The XXIX Olympiad is due to open on 8th August; but with only several months to go the Chinese still have a few hurdles to clear, not least of which is the recruitment and training of hotel staff for the plethora of high-end hotels that has been built specifically for the games.
Ever since the games were awarded to Beijing the decision has been mired in controversy. Objections have been made about China’s human rights record; concern has been expressed about pollution levels in the Chinese capital; and many point to the country’s lack of experience in delivering a major sporting event on this scale.
But, putting the objections aside, one of the bigger challenges surrounding the 2008 Olympics has been to build and subsequently staff a sufficient number of hotels in the Chinese capital, capable of accommodating the huge amount of anticipated visitors to the games.
In addition to the sheer construction challenge, there is an additional and probably more pertinent issue especially for luxury hotels; that of the level of service expected and associated with high-end status hotels.
News has recently emerged which reveals that China’s current, state-sponsored hotel rating system ignores service issues altogether and concentrates purely on the facilities offered in the hotels. As service is not even being considered in the rating system it has led many in the global hospitality industry to question what they can expect when they turn up at the games with their important, corporate and high-end paying guests.
They are anxiously seeking re-assurances from hotel operators and games organisers that service levels in the Chinese capital’s luxury hotels will be on a par to those provided throughout the rest of the world. However, it appears that it is a numbers game. There is simply not enough hotel workers familiar with the western service ethic when it comes to luxury hotels, meaning that many hotel operators may have to attempt to bring in experienced staff from other countries. The first hurdle there will to overcome the high level of bureaucracy imposed by the Chinese regime, and the second will be that the fiercely proud hosts will not wish to appear to show that they cannot cope by allowing that to happen.
Air pollution in the Chinese capital is being touted as a potential problem for both competitors and visitors, and there is even talk of athletes competing in masks to filter the polluted air.
Human rights issues and the threat to athletes to not speak ill of the Chinese regime while at the games may be the stories that are grabbing the headlines; but, when the games get going it may well be the hotel operators’ sheer disregard of the western service ethic that causes most problems for visitors.