott International, Arne Sorenson, said the ability to

attract the most diverse customers and reflect local cultures in hotels will

propel future success and global growth of a business.


company established an Executive Global Diversity and Inclusion Council,

chaired by the Sorenson and Satterfield. 

Staff training includes a learning curriculum focused on cultural

competence. The company offers learning tools for language skills and cultural

awareness. Staff can access information for well over 100 countries, with

information covering the political, economic and historical background of a

country along with societal and cultural norms and practices.


Chinese travel market is certainly significant for the future of our South

African travel and tourism sector,” Satterfield explained. 


numbers for the country are increasing rapidly among many markets but the

Chinese one shows the most dramatic growth. 

Some staff in South Africa have embarked on training to offer particular

levels of service for Chinese guests, such as learning the basics of spoken

Mandarin, so that they can prepare correspondence in the guest’s language and

answer a guest’s queries.

 “Being culturally aware makes all the

difference to the experience of our guests, and it is especially important when

they consider whether to make a return trip to our country in the future. By

investing in our staff and their understanding of cultural awareness, we are in

fact investing in the long-term growth of our industry,” he said.  

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