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Broadening your perspective

I recently returned from a whirlwind trip of Europe and points east, courtesy of Wyndham Worldwide. The giant franchisor took me to hotels in London, Dublin, Berlin, Malta, Budapest and Dubai between Nov. 3 and 14, and I'm just beginning to digest the trip (talk about jet lag).

One thing all this travel affirmed is that hospitality is different when you leave the U.S. Sure, service here can be as good as the hotels that showcase it. But in Europe and Dubai, service seems routinely ingrained, not merely learned. In addition, hospitality is a career to aspire to rather than a dead end. One cab driver in Malta who handles a lot of trips from hotels to airports told me he badly wants to work at the Corinthia San Gorg, a deluxe oceanfront hotel recently acquired by Wyndham. That way he won't be so irked by speed traps—and he'll make more money.

I also discovered that a Days Inn in Dublin is very different from one in suburban New Jersey and that a Ramada can take many different shapes and approaches. Days Inns we visited in Ireland are modern and technologically sophisticated. They also feature full-service restaurants, appropriate to places where food is viewed with respect rather than as fuel. And Ramadas in London, Berlin and Dubai came in all different styles and personalities.

The idea of the trip was to see how cultures and benefit each other. Travel is indeed illuminating. And I haven't even begun to describe Dubai, the boom town to beat all boom towns (Las Vegas, move over). I look forward to writing stories about my trip.

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