Taking Charge of Your Health

Travelers are moving from a destination centric paradigm, whereas they consumed their vacation as a product to a more experienced based journey where they need to find meaning. This poses a problem to hoteliers, because the more the experience is authentic, the less the environment can be controlled. And this means less safety, less comfort, more stress, and anxiety. And that’s not good for the overall experience. We’re seeing the emergence of unique destinations and consumer patterns really pushing the envelope, taking people to extreme places all over the world. I’ve decided to visit one such location. My name is Sherif MAMDOUH and I’m about to experience something really special. But first let’s go and get some advice here at EHL where every day the hospitality industry is being explored, shaped, and taught EHL, short for Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne the first hospitality management university in the world just turned a hundred and twenty five years old. It’s at the forefront of research and innovation and works with hoteliers across the world to understand new trends, new opportunities, and new ways to harness the great power of technology to the benefit of the fastest growing industry in the world. And so my quest to understand the future of extreme hospitality begins. I met with Reza Etemad, marketing professor and Lohyd Terrier, psychology professor, who helped me understand how travel was changing, what drives people to extreme places, and how hoteliers can offer them the best possible experience. It was fascinating to see how wrong I was about certain aspects of extreme tourism, and I got some invaluable advice from my own upcoming experience. let me tell you, actually, I’ve decided to travel to the Atacama Desert in Chile and visit a really special place located in one of the least hospitable places on earth. It hosts scientists who go and work there for the exceptional observational conditions. I need to see it. I need to understand how people go there and manage to work and live and feel safe, and such extreme conditions. I’m about to go and visit a crazy place and try to understand exactly how it works for the hoteliers and the guests. What should I look out for? I think what you have to focus on during your travel is first to identify what the company can do for improving the wellness of their employees. The second point will be how to cultivate also their guests how to educate their guests. We know that in this context it will be challenging for the guests for example, about the consumption of water or other restrictions that we can have. So it’s important to communicate about the limitations and restrictions that we can have. So they have to educate their guests. Okay. And finally same question as for Reza what are the things I need to look out for from a psychological point of view. First of all, you have to check if people in that environment are happy and you have to check how the organization manages this satisfaction. What concrete actions are done in order to generate satisfaction, how is managed the lack of intimacy. Lack of privacy, especially what you have to check is the way they manage the needs of the individuals in this situation, in this environment. Ok. So I have a better idea of what to look out for. I’ll really try to get a sense of how the place I’m traveling to deals with the huge challenges it faces and the role it plays in allowing the science to happen But most importantly, understand what can hoteliers learn from it to develop an offer that responds to the growing trend of extreme travel. The site I’m going to discover hosts one of the world’s largest telescopes, the VLT, which stands for, well… Very Large Telescope It’s run by the European Southern Observatory and just as anticipated by Reza I’ve received an induction package that serves to reduce the element of uncertainty, just before departure. You’re about to experience one of the world’s most remarkable places for astronomy, science and technology, far from any city and above the clouds in one of the driest places on earth, our huge telescopes just waiting for night to fall. This is the story of an epic adventure because they know that long and boring written safety instructions are probably read as thoroughly as airline safety pamphlets. They produced a neat little video. Watching it, I’m being warned of the most important safety hazards. But I’m also getting excited. They’ve managed to start providing the experience before I’ve even begun traveling. Of course, the experience will be different in this kind of environment. That’s why the company or the hotel should really well communicate early with the guests in order to be to assure that finally the experience will fit with the expectation that the customers can have. And this is very important, because we can imagine that in some environments, the comfort will be less obvious. Welcome on board. In preparation for your tour. Please pay attention to the following safety instructions. Use sunglasses, hats, protective clothing, and sunscreen over SPF35. Drink plenty of bottled water or juice. This place looks seriously hostile. Trying to control the environment seems futile. The best way to reduce uncertainty is surely to empower the traveler in a majority of situations there are constraints. And those problems in extreme situations are linked to a lack of control, lack of autonomy, and this is linked to the to risk you have to work on the way you can increase the feeling of control feeling of autonomy of the individual in this extreme situation. And now time to go, new and meaningful destinations also mean you need to travel way beyond the well-developed common routes. Getting there is part of the adventure and it holds its fair share of plot twists going onto 48 hours without sleep planes with technical issues and massive strikes in a country whose language you don’t speak your ability to improvise flourishes, your determination peaks, and you tap into energy reserves you didn’t even know you had. The idea is to combine to assure and to give guarantees to the guests that finally you would have an experience with us and we will deliver you what you expect. So we can imagine in this kind of context, they are not targeting everybody. In other words, they bring people who are really believing in this