PROVIDENCE – Travel guides published by Forbes and AAA were once the first place consumers looked when planning a trip, but today they might first scan hotel reviews posted on Internet sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, according to one professor at Johnson & Wales University.
JWU Professor Paul Bagdan offered that insight during a Tuesday lecture to hotel professionals from Eurasian countries, who spent a day on the Providence campus. “Pay attention to the online reviews,” Bagdan advised. “Many Americans do.”
The group of 20 hailed from eight countries -- Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – that became independent when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. All are located near the Black Sea or the Caspian Sea.
The group visited Rhode Island as guests of the U.S. Department of Commerce, through a program known as Special American Business Internship Training. The attendees hope to build a thriving hospitality industry in their part of the world, and they spent the morning in classes taught by JWU faculty.
“We’re a young country, just 20 years old, so we’re looking to people with more experience to help us learn to promote tourism,” said Anar Agayev, general manager of the Safran Hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan.
“We’re hoping someday people from this city could be our customers,” added Shalva Alaverdashvili, general manager of the Hotel Chain Geotel in Georgia. “We have history and culture, mountains and ski resorts, and especially food and beverage. Our country is the place where wine was born.”
Associate Professor Barbara Galipeau taught a class on protocol for business meetings. “There’s a degree of ceremony in running a meeting well,” Galipeau told the group. “Everyone who participates should feel honored and respected.”
Among other tips, participants learned:
Their hotel staff should be trained on how to treat VIP and celebrity guests; employees should never snap photos or ask for autographs.
There are seating rules for formal business meetings; the chairperson sits at the head of the table, with those highest in rank nearby.
Business meals are about forging relationships, not eating; don’t go overboard at the buffet table, and never ask for a doggy bag.