St. Regis Slammed Over Butlers’ Western Names
By I Gusti Made Putra
DENPASAR ~ A luxury hotel in the tourist enclave of Nusa Dua urging its Balinese butlers to adopt Western names so that their well-heeled guests will feel more at home has enraged one of the country’s top spiritual leaders.
The St. Regis Resort and Spa, which opened to fanfare in March 2009, requests that its team of butlers uses names that are plucked from British literature, such as Edgar, in an apparent strategy to confer on the service staff an inference of the traditional British servant.
Anand Krishna, who runs spiritual centres and workshops in Bali and writes a weekly column in this newspaper, said he was outraged that the butlers were told to use Western names.
“I think the management of St. Regis is totally ignorant of the very purpose of tourism,” he told The Bali Times on Thursday.
“It is not only saddening but disheartening that a hotel of their repute could make such a blunder. A totally wrong understanding of the concept of tourism,” he said.
What’s in a Name: The entrance to the plush St. Regis at Nusa Dua where butlers provided for high-paying guests take Western names to help the wealthy cope with Bali.
The marketing and communications director at the St. Regis, Geetha Warrier, confirmed that the resort, located along the white-sand Geger Beach, employed butlers among its 30-strong, mostly Balinese team who used Western names.
“They are given a stage name derived from the most famous butlers in the world. It is a gimmick, a talking point, which is received very positively by the team and guests alike,” she told The Bali Times.
“These English names are chosen by the butlers themselves and are not forced upon them. We have butlers who use their own names.”
However, some of the butlers at the St. Regis, who cater to guests who shell out up to US$5,500 per night, according to rates on the hotel’s website, have reportedly said they are uncomfortable using an adopted Western name and would rather use their own.
Krishna said foreign tourists should be open to the experience of enjoying the delights of a different country.
“The original idea of tourism was to visit new places, and learn new things. A Peter coming to Bali must get to know Putu here, and taste some pasar (market) delicacies,” he said.
“When I visit my daughter in Spain, I do not look for Indonesian satay or Indian curry there. I prefer tapas and Sangria. I do not want nasi goreng in Los Angeles; I would rather have bacon and sausages for my breakfast. I eat fish and chips in London; I would not look for ikan bakar. I go all the way to Raffles in Spore to have a Singapore Sling.”
The spiritual guru, who has worked with the Dalai Lama, called for action against the St. Regis.
“I suggest that Bali Tourism Board and other government institutions reprimand the management of St. Regis, and ensure that this situation is changed immediately,” he said.
Meanwhile, Desiderius Rian Karismaputra of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) in Jakarta told The Bali Times that the top-end hotel’s policy violated the intrinsic rights of their employees.
“Under the law, Indonesians have the right to use their own name, and cannot be forced to change it to something else,” he said.
“According to the Law on Antidiscrimination of Race and Ethnicity, Article 4, there is a term of one year in jail or a fine of Rp100,000 (US$10,600) for violations,” he said.
The St. Regis joins a growing number of high-end hotels in Bali. Part of the US-based Starwood group, its sister properties in Bali include the Westin, Le Méridien and Laguna, while a W hotel is under construction.
Suarno of conflict-resolution section of the Department of Manpower in Badung regency, where most of the island’s tourism is located, said, however, that if there was an agreement between the hotel and its employees that was approved by the All Indonesia Workers Union (KSPSI), there would be no problem.
“But if the company is not a member of the KSPSI, the workers of the hotel can complain directly to the management of the hotel, that they don’t like using a Western name,” Suarno told The Bali Times.
The St. Regis said that because it was a new hotel, its employees were not yet members of the KSPSI.
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