project and in this environment. And in this experience, the farther you go, the less you feel in control. And as you really leave everything that is familiar behind your mind switches into survival mode unexpectedly there was a certain pleasure to be found in this chaos. In a lot of polar missions, for example, a lot of participant express high level stress, but also high satisfaction, high wellbeing You really have to pay attention. This is not just a bad thing. Stress can help you to increase your cognitive abilities we’re looking for stress, some people more than other but we’re looking for stress. And this is probably the reason why so many people are looking for that kind of experience after 2.5 days of delays, missed connections, cancelled flights, and a few hours driving on the famous Ruta Cinco across the desert, I finally reached my destination with a lot more stress and fatigue than anticipate but what an experience! there it was, the Very Large Telescope, a true modern wonder. And there I was in one of the least welcoming environments on the planet. ok, so here we are at Atacama desert, 2400 meters. This place is completely out of this world. Dry as a bone… actually it’s the driest place on earth. I can feel it, my lips crack, my skin cracks, my mouth is pasty. I’m thirsty all the time. The air is extremely thin because of the altitude as well. So you can get dizzy. You can experience altitude sickness. The sun is brutal. The uv light is through the roof around here. So you can get serious sun burns in just a few minutes on a hot summer day. No animal or plant life to be seen. Nothing lives here. And if you just look around the place that resembles this landscape the most, isn’t actually on earth. You look around you feel like you’re on mars. And this is so true that actually NASA came right here to test some of their Martian rovers. And I have no idea why anybody would want to come here. So let’s go and find out, arriving at the gates of what they called the Residencia, which is where the astronomers live. And what I came halfway across the world to see, I got a deep sense of satisfaction, a victory even as if getting there was an accomplishment in and of itself. But I was just getting started. leaving the unforgiving, aridness of the desert, I opened the door to a lush microcosm of tropical serenity, walking through the quiet hallways, I couldn’t help but get a deep sense of humanity, just as you would imagine in a Martian colony. The people who lived here strived to create a safe and serene environment that reached them at an emotional level. They needed to feel at home. lack of intimacy is another issue generally in that kind of extreme situation space is not enough to provide a sufficient level of privacy, of intimacy. And this is another problem, because external conditions are sometimes too extreme to go outside. you have to stay in a small place with a small amount of people that increases your feeling of isolation, of loneliness. And so, just like the other 150 people on site, i’ll try to make myself at home. I can finally rest for a while, but I still have a lot of questions that need to be answered. So let’s go and see the people who live and work here. I met with Christine Desbordes, the logistics and facilities manager in charge of the safety, comfort, and entertainment of everyone at the VLT’s basecamp. She bears the great responsibility of making sure that astronomers are able to perform their duties unaffected by the hardships of this high altitude desert. She’s the equivalent of a general manager in an actual hotel. So just the person I need to speak with to understand how this place is run. It’s not an easy task, as you can imagine, in the middle of nowhere in the desert of Atacama 120 kilometers away from the main city Antofagasta So we have to plan everything in advance. We have to be very well organized for example, for energy. Fortunately the Chilean government connected us to the grid. So now we have 100% electricity always running, etc And we also have, of course, a backup generator for water, it’s a bit more complicated because there is absolutely no water in the desert. So we have to bring 2-3 trucks of water every single day. For the moment. We don’t recycle water, but we have planned to install an osmosis plant next year to recycle at least one third of our consumption. To give you an idea, each person here consumes 420 liters per day on average in the residence. We are even planning to put in the shower for example. This timing for showers. You press the button and it only flows for certain minutes. If I would reduce my expectation before coming here, I will have a better experience if I can imagine that I would go on holidays and finally I see that I cannot take the shower that I want. So it’s important to communicate about the limitation. so they have to educate their guests. I had been told of the extreme conditions and the absence of life in this place, then there he was a young Andean fox attracted to higher altitudes by the scents and sounds of the Residencia. A stark reminder, that as careful as we may be, we will leave a footprint and we will risk upsetting the delicate balance of the ecosystem we enter new destinations force to think about every single aspect of human existence from an ecological standpoint, but also in terms of sustenance and logistics, in terms of hospitality management, the main concerns are the supplies. It’s very difficult to bring people here to have regular deliveries of goods. For example food Ingredients… to have fresh food is always a problem as we are in the desert of Atacama. Nothing grows, so we have to import everything from the south. So we have one maybe two trucks delivering every week. but if for any reason the truck doesn’t arrive, we don’t have our ingredients. So food is a big problem. There’s a really homey atmosphere throughout the Residencia. The place is clean and safe. The food is fresh and tasty, the staff efficient and friendly. But how do you get qualified personnel to come all the way up here and provide such quality service? And in parallel, it’s also very important for the company to cultivate well the employees, because we can imagine that in some environments, it will be more difficult, more challenging to hire people for the other hospitality management aspects, we sometimes also have problems to hire