Sunday, 27 April 2014

The Amazing Race 24, Episode 9

Orvieto (Italy) - Chiasso (Switzerland) - Altdorf (Switzerland) - Lucerne (Switzerland) - Oberrickenbach (Switzerland) - Engelberg (Switzerland) - Mt. Titlis (Switzerland)

This week the cast of The Amazing Race 24 had to perform a task that lurks behind the scenes of every episode of the race, but that we never see: making beds and cleaning rooms as hotel maids.

It's hard work -- especially when hotels have, as we saw on the race, ever-longer checklists of details of how everything in each room must be arranged in accordance with the hotel's brand.

As I've noted often, including in The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World, "Travel is a service industry. That means that when you travel, most of what you're paying for is for people to do things for you: cook and serve your food, clean the rooms and make the beds in the hotel, and so forth."

It's hard to know, of course, how much of what you pay the hotel or hostel is actually paid to the maids. (That's one reason to put some money directly in their hands, if you can, as a daily tip.) Unions that represent hotel maids and advocacy organizations for ethics in tourism have tried to organize around the issue, and there are published directories of unionized and anti-union hotels in the USA. But most smaller hotels in the USA, especially independent local ones, aren't unionized, regardless of how well or how badly they treat their maids and other workers.

If you haven't worked as a hotel maid, and want to get a sense of what it might be like for the people who are in your room before you arrive and after you leave, an interesting anthropological study is "Paradise Laborers: Hotel Working The Global Economy", by sociology professors Patricia and Peter Adler. But it's only a snapshot of working conditions at one resort in Hawai'i, not a comprehensive survey of the USA, much less the world. The UK-based NGO Tourism Concern reports and campaigns on issues related to working conditions in the tourism industry around the world.

For what it's worth, pay and working conditions for cabin attendants are generally even worse on cruise ships, which are exempt from labor laws except those of the countries of their flags of convenience. There was no required minimum wage in Liberia, the most popular flag of convenience for merchant and cruise ships, until earlier this month. Liberia's new, first-ever minimum wage? US$6 per day for skilled workers, US$4 per day for "unskilled" workers such as cruise ship cabin attendants. That's per day, not per hour, before mandatory deductions for the claimed value of crew accommodations, meals, and required uniforms. The USA has not ratified the Maritime Labour Convention, which expands the definition of "seafarer" to protect passenger service staff as well as navigation, engine-room, and similar maritime crew members. Most of the relatively high "value" of cruises compared to vacations on land results from paying service workers less than at competing tourist facilities on land.

Link | Posted by Edward on Sunday, 27 April 2014, 23:59 (11:59 PM) | TrackBack (0)
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