Five ways to be accommodating towards guests with different beliefs

  • 24 December 2014 | Cassidy Parker

Although Christmas Day is a public holiday in South Africa, this doesn’t mean that everyone celebrates it in the religious sense. Even those who do observe its traditions might not necessarily be religious. In fact, in this space, making assumptions is only likely to land you in hot water.

With this in mind, we thought we’d offer a few tips on how to be accommodating towards guests with different beliefs at this time of year:

  1. Think carefully about how you decorate your hotel, restaurant or offices. A Christmas tree is unlikely to cause offence – they’re everywhere at this time of year – but perhaps avoid any specific religious elements, which might exclude some of your visitors. If you’re going to decorate, err on the side of caution and make it fun, festive and secular.
  2. Don’t make assumptions. Someone’s nationality doesn’t dictate his or her personal preferences or religious beliefs about the holiday season.
  3. Speak to your visitors. Being welcoming involves being genuinely interested in your guests, including their backgrounds and beliefs. If in doubt, ask your guests whether this time of year is celebrated in their home countries and, if so, what traditions they usually incorporate. Of course, if it feels as though you are prying by asking these kinds of personal quations, rather refrain.
  4. Be flexible in the food you serve. Consider incorporating some traditional meals from your visitors’ countries to offer them a taste of home.
  5. Be respectful. If your guests show no interest in observing any kind of tradition around this time of year, politely inform them of the fact that there are a few public holidays coming up and that certain sites might be closed. If they are interested in visiting a specific attraction, offer to contact the attraction to find out if it is open.

Ultimately, be sensitive, considerate and non-judgemental. And above all: be inviting and engaging. The idea is to learn as much as we can about one another during this time – and, indeed, at any time.