Candid Swiss hotel letter to its Indian guests hits a nerve

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Pradip Rodrigues

A Swiss hotel recently posted a notice specifically directed toward their guests from India and has since gone viral. It has prompted plenty of soul-searching and commentary on social media. This letter was issued by Christian Matti, manager of Hotel Arc-en-ciel in Gstaad, Switzerland and included a list of rules only for Indian guests. “Dear guests from India, Welcome to Hotel Arc-en-ciel in Gstaad,” it said, adding that in order for “you to enjoy your holiday”, a set of rules were required to be followed.

‘Guests from India’ were asked to refrain from carrying “anything” from the breakfast buffet. “Please do not take anything with you, the food is for breakfast only. If you would like a lunch bag, you can order it from the service stall and pay for it.” Indian tourists were also asked to use the cutlery provided at the table.

Moreover, guests were directed to not “speak loudly” in the balcony and “be quiet” in the corridor. “In addition to you, there are other guests from all over the world in the hotel. They also appreciate the peace and quiet,” it said. “Thank you very much and enjoy your stay in Gstaad,” Christian Matti signed off the notice after listing the entire set of rules and regulations.
Indian industrialist and globe trotter Harsh Goenka slammed the hotel in his tweet but also noted that it was imperative for tourists from India to maintain a code of conduct. “But a realisation dawned that we as tourists are loud, rude, not culturally sensitive,” he said on Twitter.

In recent years, Indians like Chinese have become a ubiquitous sight at all major destinations around the world. Millions of Indians now have a record amount of disposable income and taking vacations abroad is a marker of wealth and status. The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) predicts that India will account for 50 million outbound tourists by 2020. Operators say that at present around 25 million tourists from India travel abroad. While most tourists tend to behave well enough, a large number of them, especially those who travel in large tour groups end up making a nuisance of themselves.

I have observed not just Indian tourists but Indian immigrants in Canada and the US behaving just as poorly while vacationing.

In hotels offering breakfast buffets, I’ve seen Indians, both tourists and immigrants stuff breakfast items in Tupperware to be enjoyed on the road. A group of 25 Indian guests at a hotel can easily deplete a hotel buffet in a matter of half an hour leaving others to wait while the staff struggle to keep up. The hotel manager listed that as one of the rules for Indians.

He also urged them to respect guests from other parts of the world who put a premium on peace and quiet. At some hotels I’ve heard Indian guests speak loudly and let their children race up and down the corridor screaming and if it disturbed us, it also bothered others, especially since it was 10.30 pm, I guess most Indians would assume that hour to be early evening.

Pilfering items from well-appointed hotel rooms is another thing that happens. Around the same time this notice to Indian guests made the rounds on social media, someone uploaded a YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVR1EOMzq4Y which shows two or three Indian families who had their baggage opened after they checked out of their hotel and it was found that they had stolen electronics, wall hangings, hangars etc. They can be seen pleading to be let off and one of the men offers to pay any amount in order to be let off.

At buffet restaurants, some Indians families of four will order just two buffets and let the other two nibble their way through lunch or dinner. At many restaurants staff are too embarrassed to say anything and look away. But the Swiss hotel manager put it down as one of the rules.

The question is what makes an Indian immigrant or tourist who has spent lakhs of rupees or thousands of dollars risk ruining his vacation and reputation by stealing fixtures and items from a hotel room or behaving cheaply and badly?

Quite often I’ve noticed that if one or two Indian families are vacationing together, they tend to be more respectful of rules but when they are in a tour group, perhaps because there is safety in numbers, they tend to be boisterous, loud and boorish. On a vacation recently, I saw a large group of 30 Indian tourists dressed rather conservatively boldly walk into an upscale store, all they did was pick up items and upset the immaculate displays before walking out without buying a thing or even acknowledging the staff.

There are those who would argue that Indian tourists like anyone have a right to explore a store, but one needs to draw the line between exploring a historical place and a private store. I for one would never dream of walking into Bergdorf Goodman on 5th Ave, NY even though I could technically do so and yet there are so many Indian tourists and immigrants who have no qualms going to places and not observing the etiquette or showing the slightest consideration for those around.

I suspect more and more hotels will be putting out such notices for Indian guests and it won’t be long before they contact tour operators and insist their groups understand what is expected of them in order to be a good guest. -CINEWS

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