Having worked in the hotel industry for more than 15 years, including 10 on St. Thomas, I feel I have to make some comments on your Op-ed commentary "A Tale of Two Hotels."
First and foremost, many of the local people that I had the pleasure of working with in the hotel industry here understand what the term "hospitality" means. They practice it in their own homes by saying "please" and "thank you" and by showing guests in their homes sincere hospitality from their hearts. It is something you can teach, but you have to have a sincere desire to want to please others and make them comfortable — they same way that we would all like to be treated.
One of the biggest problems here, as stateside, is that these days we all want something for nothing. We all want to "be a millionaire" and not have to work for what we get. Many of the local people that I worked with in the resort industry, had worked hard for years to raise their families and make a good life for themselves in the Virgin Islands.
These people would go out of their way to make visitors to our islands feel comfortable so that they would want to return — and thereby also spread their hospitality back to the mainland, as the guests would tell others of their great experience in the Virgin Islands so they would want to come here, too.
Unfortunately, it appears that the majority of us have grown selfish. Today, we get instant gratification shoved in our face everywhere. Because companies want cheaper labor and bigger profits, training and rewarding the hard worker may not be a priority, and we forget to praise the positive and reprimand the negative. As a parent, I realize that it takes a lot more effort to enforce rules and stick to your guns then to just "let it slide this one time." Management in the hotel industry here, as well as stateside, needs to understand that training is an everyday undertaking. We must nurture our employees, like our children, every single day!
I was once a visitor in Tanzania, a very poor country with a lot of unemployment and problems — which one could say is motivation in itself for people there to work hard for their wages. But at the hotel where I stayed, I was amazed at the local staff's ability to anticipate their guests' needs and meet them in a swift and unobtrusive way. I asked the general manager of this lovely hotel what his secret was, noting that I worked in the industry myself. He said, "I must train and re-train every single day — reward when they do it right and show them the faults and correct when they do it wrong."
Every single person who comes into contact with a visitor to our islands has the opportunity to make that person feel that he or she is truly a welcome guest — or an intrusion in our day. Think of the difference we could all make — hotel employees, taxi drivers, restaurant wait staff, shop employees, trash collectors, police officers, even the children who stand in public areas and curse at their friends instead of smiling and saying "please" and "thank you."
Hats off to those who do make a difference and who keep on trying.
Editor's note: Barbara Seiler worked in the hospitality industry for more than five years on the mainland before moving to St. Thomas to work at the Stouffer Grand Beach Resort; she stayed with the property, now the Renaissance, until a year ago.