Hotels Grapple With Racial Bias

Hotels Grapple With Racial Bias

After the incident involving a racial slur, employees of the Country Inn & Suites by Radisson in Newport News, which is also a franchise, were “re-trained on code-of-conduct policies related to expectations and guiding principles for appropriate workplace behavior,” according to the company.

“Isolated incidents like this one are very unfortunate, but provide an opportunity for the company to reinforce the importance of our guest service expectations with our franchisees,” wrote Laura Langemo, a spokeswoman for Radisson Hotel Group, which includes Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, in an email.

Instilling racial and cultural sensitivity is difficult because it is generally not reviewed or evaluated on the job the way more quantifiable tasks such as computer skills (for example, checking in a guest) are, said Jamie Perry, an assistant professor of human resource management in the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University’s Cornell S.C. Johnson College of Business.

“That basic level of awareness, that these people look different from me or are different culturally, is a first step in any successful diversity program, helping employees be aware of differences,” she said. “A lot of things we’re seeing in the news get at that underlying implicit bias that people have and are not aware of until it’s ‘Oh my god, that came out of my mouth.’ Training creates a dialogue about differences.”

There may still not be enough of it, however, as travel experts expressed dismay, but not surprise, at the news.

“In the black community as a whole, we’ve known this has been going on for a long time, but camera phones and social media are finally showing it,” said Evita Turquoise Robinson, the founder and chief executive of Nomadness Travel Tribe, a travel brand that encompasses trips, a web TV series, conferences and apparel. “This is something we’ve always been hyper aware of, and travel is a very specific context. Black travelers choose places to go based on how we feel we’ll be received in that place. It becomes a safety issue.”

As a journalist and the host of two digital shows on the Travel Channel, Oneika Raymond, who is black, has visited more than 100 countries and experienced a few stinging encounters with racial bias on the road. In those situations, she advises speaking up and keeping records.

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