As our city’s finest service professionals prepare for what will likely be the biggest international event Austin has ever seen — the Formula One race, November 16-18 – I was honored to be asked to offer some international protocol and etiquette tips on behalf of the Austin Concierge and Guest Services Association. Here are some of the key points:
Before Your Guests Arrive
- 1. Email your future guests with a helpful weather report in advance of their arrival, if you can. Austin temperatures can shift so drastically that those who simply review “averages” as they pack may be woefully underprepared.
- 2. To make your welcome even more memorable and appreciated, search for a photo of your future guest (Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn Profile photos are a great source) so you can recognize him or her upon arrival.
- 3. Stock up on a variety of English breakfast teas and plenty of coffee. For many of our visitors from other cultures, coffee is king and will be enjoyed with every meal.
- 4. Consider adding international channels and publications to your menu of media offerings. Your overseas guests may feel more welcome with a copy of the International Herald Tribune or access to the BBC.
- 5. Brush up on your foreign language and multicultural skills or find those with linguistic talent to join your concierge desk for Formula One week. Even a polite phrase or two in the visitor’s language will be much appreciated. Which countries should you focus on? Circuit of the Americas has let us know that top international ticket sales have come from the following countries and territories in this order: (1) Mexico (2) Canada (3) Great Britain (4) Australia (5) Puerto Rico (6) Guatemala (7) El Salvador (8) Denmark (9) Netherlands (10) Costa Rica.
Throughout the Weekend
- 1. Expect your guests to be fighting off the effects of jet lag! Help ease their pain with plenty of bottled water and perhaps melatonin supplements, available from People’s Pharmacy or Whole Foods.
- 2. Visitors may be a thousands of miles away but their stomachs will still be operating on “home time” – at least for the first day or so. Expect your guests to be looking for food at unusual times and be prepared for that with 24-hour room service.
- 3. Avoid uncomfortable situations by gently educating your guests on local laws and ordinances. Many of them won’t have heard of a “clean air city” and may not be happy about smoking laws. Open container laws may also take them by surprise.
- 4. Update your information on restaurant options and store hours throughout the weekend as these may be different than on regular weekends.
Austinites are warm and welcoming individuals who will undoubtedly go out of their way to help make international visitors feel at home in Austin. Each of us has a part to play in gathering information on what was successful and what may need improvement for future visits. Remember, we have a ten year contract to host Formula One and an amazing opportunity to improve our ability to embrace international tourists into our community, even for just a short time.