Our workshop leaders spend a decent amount of time talking to North Korean audiences about customer expectations internationally, whether industrially or at the retail level. On a recent site inspection of a new hotel in Wonsan, and as if to illustrate some of the issues of which we try to make our audiences aware, we came across this thing:
Younger readers might struggle to recognize this device, but it was what all luxury hotels required in the 1980s: a panel from which to control the lights, alarm clock, TV and radio. A nearly extinct creature, it can still be found surviving in environments such as the Yanggakdo, Koryo and other Pyongyang hotels that aspire to luxury status. Or, rather, 1980s perceptions of luxury.
The curious thing is that while those hotels generally have vintage (the kind euphemism for old) fixtures, this control panel was brand spanking new. Whoever was in charge of refurbishing this hotel simply does not have the exposure to how around the world customers have changed in the last 30 years. They just ordered up a 1980s era fixture because that's all they have been exposed to. Somewhere in the DPRK they can still manufacture these things.
Meanwhile, in our workshops, participants asked lots of questions that show they know they lack information on some basic things (how many toilets do we need per customer at a ski resort?). On others, such as how contemporary rooms should look, they don't even know how far away they are from meeting the expectations on service and comfort for winter sport travelers.
If they are to reach their goal of a million visitors a year to Wonsan, they will need to send a lot more people abroad to hospitality and service training centers. (Lest the dear reader fear a misprint, I'll just repeat that number in numerals: 1,000,000 per year.)
On a positive note, thanks to this control panel, we learned what 'skirting board' is in Korean at 5:38 p.m. (It was forgotten by 5:40.)