A TRAVEL expert says you should always leave a tip in your hotel room as it can get you some sneaky freebies.
Australian travel writer Kerry van der Jagt thinks that while many travellers don’t feel the need to tip the housekeeping staff, it can pay dividends.
Kerry previously didn’t give them a second thought until she visited Cambodia 20 years ago.
At the time the country was still recovering from being savaged by its brutal dictator Pol Pot and she was “hit by an avalanche of child beggars, land mine victims and poverty that brought me to tears”.
Troubled by the suffering she saw she started handing out small change.
But a group of volunteer British doctors warned her not to as organised begging syndicates were operating and children were being trafficked.
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In their minds, it was better to donate to a recognised charity and travel with a tour operator that gave back to the communities they visited.
Kerry and the doctors continued to debate the issue and they began to form a strategy.
Instead of giving money to beggars what if they gave their cash to an employed person?
It might sound counter-intuitive to give money to someone who had work over another person who was begging on the street.
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But they reasoned: “What if that person was the sole breadwinner of a large and extended family? What if the job was hard and the pay low? And seasonal, meaning that often, little tummies went hungry.
“Finally, if the recipient was a woman (yes, we were drawing some big generalisations), we thought there was more chance that the bonus would be squirrelled away for good use.”
Kerry added: “Who better than the housekeeper? The money was not solicited, nor would it alter a family’s social dynamics. It would be a sign of appreciation, given voluntarily for a job well done (and it’s always well done).”
UNICEF Australia’s director of international programs Alice Hall said: “As a traveller, being sensitive to the local environment, culture and wellbeing of residents is really important and will result in a better travel experience.
“In any culture, it’s generous to be thinking about the service teams like waiters, shopkeepers and cleaners that help you along the way.”
Hall added that travellers should: “Check travel advice on tipping culture, as tips are not always customary, but certainly shop local, support local restaurants and cafes”.
Kerry though said the exception to this would be in Japan where any cash left out will just sit there untouched.
Tips given to the housekeeping staff not only benefits them but the guest can get a pleasant surprise too.
While staying at a guesthouse in Luang Prabang, Kerry would leave a tip and discovered that she was getting a small gift in return.
She said: “One day – noticing I was a tea drinker – it was an envelope of freshly dried mint leaves; on another it was posy of wildflowers.
“Although we never saw each, a gossamer-thin connection was forged.”
She experienced a similar situation not just in Cambodia but also in Peru, Namibia and Mexico.
Although she did say that most of the time she received nothing, except “a feeling that both our lives have been made better by the silent exchange.”
Intrepid Travel, which has been promoting responsible tourism for 30 years, is trying to make a positive change through travel.
Annette Sharp, the company’s global social impact manager, said: “In some countries, housekeeping is seen as a proud and important role, however, in other countries, housekeeping is considered unskilled work and staff are amongst the lowest paid in hotels and often come from disadvantaged, vulnerable or marginalised groups.
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“In these countries, tipping can make a huge difference to a housekeeper’s income and livelihood as the money goes directly into their pocket.”
The best way to tip, according to Kerry, is to get some cash in the local currency and place it on the pillow and as staff will change throughout the week it is best to leave something each day of your stay.
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