The dawn must come.

The dawn must come.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Authenticity on the verge of Extinction.

My Confession to my Grand Children, my Friends , my ex-Colleagues and those who shared the journey.
By: Ahmed M. EL NAHAS – Montopoli, February 24th 2012.

Among the endless errors a man would commit I admit having ignorantly exploited, as much as my arrogant younger age allowed me, the full horizon of a life time career some 40 years ago. Until the day has come when I understood what my ambitious ego have stubbornly refused to see.. Thus I made up my mind and took THE decision..
I quit.
The bitter decision I made some 15 years ago marking the second saddest of the 21900 already consumed days of my life.. The first was the day my mother died and I couldn’t even be present at her burial. A decision which I applied without hesitation or remorse. After over 25 years working in one of the most noble careers a man can find. A career that was known as “Hospitality” resting on two very strong pillars “Quality” and “Professionalism”, whether pointing to the Business Traveller, the Holliday Traveller, or the Incentive or Conference one. 
Based on what I was taught by some giants of the trade in Switzerland and in Egypt back in the sixties and seventies of last century, I acquired, and always sustained, my own perspective of what tourism and travel should be and do. A stand I chose willingly to firmly abide by and somehow did cost me dearly; for the simple reason that it drove me directly into a frontal clash with stronger powers than my humble self, and before which obviously I was not adequately equipped to beat or morally and ethically educated to join.. Powers fruit of the combined convenience marriage of “Business” to “Politics”, the biological father and mother of “Corruption.
The first, apart from its gigantic financial muscles, is armed with the heavy artillery of the unscrupulously persuasive “Marketing”; and the second colludes through supplying convenient labour laws decreeing flexibility and arbitrary firing along with a whole supporting package of useless types of hiring contracts void of any kind of regulations protecting the employer’s rights; politics also would tailor all sorts of investment incentives varying from allowing unlimited elasticity for the tax exemption incentive to the uncontrolled off-shore profits transfer. Their mutual “entente cordiale” is expressed in generous bribes, gifts, commissions, fringe benefits…etc, no matter what and how many labels there may appear on the package’s label, the product inside it is the same and it is still identifiable as “Corruption”.
It has always been, and still is, my personal belief that welcoming in peace and professionally serving people is a “Noble Human Behaviour” worthy of respect, admiration and support. Because it revolves around the “Individual” voyager as a person carrying along his own baggage of experiences, his own needs, his own curiosity, his own language, his own preferences and his own expectations. Serving people in that context is the direct application of “Cultural Friction” exercised through “Direct Human Inter-Personal Contact” leading to a more solid and ever growing “Better Common Understanding and Mutual Acceptance”.
Therefore the offer must absolutely and honestly become “Personalised” to the edge of becoming exclusively “Tailor Made” to each individual apart. And that is the only way for:
Ø  Ensuring the highest standards of the “Quality” offered, in terms of services, amenities, utensils, procedures, food & beverage varieties, points of sales, entertainment features, innovation…etc.  
Ø  Maximising the “Value For Money” ratio.
Ø  Redesigning the mix in favour of the long forgotten cash drawer filler “Free Individual Traveller”.
Ø  Optimising revenues, to the unit, the manpower and the receiving country.
Ø  Stabilising the “Manpower Rotation” through expanding training, upgrading wages and fringe benefits.
As things are going right now, you should not be surprised to find-out that you’re no longer Mr. Kamal, you’ve just been identified as “Room #314”, labelled for identification by a plastic coloured bracelet around your wrist.. A gray number among millions of similar grayish numbers forming that infinite horde of “Barbarian Travellers” called tourists just to educate them on the newest trend invented to fraud them out of their savings.. The super market type of pay two and have three, but don’t ask about quality.. Pay little to have less..
Not my line.
You’ve travelled to simply discover that you are just a shadow.. Someone you don’t know decided to neglect your entire identity; and you pay for that happily, because you were shelled by the heavy fire-power of “Marketing”, hypnotising you to believe that it’s OK to work and save some money to pay someone to fly on an extremely uncomfortable “Charter” flight to a destination for a week or two in a “Package” deal to become a prisoner in an isolated village and become the easy prey for the miserably paid Travel Assistants, Animators and their local connections in souvenir shops, restaurants and discotheques, to squeeze the last cent out of your pocket. And you’d return home happy for having paid your savings and erased your identity just to remember a destination by some low quality gadgets called souvenirs, telling your friends but convincing yourself: “I know.. I know.. In anyway I have contributed in leaving some money to those poor fellows down there.. Heh heh..”.
You’re wrong my friend.. For you don’t even care to know that the souvenir shop where you bought that T-Shirt doesn’t belong to the guy who sold it to you.. There are always these four or five big cats monopolising, and racketeering, the shopping centres business and they assign the various commercial activities to their wage dependents against a false leasing contracts.. And the items you bought are nothing else but a bad copy made in the Far East. Same goes for the guy who sold you an excursion (if you were courageous enough to skip out from the grip of your tour assistants and animators).