staff like cleaning ladies and cooks and assistant cooks. It’s not an easy environment. And some people do not sleep at night, for example, they really have problems with the altitude. And obviously your body also with the lack of oxygen, suffers a little so to counter act these effects on the body. we try to organize the shifts of the staff, in a way that they work eight days on site and then they go home for six days. They have time with their family. They have time to recover physically As the purpose of this place is to be a conduit for its visitors to fully appreciate a unique experience, in this case, observational astrophysics, selecting and nurturing the right staff is absolutely paramount. My team and myself obviously try to provide them all the services and the comfort they need to relax and to be able to work in their own area. However, in terms of management, it’s exactly like a hotel. We have standard rooms with standard equipment. sometimes some rooms are personalized to have the feeling that you’re at home. but mainly we manage it from the booking of the rooms, to the cleaning, the fumigation, maintenance of the room. It’s all done like a standard hotel, I would say a three to four star hotel. Before going up to the telescopes, I was introduced to astrophysicist, Jesus Corral Santana. He specializes in x-ray binaries, which are binary star systems made up of an ordinary star and another collapsed neutron star, or black hole. As the astronomers, telescope operators and engineers started their long shift, I watched in awe, mesmerized by the complexity and beauty of this machinery. I felt so privileged to get a backstage pass to this once in a lifetime show as the sun sets the Residencia comes to life and starts buzzing with anticipation for another night of science. Residents are reminded to shut their blinds, and a massive curtain unfolds to cover the main dome and prevent any light from disturbing the astronomical observations. The once quiet, always of the residencia become a place of gathering. where greetings and pleasantries over a quick dinner give way to mind-bending discussions that aim to unlock the mysteries of the universe. But as much as I wanted to hear all about that, we needed to stay on track. I needed to hear what Jesus had to say about his experience as a guest of the Residencia So the logistics department and the management department is doing a great job trying to offer us the best conditions possible. We have a lot of different facilities to relax You can do some sports. You can go to the swimming pool, play music in order to make us feel safe and comfortable. And it’s super important because we are very isolated in very dry conditions and high altitude. The environment, the people around us, is super important. We are… there are different departments. There are department of astronomers, operators, engineers. but all of us are working for a common goal it’s to provide the best we can to give the astronomers the best conditions possible Residencia is helping me a lot to do what I came to do here. You are like a family. you feel like a family Full of love, it’s great here. Sometimes it will be more challenging for the company to find a good environment. And this is a second challenge for the companies to increase the socialization not only between employees and the guests, but also between guests themselves. You can feel a headache because of the high altitude because of the dryness. We have some gardens 花园对增加湿度非常重要
and those gardens are important to increase the humidity, for instance. It’s not only for something fancy… to have some beautiful trees. you have to adapt yourself, your body, with the days. You shouldn’t run during the first two days. You should not go to the garden and do some very active sports. the first two days, you have to do it slowly. If you look at the profile that we all have here, We all like these kinds of extreme experiences. It’s true that sometimes it’s difficult because you are out of your family for a week or ten days or 14 days. But in general, the feeling is really nice. Being here is the best job of my life. So there we have it. The European Southern Observatory actually manages to run one of the world’s most complex facilities in one of the world’s most hostile places. What a feat! Younger generations are looking for uniqueness and a deeper sense of purpose also in their leisure for a new and extreme destination to respond to this need, it must display outstanding organizational skills and be ecologically conscious. It must manage the guests’ expectations and understand just how much stress they’re willing to endure. It must cater to its clients’ needs, but also nurture its staff. As few people are easily displaced to these harsh environments, find the perfect balance between socialization and intimacy. And finally, clearly position itself so that everyone can unite and bond over a shared set of values and a common goal. Everyone on site felt like they belonged united by their passion for science. This sense of purpose defines everything they do here and allows them to overcome most difficulties. Finding meaning is the key. And every time they leave their families and the comfort of their homes, they’re actually going home to the stars. We see that more and more companies and hotels, they try to go further than the traditional way of travelling. So the idea is to create an experience not only traveling, but to give a sense to this travel and at the same time to create value for the guests by combining and increasing the socialization between guests home. There’s no place like it as a species, we define ourselves by this need to belong. Our complex social nature means that we exist mostly through our peers. And yet humans have this insatiable thirst for discovery that forever uproots them and pushes them beyond the boundaries of safety. This is what drove Homo sapiens to conquer every stretch of dry land on the planet. and took us beyond the confines of our terrestrial atmosphere, or saw man made spacecraft fly past the edges of our solar system. We all have this deep within us Today, travel is changing, and the hospitality industry will be there, as always, to understand and meet those expectations.

2 thoughts on “Hospitality Insights by EHL – Hospitality in the Atacama Desert

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *