Much has been written about “hacks” when it comes to being a better traveller. Sure, snagging the best deals, efficiently navigating airports and other in-the-know tricks are important, but there’s a piece of travel that’s just as important: how to be kind. To me, that equals a better traveller.
This goes beyond patience and basic manners. A kinder traveller is more mindful, showing genuine interest in the people we interact with and respect for the places we want to preserve.
Here are a few suggestions from travel and hospitality workers on how the next time you pack your bags, you can be a kinder traveller.
ADDRESS EMPLOYEES BY THEIR NAMES
“Remember that kind words cost you, the traveller, absolutely nothing, but the benefits can be so rewarding,” said Deserene Miller, who has driven a taxi on Grand Cayman for 31 years. “There’s nothing nicer than having a guest get in my vehicle and say, ‘Morning, Ms D, how’s your day going so far?’”
“I always introduce myself when I am helping guests to their rooms,” said Fritz Francios, bell captain at The Betsy, a hotel in Miami. “When I see them around the hotel later in their stay, it makes me feel appreciated when a guest remembers me.”
OFFER COMPLIMENTS, VERBALLY OR OTHERWISE
Michaela Octave, who has been a butler at Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort on St Lucia for 10 years, said she feels motivated by compliments such as “You are the best” and “You are awesome” and loves when guests ask, “Do you mind if we write something about you on TripAdvisor?”
If writing a note slips your mind while on vacation, the appreciation for email or snail mail is just as strong.
“I really love when guests thank us following their stay and send a thank-you note to the hotel,” said Raffaele Ruffolo, front office manager at the Sina Bernini Bristol hotel in Rome. “It feels really authentic and genuine and means a lot to us, and we will remember it for a long time.”
BE CURIOUS ABOUT CULTURE
Having a list of attractions to visit is fine. But try to go beyond the bucket-list check marks.
“A kind traveller is always respectful and curious about the cultural significance of the places and people they visit,” said Heather Arnold, owner of Routes Bicycle Tours of New Mexico. “Sometimes achieving this requires stepping back from the stresses of travel and any personal preconceptions – which can be difficult – but establishing these roots ultimately allows you to better embrace the ‘spirit’ of a place.”
In a similar vein, learn the language or pick up some common phrases. On a recent trip to Costa Rica, I used my rusty Spanish with the sales manager giving us a tour of the hotel. The manager, Darling Delgado, said it was the first time in four years that someone had really tried to speak her language.
The effort is appreciated. And with translation apps readily available and free, there is no excuse.
MAKE CONSERVATION EFFORTS
We understand now more than ever the trade-offs involved in travelling and how our curiosity to see the world comes with a footprint. Being conscientious of that will help you be a kinder traveller.
For instance, in Hawaii, water is considered sacred.
“We were taught at a very young age that our waters came from heaven,” said Luana Maitland, director of cultural programmes at the Outrigger resorts in Waikiki, Hawaii. “Don’t leave the faucet running; don’t throw trash into our stream; and if you see trash, pick it up.”
REMEMBER THE ART OF SMALL TALK
“I always think it is very kind of the guests to ask me to join them for a glass of wine during their stay or event,” said Mimi VanDyk, catering and conferences services manager at the Harvest Inn in St Helena, California. “It shows that they truly appreciate our service and are trying to build on the relationship.”
After 18 years as executive chef of Spotted Salamander Cafe in Columbia, South Carolina, Jessica Shillato may have a piece of advice that ties it all together: “Behave as if your grandma is at the next table. People should be as nice on the road as they are at home.”
By Erinne Magee © 2020 The New York Times