Brazilian tourism workers learn how to receive Arab visitors

SAO PAULO, Brazil – How does one go about receiving an Arab guest well? What do they like to eat? How should they be treated?

Brazilian tourism workers learn how to receive Arab visitors

SAO PAULO, Brazil – How does one go about receiving an Arab guest well? What do they like to eat? How should they be treated? These and other questions concerning hospitality were answered this Wednesday (28th) during a lecture at the offices of the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, attended by lodging and tourism industry delegates invited by the São Paulo Convention & Visitors Bureau (SPCVB).

“The lecture is important to tourist trade because it covers the main cultural, religious and social aspects of Arab countries, in a bid to spread knowledge among hospitality industry professionals, preparing them to play host to these visitors. Academia Visite São Paulo (Visit São Paulo Academy) has trained over 7,000 professionals, and we will proceed with training alongside the Arab Chamber,” said SPCVB Market Relations manager Sara Souza.

Michel Alaby, the Chamber’s CEO, and Rafael Abdulmassih, the Business and Markets manager, gave an overview of the Arab world, discussing location, religion, eating preferences, clothing, habits and customs. They also spoke on common issues to Muslims in general, Arab or otherwise.

“They pray five times a day, even when abroad. When hosting Arabs, the (hotel) rooms must include an arrow sign indicating the direction of Mecca, and a rug on which for them to pray,” said Alaby.

Another tip given by the executive for the hotel industry is to always have a Quran available to guests. This already takes place, for instance, at the Intercontinental Hotel. “We have a Quran and a prayer mat available at the hotel,” says reception assistant Bruna Matheus, who attended the lecture.

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Abdulmassih also discussed the month of the Ramadan, when Muslims pray from sunup to sundown. This year, Ramadan should begin around June 28th, with the FIFA World Cup in Brazil underway.

“During Ramadan, they (Muslims) will have different hours than most guests,” said the manager, advising hotels to offer flexible eating, check-in and check-out hours.

Algeria is the only Arab team playing the World Cup, but there are Muslim fans and players in other national teams, such as France and Iran, for instance, who also observe the Islamic holy month.

Football is a good topic for conversation with Arab guests. “They love the Brazilian team,” Abdulmassih said. Other subjects, such as Arab influence in Brazil and the history of Arab peoples, are recommended when it comes to interacting with these guests.

Regarding food, Alaby pointed out important restrictions. “The Muslims do not drink alcohol or eat pork, including pork-based products like bacon, sausage etc. If breakfast includes these, it must be made clear (on signs),” he said.

The executives also listed tourist spots in São Paulo that may be interesting to Arabs, such as the (Sunni mosque) Mesquita Brasil, the (Shiite mosque) Mesquita do Brás, the 25th of March Street (popular commercial street), the Library of South America-Arab Countries (Bibliaspa) and Club Homs, among others.

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