By Oliver Mills
Throughout the Caribbean, the hospitality industry is regarded more than ever as one of the main revenue earners, and employment providers. Some countries take this for granted, as they have experienced the service sector to a greater extent than others.
Oliver Mills is a former lecturer in education at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus. He holds an M.Ed degree. from Dalhousie University in Canada, an MA from the University of London and a post-graduate diploma in HRM and Training, University of Leicester. He is a past Permanent Secretary in Education with the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands
But if the hospitality industry is not treated with the care and attention it deserves, many countries could find their earnings considerably reduced, resulting in a loss of competitiveness. This would affect the delivery of many of the social and economic programmes resulting from a vibrant hospitality sector.
Because of this, as a safeguard for a country’s image and reputation, there should be a code of ethics governing the behaviour of hospitality workers, particularly entertainers. Of course, many hospitality workers have undergone various types of training in areas such as customer service, interpersonal relations, communication skills, which involve being polite, diplomatic, enabling the customer, and general ethical training which enriches the hospitality environment, generating positive reviews by visitors.
And this ethical training should be done often, and not as a one-off event, so that good behaviour and attitudes come naturally to the hospitality entertainers and workers generally.
But there is a particular area, which I think requires more serious attention, and it has to do with having a formal code of ethics for in-house entertainers, and those brought in periodically to entertain guests and visitors alike. We all know the attitude we have about tourists coming to the Caribbean to have fun, and we take this literally.
And it so happens that many of our entertainers often extend themselves whether in their theatrical acts, or in the words comprising their music to really put on a show which many visitors would think is beyond the pale.
For example, Caribbean music can be very suggestive, appealing to instincts that are not really a part of the behaviour, and do not represent the values of those with a more conservative orientation. But many of us seem to glory in it.
It would be culturally healthy, if entertainers could refine suggestive songs, and music to make them more acceptable. But some of us seem to think this is what tourists come to see and listen to. So we go overboard in a sexually explicit way in our music and dance, and think it is a display of our culture. But culture is the most refined expression of our history, experiences, and thoughts, presented in a way that does not border on the bizarre. And our entertainers need to be aware of this.
Also, the manner in which some entertainers interact with hospitality visitors portrays a hidden agenda, to use their cultural and musical power for ends that are not ethical. Some of their ways of behaving border on the seductive. And they often become too familiar with visitors they have no knowledge of, believing every visitor is just a tourist looking for fun however this is interpreted.
Some entertainers contort their bodies, stress certain words and phrases for effect, swing and wine their hips in such a way that gives meaning to the current song “Bruk off ya back.” This is not entertainment. Rather, it is behaviour designed to create a certain supposed desire associated with a need to be met, which has been dormant, and unfulfilled. Many entertainers use the strong sound of the drum, or the bass guitar to create a titillating effect on those they are performing for, even as a means of riling up their emotions.
These entertainers need to be coached to realize that all hospitality visitors are not the same. There are persons with families who have strong ethical and moral beliefs, and privately resent suggestive music, or performances. Even some younger persons have a sense of integrity, and feel challenged by cultural practices that are not their own. I have seen instances where visitors have tried to blend in and imitate local cultural ways of dancing, but feel awkward in the process, and give up, because what they are trying to do is not culturally universal.
What is needed here is for hospitality entertainers to be provided with a code of ethics specifying desirable ways of performing in a more refined way. They need to know that the songs they sing need to be sanitized with respect to certain expressions used in them. And that their performance need not border on being vulgar. Also that they should not take visitors for granted, seeking to entrance them with the peculiar sound of their music, or the beat of the drum.
It should also be impressed upon them that slow rhythm should be pleasing, with harmless messages, and that the loudness of the music is not an indication that visitors are enjoying it. And that communicating with hospitality guests or visitors should be done in good taste.
A formal code of ethics for hospitality entertainers ensures sustained competitiveness, a positive image and a pleasing environment for the hospitality enterprise, which its customers could not resist.