A book for both entrepreneurs and serial guests

Book Facts : Hospitality Law – A Guide to Hotel Management by Irwin Jayasuriya (A Stamford Lake Publication, 2009; Rs.1,250) Reviewed by Royston Ellis

“In the personal experience of the author,” writes Dr. Irwin Jayasuriya in this fascinating review of the laws in Sri Lanka relating to running a hotel, “it has been found in some of the resort hotels, front office/reception officers have failed to live up to requirement, thus conveying the wrong impression of the hotel to the guest.”

That sentence reveals that this 248-page paperback book is not just a lawyer’s commentary on the legal standing of management and guests in hotels in Sri Lanka, but also reflects the author’s own impressions. Dr. Jayasuriya has been associated with several leading hotel companies in this country and has worked closely with hotel managers in dealing with their day-to-day problems. He has a son who is an Assistant Manager of one of the most popular coastal hotels, so his involvement and knowledge is more than exclusively legal.

Nevertheless, the author is a lawyer with formidable qualifications so this book is packed with analyses as well as case histories. Dr. Jayasuriya graduated from the University of Ceylon (Peradeniya) and later entered the Sri Lanka Law College and was admitted and enrolled as an Attorney-at-Law of the Supreme Court. He has been active in Labour Tribunals for over 20 years and, in 2003, was awarded a PhD in Labour and Industrial Law from Trinity International University, USA.

The author’s background is important as it signals the reader can rely on him as an authority. Dr. Jayasuriya is not a hotel brochure copywriter given to hyperbole or even, like me, a travel writer who specialises in reviewing hotels. Thus I was astonished to learn that while governments in Sri Lanka have been concerned with the numbers of arriving tourists and the number of rooms sold, no government has ventured into the legal aspects and intricacies involved in the management of hotels.
In his brief foreword to the book, industry veteran Cornel Perera, the chairman of the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management, writes “the author breaks new ground by presenting the legal the absence of specific laws relating to the industry.”

He adds: “The wider objective of the author to familiarise and educate all stakeholders and members of the industry is commendable.”

The book definitely has a broad appeal. While it is essential reading for those studying to have successful careers in the hospitality industry, it is also recommended for entrepreneurs who want to do it themselves. Those villa and bungalow owners intent on making some tourist dollars (or euros) by turning their properties into guesthouses, need to realise the legal implications. Serial guests, like myself, can benefit from this book by knowing what rights we have if something goes wrong during our stay at a hotel.

The book starts with an introduction to hotel law and includes a definition of what is tourism. We learn that the harbinger of modern tourism in this country was the establishment of the Ceylon Tourist Bureau in 1937 and the objective of the setting up of the Ceylon Hotels Corporation Act in 1966 was to facilitate the quick development of tourism. The definition of a hotel is covered although the author states “at date there is no general agreement on the standards of classification due to large differences that exist in the provision of food and accommodation within the same category of hotel, sometimes within the same country.”

A hotel manager is described as “the person who is delegated with the responsibility of operating the hotel and is therefore liable to the guests in all matters concerning the hotel and all its operations and services.” A chapter deals with the hotel manager’s rights and another details his duties while a further one defines a hotel guest and the guest’s various rights. There is an analysis of the contract of booking accommodation.

The author next considers the management of the various hotel departments such as Front Office/Reception, Housekeeping, Food & Beverage, and Service Charges and Tips. He doesn’t actually recommend how much to tip if the service charge has been added to the bill. I usually tip in cash five percent of the cost of food and beverage, before taxes and service charge have been added, and this book explains what should happen to that cash.

The 1989 law relating to hotels is explained and I was astonished to read that: “every hotel should at least once every year refurbish the rooms and paint its walls.” I would never have guessed. Many laws and regulations are reproduced in the book, including the important Tourism Act of 2005. All make interesting reading.

My only quibble with this book is the eccentric spelling (due to the computer?) which, on the same page, has both “travellers” and “travelers” and on another page, “organisation” and “organization”. Although there is no law about spelling, I hope prospective hotel managers in this country who read this book will stick to English spelling and not American, while letting their hospitality remain traditionally Sri Lankan.

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