Smoking and non-smoking policies in hotels in Uzbekistan
Nowadays, more and more people all across the world tend to choose a healthy lifestyle and quit smoking and try to avoid smoking environment wherever possible. For this purpose, there is a wide network of public places and utilities where such practices are prohibited or limited to a certain extent.
A whole economic sector which takes this issue seriously is the hotel sector. Right now all hotels in the Western hotel industry (and the Western standard is definitely the one which example should be followed) pursue certain policies to limit smoking in rooms and provide its clients and guests with either a possibility to smoke in rooms or use a non-smoking room. This policy is usually institutionalized, that is, there are special rules and regulations, about which the guest is notified upon arrival or checkin.
A certain policy or fine can be applied to those who violate the non-smoking regulation, for example, upon check out a fine can be applied, based on what the room service may have reported, or even activation of fire alarm sprinklers.
A totally different is the situation in the countries of the developing world, for example, Uzbekistan (which many experts mention as a transitive country rather than developing one). For decades, interests of consumers were neglected in the Soviet environment, and nobody really cared if there was a smell of cigarettes in the room or not. Guests were happy even to have a room, be it with smoking smell, and worn furniture, and/or without cold water.
A new turn of this story started with collapse of the Union and emergence of market-oriented relations in the economy of Uzbekistan. A great number of new hotels emerged, with very high competition among them in all sectors, from top-end properties run by invited Western hoteliers, to smaller private businesses, two or three star hotels and B&Bs. They are now eager to attract more clients by adding more sophisticated equipment, amenities, or investing significant resources in decoration of the hotel in a certain style. Wireless Internet in rooms, energy-saving room cards, room air conditioners and heaters, business facilities and luxurious leisure onsite: all these are used to bring more clientele.
It should be noted that every Uzbek hotel is striving to attract Western guests, namely, tourists. This category of hotel users is the most popular one, because they are predictable, usually come in groups, gladly follow all rules and create no problems.
There is, however, one thing that Uzbek hotels often fail to deliver when requested by a foreign tourist, the non-smoking room. They give you a room, and claim it is non-smoking. All it takes, they say, is to open windows wide upon your request and to do the room carefully, and then it's OK. From our experience, this approach doesn't work. The smell stays, and after some time, the cigarette smell turns into the smell of mould, which holds in the carpet and furniture, and cannot be removed unless an overhaul is undertaken.
Or, the hotel staff proudly states that smoking IS ALLOWED everywhere, as if it is a merit, or they apologetically murmur that 'you know, there are some clients to whom you cannot say no' and apply penalties for smoking in non-smoking rooms.
Amazingly, this problem exists not only in small hotels and B&Bs, but even in big and reputed hotels and chains run by Western hoteliers. Often, the regular staff is surprised to know that there is such a thing as non-smoking rooms.
Definitely, the Uzbek hotel staff needs more exposure to best practices, and to learn more what standards should be applied. If we are to improve the quality of service, this topic should be raised at meetings the national tourism authority holds, and through special email send-outs.