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cross-cultural Sensitivities in Hospitality: potentials for conflict and understanding Dr Asad Mohsin Department of Tourism & Hospitality Management The University of Waikato Management School Hamilton, New Zealand. 1

Are multiculturalism; multinational; globalization disheartening words? Or are they enriching words? Are we loosing our cultural values or enriching them? What is the role of diversity in the contemporary world of Hospitality? Where else can one learn better than at home in a very personal setting? 2

Aim of this presentation:
To highlight the significance of practicing sensitivity in cross- cultural encounters in hospitality industry. Let us consider: • What is culture? • What impact culture has on service industry such as hospitality and tourism?


Is there a way to quickly assess core values of a culture to provide a better service? Harris (2004) suggests the following classification: • • • • • • • • • Sense of self and space. Communication and language. Dress and appearance. Food and feeding habits. Time and time consciousness. Relationship Values and norms Beliefs and attitudes Work habits and practices (Harris 2004).


Asian versus Western Culture • The influence of cultural values on behaviour has been well documented (Adler and Graham, 1989; Hofstede, 1980). • Matilla (1999) points out the influence of culture on consumer perceptions of service encounters with relation to hotel industry, that cultural factors are likely to mediate the hotel customers’ attitude toward the service component of their hotel experience.


• Service styles in Asia are more people oriented compared to the West, where efficiency of service delivery is highly valued (Matilla 1999). • A Western consumer will not mind an impersonal service if it is efficient and timesaving where-as an Asian consumer places primary emphasis on the quality of interpersonal relationships and the quality of interaction between employee and customer (Matilla 1999). • The cultural background strongly influences consumer behaviour. Reisinger and Turner (1999) suggest Japanese tourists have experienced problems with Australian service provisions. •


• Another strong growing Asian market to consider is that of the Chinese consumers. Chinese are primarily collectivist, with emphasis on the group and authority and not on the individual (Mok and De Franco 1999). • Understanding the Chinese cultural values and how Chinese shape their preferences and expectations is of importance to any business who wants a share of this market. 7

cross-cultural sensitivity; Employee performance and business success

• All international service trade, including hotels involve service encounters with consumers from different cultures. • Ignorance of core culturally sensitive values often leads to erroneous belief resulting in unhappy customers and lost business. It becomes painful when it doesn’t need to be. • Research indicates that cross-culturally sensitive employees provide their foreign customers better service by their ability to adjust serving styles to meet the needs of foreign customers. 8

• However, many American firms fail to take advantage of cross-cultural training even if it is made available (Lee-Ross 2005). • Likewise the hospitality industry is failing to account appropriately for cross cultural understanding in management training programmes and subsequent initiatives. • For example Ritz-Carlton hotel group experienced difficulties when they tried to introduce a western-style total quality management (TQM) system in their Hong Kong hotel due to Chinese cultural value ‘Guanxi’ (Lee-Ross 2005). 9

• In contrast to TQM, Chinese practice of “Guanxi” has developed over thousands of years. Guanxi is a social interaction within a networked group where repeated favour exchanges ensure a measure of trust among the participants of this network. • Unlike TQM, Guanxi applies to all types of human interaction; it...
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