Developing Hospitality Managers' Intercultural Communication Abilities: The Cocktail Party Simulation

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The ever increasing globalization of the hospitality industry and movement of people across international borders heightens the need for intercultural education and training. However, few intercultural training materials have a hospitality focus, and customized instruction is costly. The tool presented here helps reduce cultural barriers by providing a low-cost, hospitality-specific intercultural simulation that hospitality practitioners and educators can use with a wide variety of audiences. In the simulation, participants play the roles of members of three companies, each from a different fictional culture. At the simulated cocktail party that opens a series of important business meetings concerning a joint venture in the hospitality industry, participants establish business relationships and strive to overcome cultural differences that may impede those relationships. A debriefing discussion after the event reinforces the following key themes: Cultural values are relative, not absolute; Intercultural communication involves emotional as well as rational responses; Invisible cultural differences, such as values, attitudes, and beliefs, are more difficult to handle than visible differences, such as manners, customs, and rituals; Deciding who adapts to whom-and how-is the greatest challenge in intercultural interactions; and Cultural identity is multidimensional, involving far more than nationality alone. During the debriefing, participants apply these themes to their own work lives and past experiences interacting with culturally diverse colleagues, clients, guests, and business associates. Several follow-up options are possible to help participants use the knowledge they have gained. This report provides full instructions so that hospitality practitioners and educators can use the Cocktail Party Simulation in corporate-level management development programs, property-level training, executive education seminars, and college courses. Suggestions for adapting the simulation to different audiences, situations, and segments of the hospitality industry are included.

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Cornell; tools; communication; culture; adaptation


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