Fawlty advice from VisitBritain

Absurd stereotyping from the national tourism board

In what sounds like the synopsis for a Fawlty Towers episode, VisitBritain, the country’s official tourism agency, has released a series of tips with the aim of helping the UK tourism industry avoid offending foreign guests.

The advice – some of which is bordering on absurd and all of which relies heavily on national stereotypes – is the product of government-approved research which was gained by speaking to hoteliers.

Did you know, for example, that you should never smile or make eye contact with French people that you haven’t yet been formally introduced to? Or that Russians should be placed in rooms with high ceilings with high doorways, because Russia is a ‘tall nation’? And don’t even think about expecting people from Hong Kong to sleep in four poster beds; they’re a superstitious lot and associate that type of sleeping equipment with ghosts.

There is also advice for how to deal with German tourists, but interestingly none that contains any mention of the war.

This is the full list of Dos and Don’ts:

DO: Understand that Indians are amiable but have a tendency to change their minds quite frequently.

DO: Ensure tourists from Russia – a tall nation – are housed in rooms with high ceilings and doorways.

DO: Anticipate ALL the needs of a Japanese visitor, even if they haven’t told you what they are.

DO: Deal promptly with any complaint from German or Austrian tourists, who can be straightforward and demanding to the point of seeming rude or aggressive.

DON’T: Ask people from Hong Kong to sleep in a four poster bed because they associate them with ghostly encounters.

DON’T: Exchange a smile or make eye contact with anyone from France who you do not know.

DON’T: Describe a visitor from Canada as ‘American’.

DON’T: Bring up the topic of Belgian politics or language with Belgians.

DON’T: Say ‘no’ in a direct way to the Japanese, instead think of a nicer alternative.