As time goes by these characters, having saved some money, would be encouraged by avarian adventurous opportunists to start speculating in real estate, and the prices sour high in the sky. Thus all kinds of "Modernisation" pops out of nowhere changing forever the landscape and damaging for God knows how many centuries the entire environmental cycle.
Also such practices have their guaranteed negative impact that mutates the native’s behaviour.. Over the years they too, seeing an unreal exchange of wealth flying by all around them, will join in the greedy game of slowly but surely destroying their habitat and environment.. And that is the destructive aspect of “Mass Tourism”. It chooses a destination, abuse it to the maximum for a decade until it is worthless, drowned in drugs and prostitution and void of energy, then move along to another destination.
That’s exactly what happened in Hawaii, the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean Islands, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, the Greek Islands, Cyprus, Lebanon (before the civil war of the seventies), Central Africa, India, the Philippines, Thailand, and a lot of other destinations. It is happening now in Sinai and Dubai!! And there is only one meaning of all that decadence: the extinction of authenticity as the main true attraction motivating a traveller to chose a given destination.
Perhaps that’s why “Ancient Civilisations Monuments” have maintained their prime position in that domain, because the monument as a cultural asset is kept unchanged over the centuries, hence truly “Authentic” not a cheap copy made in a sweat shop somewhere in the slums at the outskirts of a poor crowded polluted city.
On the other side of the equation, let us have a glance on the organisers.. The Tour Operators and the Hotels.. In a globalised world, worshiping gold and ritualising the only value known: To Consume; the “Hospitality” ceased to be a “Culture” and became a “Business” which lately mutated to be an “Industry”!
What is shocking is that the term “Hospitality” over the past fifty years faded and disappeared, and we see it substituted on all billboards and publicities by the term “The Travel Industry”. And being as such the major Tour Operators started to make their own Hotels in every angle of the world, especially in the third world, as to strengthen their leverage over the tourism officials in these governments and guarantee themselves the best privileges they can get using the magic line of: “to create new jobs”. At the end of the day what remain in the receiving country is only the leftovers of the banquet: “Crumbs”.
Far back in time, travellers were not tourists, they were “Voyagers” motivated by curiosity and hunger for discovering new frontiers of human civilisations, traditions, knowledge and costumes. That’s why they took their time, and for them the displacement itself was an important and integral part of the overall experience.. They took time to prepare for the voyage, reading about the desired destination , its habits, costumed, traditions, people, language, a bit of its history and so on. And travelling by sea helped a lot enriching the travelling experience.
Arriving at destination, the voyager did the maximum effort to satisfy his ever hungry curiosity to know; never relying solely on his agency’s suggestions, he tries himself first hand through immediate and direct contact with the “natives” in order to better acquire the “authentic” knowledge he has come looking for.
Even the natives were calm and peacefully serene in receiving the “Stranger” as a “Guest”. When the wide concept of “voyage” lost its open horizons and became “travel”, consequently the philosophy of Hospitality mutated to comply, because it cannot be applied to the “mass” in the hasty timings of the “charter business”.
Analysing the outcome of millions of travellers opinions around the world, we find that over 90% of present day tourists didn’t acquire any knowledge about the destination they just visited, while less than a third of the remaining 10% consist the “Repeat Guest” segment in general whose motivation for repetition vary from cultural curiosity to sentimental needs.    
It all started with an “Exclusive Product” named “ClubMed”.. A “Modular” product that ensures the club members’ loyalty through applying few fundamental characteristics distinguishing the product: exclusive establishments off-limits to non members, personal discretion, ensuring absolute total freedom, closed circle membership, and an unbeatable choice of destinations. As the product boomed in success, as of the late sixties of last century, most of the Tour Operators searched for structures valid for an imitation of that formula starting to convert classic conventional hotels in certain destination into a pale imitation of such a concept; and as the years went by the continuous mutation brought the entire practice into what it has become: a common fraudulent business lacking decency and deprived of professionalism.
I believe that is the main reason by which my extinct vision to the trade soon came in direct conflict with greed and deception.. Products of “Big Business” and “Multinational Groups” dominating the “Travel Market”.. A market in which a simple “Good Morning” or a “Warm Welcome” have become lines to recite through robotic role plays defined to the minimum detail dictating attitudes and moulding behaviour in universal uniformity, thus mutating the traditional “Natural Authenticity” into a plasticised tasteless pre-cooked product to sell as an item on an open buffet in an all inclusive village conceived on purpose to con you and which the extremely well paid “International Marketing Gurus” falsely call “Resort”.
Enjoy your holidays and..
Pass On The Word.

No comments: