By 2024 it is estimated that the Hispanics/Latinos will make up 32.5% of the total U.S. workforce. The hospitality industry is at the forefront of that trend. In fact, according to the Department of Labor, Hispanics/Latinos already account for more than 22% of the employees in the hospitality industry. It is safe to assume that many of those people are native Spanish speakers. But is the hospitality industry equipped to serve the needs of these workers? What can hoteliers and restauranteurs do to bridge the language gap?
The hospitality industry is first and foremost a service industry. Savvy managers will recognize the need to compete for the best employees. One way to capture and retain that talent is to show your employees that you value them. Imagine walking into a mandatory training session, only to discover that the training will be conducted in a language you don’t speak? Would you feel like the training was directed to you? Would you feel part of the team?
Meeting your staff halfway
One approach that has gained traction is to meet the staff in the middle of the language divide. Offer training in both English and Spanish. Provide materials and signage in both languages. Or even better, introduce Spanish to management. When management takes the time to learn the language the staff speaks, both parties benefit. You will be better equipped to communicate with your staff, and your staff will feel more respected, heard and part of the team. Furthermore, offering English language training as an employee benefit can be a great tool to boost employee retention.
It’s not just about your employees
As the Hispanic/Latino population grows, so too does the percentage of Hispanics/Latinos who travel. According to Travel Weekly, as a group Latinos spend about 7% more on vacations than non-Latino groups. Having the ability to communicate with those guests can translate to real income for your property. This is particularly important in Houston. In 2017, more than 3.5 million foreign travelers visited Houston and the vast majority of those travelers came from Mexico. Houston’s 80,000 hotel rooms and 10,000 restaurants are all competing for that traffic. Properties who reach out and make Spanish-speaking guests feel welcome will succeed above those who don’t.
Good communication is key to good service. In today’s global environment, communication with Spanish-speakers is more important than ever. Failing to fully embrace this reality could seriously jeopardize your bottom line.