February 2017: Part 2 of a two part series. Part 1 appeared in January
Last month we looked at some of the fundamentals of a successful tourism business or industry. Although every local is different, and it is a basic principle to emphasize the unique and different aspects of your business or locale, human beings are basically the same around the world and the best principles of good tourism are the same across both cultures and languages.
Tourism is the telling of a story in which the visitor becomes part of the tale. To travel is to seek the different, to find a way to leave the humdrum of daily life and enter into a world of non-realities. This basic principal means that the tourism industry must allow its visitors to experience the unique and special in a safe and secure environment. Remember we are selling memories and it is our job to help our customers create memories that can be shared.
Do you understand your tourism product in the same way as your customers see it? For example, you may say that you are a family destination, but if your customers view you from another perspective, it will take a tremendous amount of marketing change the image. Before launching a new marketing campaign, consider how your destination makes its clientele feel, why people chose your destination over the competition, and what emotional benefits do your visitors receive when they chose your destination.
A smile is universal. Perhaps the most important technique to learn in tourism is the way to smile. A sincere smile can compensate for many an error. Travel and tourism is built around principles of high expectations, many of which never get met. This gap between the image and the reality is not always the fault of the industry. There is little that the industry can do to make a rainstorm depart or to stop an unexpected blizzard. What we can do, is show people that we care and be creative. Most people can forgive an act of nature but few customers will forgive a state of callousness or lack of caring.
Tourism is a customer driven experience. In the last few years too many tourism and visitor centers have worked hard at driving their customers from human-based experiences to web page experiences. The logic behind this move is that it will save large corporations such as airlines a great deal of money on wages. The risk that these companies will have to consider is that tourists develop relationships with people rather than web sites. As tourist and traveler corporations drive people to web sites, they should be ready to accept the fact that customer loyalty will decrease and that their frontline personnel’s actions become even more important.
We may talk about educating our customers but remember that they are not in school and are not paying anyone to get a grade. All too often, especially on guided tours, we have the false notion that our customers are our students. Guides need to speak less and allow visitors to experience more. The average adult, on tour, stops listening after about 5-7 minutes. In a like manner too many police departments and security organizations falsely believe that they can educate the visitor regarding personal safety and security. Assume the visitor will pay no attention and develop security programs based on this simple fact.
Be authentic. Nothing gets unmasked more easily that a lack of authenticity. Do not try to be what you are not but rather be the best that you can be. Tourism locations that are authentic and natural tend to be the most successful. To be authentic does not mean only forests or beaches, but a unique presentation of cultural awareness.
Visitors may forget a sunset but rarely forget a good meal. Emphasize the culinary aspects of your tourism industry. Use whenever local products, presented in both colorful and unique fashions, promote local recipes. Food can change a good trip into a memorable one.
Seek out and develop new talent. Tourism is hard work and many people find the industry too hard. Be on the lookout for new and creative employees, seek people who are gregarious and extroverted, and people with both patience and a sense of adventure.
Use multiple methodologies to understand trends in tourism. There is a tendency in tourism to use purely qualitative or quantitative analytical methodologies. Both are important and both can provide additional insights. Problems occur when we become so dependent on one form of analysis that we ignore the other. Remember people surveyed along with computerized data are not always truthful. Although these methods may be highly valid their reliability factors may be lower than what we believe. Polling errors both in the US and the UK ought to remind us of the principle of “garbage in/garbage out”.
When in doubt, the right thing to do is the best thing to do. Don’t cut corners because times are hard. This is the time to build a reputation for integrity by doing the right thing. Make sure to give customer’s their money’s worth rather than appearing to be selfish and greedy. The hospitality business is about doing for others, and nothing advertises a place better than giving that something extra in a period of economic constriction. In a like manner, managers should never cut their underlings salaries before they cut their own. If reduction in forces are necessary, a manager should personally handle the situation, present a good-bye token and never be absent on the day of a lay-off.
When the going gets rough, be calm. People come to us for tranquility and to forget their problems, not to learn about our problems. Our guests should never be burdened with our economic difficulties. Remember they are our guests and not our counselors. Tourism ethics requires that your personal life stay in your home. If you are too agitated to work, then stay home. Once one is at the workplace, however, we have a moral responsibility to concentrate on the needs of our guests and not on our own needs. The best way to be calm in a crisis is to be prepared. For example, in the post-September 11th world, every community needs to have a tourism security plan. In a like manner, your community or attraction needs to train employees on how to handle health risks, travel changes, and personal security issues.