Leading with Hospitality: Marriott Makes the Case for Language Inclusion
Whether the focus is on lodging, transportation, or event production, hospitality requires seamless interaction on all levels so that customers feel comfortable and satisfied. Naturally, in our increasingly interconnected world, providing cultural courtesies plays an important role in achieving success.
And with the growth rate of the tourism industry outpacing that of the global economy1, hospitality workers (both domestically and abroad) encounter travelers from across the globe who will expect them to understand their unique cultural perspectives—including their languages!
With hotels in 122 countries, Marriott International is among the industry leaders who have identified a need for language inclusion in everyday hospitality work.
In July 2006, they rolled out a program for Spanish-speaking employees to learn English2 Two years later, the company began a new initiative: Having hotel managers practice and learn from a choice of 30 other languages through a partnership with Rosetta Stone. CEO Bill Marriott explained:
“Marriott is a truly diverse and global company. These are just some more examples of our commitment to be culturally tuned in to our guests and our associates around the world.”3.
Since then, Marriott and its subsidiaries have rolled out language learning and inclusion programs all over the world, some software-based and some not, including a program at the Protea Hotels in South Africa (as featured in the video above).
At Protea’s Sandton location, they’ve been leading a program for deaf and hearing-impaired students since January 2015. The program was created “in a bid to foster career opportunities in the hospitality industry for this group of people, so often denied access to work and careers.” It allows deaf students to work in the hotel to gain hospitality experience while also taking classes at local universities.
Nancy Gaylard, the Sandton Training Manager, was one of the individuals who spearheaded the project. She had been learning sign language for about two years. In addition to providing employment and important training for the deaf students, the program has also helped hearing staff members become better at sign language and more culturally aware. Says Nancy:
“They talk to us in sign and they force us to talk back in sign, so when we make a mistake they help us.”
This partnership between the deaf students and hearing employees (themselves students of an additional language) is just one example of how languages can bring teams closer together to improve understanding, company efficiency, and the guest experience!
Have you considered joining the hospitality or tourism industries? Want to become a language-inclusive manager? An additional language can make your resume stand out from the crowd!
Have you used another language or relied on cultural skills while traveling during a hotel stay, flight, bus ride, or conference? Tell us about it @LeadWLanguages!