Our hospitality industry has a long way to go
Place: A hotel in Comilla city.
Right after checking in to the room in the evening, I look for some coffee. I see a one-litre bottle of water and a glass. Most of the hotels across the country keep an electric kettle and a bunch of teabags or mini-packs of coffee. But I always carry mine, as many of them don’t keep those for their guests. And more so because I drink decaf.
I dial the front desk, but no one picks up. I instantly know that there will be no morning coffee tomorrow morning. I plan to call room service in the morning and get some hot water from the kitchen.
The morning comes. I again call the front desk. A man picks up. I ask him: “Who do I talk to for a cup of hot water? I’d like to make some coffee.”
He replies: “I’m sending it to your room, sir.” In a few moments, someone knoks on the door and I see a waiter standing there with a steaming cup of hot water at my door.
“I don’t see a teaspoon with you; it would be great to have a spoon, as I need to stir the coffee.”
“No, sir. Please wait for a few minutes, I’ll go get the spoon,” the waiter tells me.
“Please, don’t bother. The water will cool down.”
I start using a bunch of toothpicks with I have with me as the stirring tool as I make my coffee. I start feeling good when I have the first sip.
A week later
I again check into a hotel. This time in Feni city. I face a new battle in order to seek a cup or a mug of hot water for making coffee. Here in Feni, I am given only a bottle of drinking water in the room. I find someone outside my room, and request a glass, and he brings it for me.
I call the receptionist and request a cup of hot water and a teaspoon to be sent to my room.
In a few minutes, I hear the knock on the door and I see a young man standing outside with a 1.5-litre bottle of hot water in his hand. He also has a spoon wrapped with a paper napkin. I become quite flabbergasted and tell him: “Why a bottle? Don’t you have a cup? Or a mug?”
I see his eyes fix on the glass on the table. “There,” he says, “you have a glass there! You could drink your coffee in that glass. But if you insist, I can go and look for a cup for you.”
“There’s no need to do that. It’s OK; I can manage with that glass.”
I request him to put the hot water plastic bottle on the table, as I see the bottle aquiring a different shape due to the heat of the water. He goes away and I make my coffee in the glass.
This is hospitality
I mention these two stories as examples of hospitality in our hotels across the country. The hotel business is seemingly booming in Bangladesh, as various types of professionals as well as businesspeople seem to be moving from one place to another for work.
Huge structures have been built in districts such as Chittagong, Sylhet, Khulna, Kushtia, Bogra, Noakhali, Comilla, Feni, and many other cities.
The buildings look really good; surely they have employed architects for constructing the hotels. It is certainly good news that they also are doing good business, as the rooms are always occupied.
However, one aspect that has been disturbing me is that hoteliers have been running their businesses without employing anybody with prior experience of working in the hospitality sector. OK, we may not have as many people with experience as we require in the country, but some near-silly elements can be corrected with common sense.
All we need to do is get a piece of paper and write down what the guests expect during their time in the hotels.
I have regularly been using in hotels for the last few years, and have seen that all of them are running without any trained personnel. No one is truly thinking, planning, or implementing anything in these establishments.
It’s not as though these hotels are cheap. They’re charging quite a lot.
These hotel owners across the country need to realize that they are running a business called “hospitality” and one of the greatest requirements of this business is to show that they care for the guests staying in their hotels.
However, the element of care is absolutely absent. It’s not that the personnel engaged in these hotels are insincere; they are simply ignorant about the finesse that is required to work in this sector. No one is training them up; no one is teaching them about the finer sides of the hospitality business.
And that is why I have an unwanted experience to narrate every time I check in to a hotel.
Ekram Kabir is a story-teller and a columnist.