Reverse Osmosis: Cultural Sensitivity Training in the Costa Rican

This is a short case study in specialty accommodation sector based on actual human resources situation, with factual names of participants, company name and geographic location, with permission from Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality/Cayuga Collection in Costa Rica. Subject Area: Ecotourism/Sustainable Tourism, Luxury Ecolodge Study Level/Applicability:

College diploma and graduate certificate level; University undergraduate level Industry Partner:

Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality/Cayuga Collection, Hans Pfister and Andrea Bonilla, Costa Rica Case Overview This case study portrays real situation and account of staff training encountered during my 2-month fieldwork at Latitude 10 Exclusive Beach Resort in the fall of 2011. The training approach employed by Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality described in this case takes the reader through steps designed to reach common understanding, first among the employees and management of Latitude 10, and then between staff and visitors. Andrea Bonilla who is the co-owner and VP Operations of Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality, visits Latitude 10 with the mission to improve quality of service and staff morale. She facilitates several hands-on experiential workshops and staff team-building exercises over several days of her visit. The emphasis of each exercise is on understanding each person on the team, improving team communication, and understanding the perspective of visitors. Throughout this process, it becomes very clear that management needs to focus on strengthening the team, and only then the collective can reach the goal of exceptional service. Within the mission of strengthening the team lie complex socio-cultural dynamics between local and city employees, those between staff and management, and finally between the staff and international visitors. In addition to the cultural clash of tourist expectations and performance by local staff, the case also connects other intertwined issues of poor employment opportunities in the remote beach destination of Santa Teresa, the question of social and economic sustainability that the management must face, and the continuous relationship-building between tourists and local staff to facilitate meaningful and enriching travel experience.

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