Corporate Travel Etiquette: Respecting People, Places & Culture


Why you SHOULD make it Jamaica (or Dubai or Singapore or _____) AGAIN

Some companies automatically cross Jamaica off the list of destinations to consider for their next incentive. They say ”We’ve already been to Jamaica”.  I want to reply “No you haven’t. You’ve spent time lying on the beach. You’ve played golf. Maybe you’ve even climbed Dunn’s River Falls and consumed an ample amount of Red Stripe Beer and Appleton Rum. But you STILL haven’t seen Jamaica, not even close”.

Jamaican Memories

Jamaica is where it all started for me. That’s where I was born and, while I left Jamaica at a very young age, I have returned more times than I can count to work, vacation, and visit relatives and friends. I have wanted to write a blog about incentive travel in Jamaica for a very long time. It hasn’t been easy. To paraphrase an old Jamaica Tourist Board slogan, to me, Jamaica is “more than a beach, it’s a country”. It’s home. So, for me, writing about incentive travel in Jamaica, isn’t the same as writing about Dubai, Singapore, Japan or any of the other places I’ve travelled. It’s much more personal.

My earliest memories of Jamaica have nothing to do with resorts and little do with beaches. They consist of time spent playing in the yard with my cousins at my grandmother’s house in the country. This was when she still had chickens in the yard and before we had electricity.  My early memories of nighttime in Jamaica revolve around lighting the oil lamps and sitting on the porch and gazing up at what looked like thousands upon thousands of stars. (In Montreal, where I grew up, the stars were not very visible due to the bright street lights but in Jamaica, in the country, the heavens were filled with stars.)  My earliest memories also consist of a family picnic at the beach, enjoying patties at a time when, to the rest of the world, a pattie was only something that went inside a hamburger. Then, there is the ride at the back of a truck in Kingston and how clean the streets of Kingston looked to me. My memories are filled with music (at the time mento not reggae) and laughter. In contrast to my early memories of Montreal that are in muted colours, my memories of Jamaica are lush and green and in vivid colour. I’m not sure why, but that’s just the way it is.

So, over the years, when co-workers have talked about going on incentives in Jamaica and spending time on the beach, at the pool and getting drunk, I just couldn’t relate to it. I realize that there is so much more to Jamaica. I guess that’s why my bias for incentive travel has always been to give my clients a taste of the history and culture of each destination.

Show Respect for the Laws and Customs of your Hosts

When you’re ready to take your team to Jamaica, remember there are a lot of things that you can do to explore the place that MY family and many other families have called home for hundreds of  years. The same can be said wherever you travel. For, each and every destination, is a place that many people call home.

Whenever we travel,  wherever we travel, it’s important to remember this and give people and places the respect they deserve.  Take the time to find out as much as you can about local customs and etiquette. Respect local customs (including dress code) and laws.

Remember that how you and your group conducts themselves reflects not only on your country but on your company.

You never know which other hotel guests are from your city. Some may even be your customers. You never know which employees have relatives in Toronto, London or New York. For that matter, you never know which employees will eventually be migrating to YOUR country to become prospective customers. It does tarnish a company’s image when people let it all hang out. Any impression you create will be a lasting one, make sure that it’s a positive one. Don’t give former employees a chance to post absolutely shocking comments and photos about what goes on at company retreats and incentive trips. (I debated posting some links but thought that it would be in poor taste to do so and decided against it.) Don’t give ANYONE an opportunity to do a blog post or newspaper article or post a photo like this about your group:

Please don’t think I’m picking on people from the UK. It just so happens that there was a lot of press about UK tourists following the incident in Dubai. I could just as easily have these stories and many others:

While there has been a lot of negative press about UK tourists of late, please don’t think for a moment that this type of behaviour is limited to any one group. I’ve witnessed and heard about equally appalling behaviour from people of various backgrounds. The examples I’m going to share are from what I have observed when on vacation.

I would never breach confidentiality by discussing incidents involving clients but I have certainly heard of similar behaviour with corporate groups.

I remember the woman from The Netherlands who, despite the “no topless sunbathing sign” insisted on whipping off her top on a family beach in Jamaica when a baptism and Sunday School picnic was going on not too far away. I was not at all amused that she chose to do this right beside my family with my son, who was then a toddler and my retired parents sitting right there.

The bottom line is when you travel, it’s important to remember your dignity. It’s showing respect for yourself and your hosts.

I also remember the American woman who was well over 50 who caused quite a stir at a beach BBQ when she got into an argument with a young 20 something man she had picked up on the beach. When she tried to leave, he wrestled her room key away from her. It was quite embarrasing. Then there was the Canadian woman in her late 40s who bawled all the way home on an Air Canada flight because her early 20 something “boyfriend” whom she had picked up on a previous trip a few months earlier had dumped her. Yes, she cried and chatted about her personal business to a complete stranger. How demeaning.

Also, please don’t think I’m picking on women. I’ve seen married European executives in their 60s cavourting with young ladies young enough to be their granddaughters in both the Caribbean and Asia. I’ve also seen more than one male guest at a resort escorted back to his room before lunch by secuirty because they were so plastered. Security indicated that this is a regular occurence.

Do venture off the resort compound. Take time to get to learn about the history and culture.

Visit museums and historical sites. Take in a performance of local music or theatre. Try some of the local dishes and entertainment. I’ve suggested some resources to help you do that at various destinations including Jamaica, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Dubai here:

Give Back to the Community

Forward thinking companies are not building opportunities to give back to the community into their foreign retreats. Here are some ideas.

Here is an example. By the way, this is not me in the video and she is not talking about my company. I have never met this woman but I do think that her concept is a great one:

Continue to Show Respect for your Hosts When you Return to YOUR Home

Most importantly, when you return to the place that YOU call home, remember to speak of the people you met and the places you saw with respect. Sure, the experience was different from how you live back home. Isn’t that why we travel, to experience something different? If we want everything to be exactly like home, we’d stay home and never travel. Remember that the next time you travel to someone else’s “home” and your stay will be a lot more enjoyable. Also, remember that a week in a foreign country does not qualify you as an expert and it is not possible for you to know more about the country than the people who call it home.

As for my blog about incentive travel in Jamaica, I’m working on it. Watch for. It’s coming up. I hope you like it.

January 22, 2010 Update

It’s finally ready. This is just part one. Enjoy:

Incentive Travel in Jamaica: Giving Your Team the Essence of Jamaica

Updated: I had so much material that that here is part 2

Jamaica Incentive Travel: Top 10 Ways to Enjoy the Water After you Finish Lying on the Beach


4 thoughts on “Corporate Travel Etiquette: Respecting People, Places & Culture

  1. Greetings! I’ve been following your blog for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Lubbock Tx! Just wanted to mention keep up the great work!

Comments are Welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s