January 2017: Part one of a two-part series
Once again the travel and tourism industry faces both new and on-going challenges. Travel and tourism cannot be separated from the world context in which they operate. Be that context political states of war, or one of health issues or of economic undulations, what occurs throughout the world touches every aspect of tourism. It is for this reason that every once in a while it is good for travel and tourism professionals to take a step back and to review at least some of the basic fundamentals of their industry. We all claim to know these fundamental principles, but all too often in the “madness of life and work” we need to be reminded of the basic principles of tourism, of what we do and why we do it.
To get the New Year off to a great start, Tourism Tidbits provides you both this month and next month with a listing of these principles and how they impact every aspect of our industry.
1. Travel and Tourism professionals need to enjoy what they do and to like their customers. Travel and tourism is about having fun and if your employees are you do not come to work with a smile on your face then it would be better to seek another job. Visitors quickly ascertain our moods and professional attitude. The nice you are the more successful your company or local tourism community is going to be.
2. It cannot be stated too often, that most leisure travel and tourism are choice made by the consumer who is using his or her expendable income and time. In all but a few cases, and with the exception of business travel and some forms of health travel, the customer does not have to choose to travel. This simple fact means that tourists often frighten easily and may have unrealistic expectations. It does the travel expert no good to become either frustrated or annoyed with his or her customer. Although the customer may technically not always be right, the customer always has the option of not traveling. In that case, it is the professional or the professional’s business that in the end suffers. This fundamental principle is so important that around the world places that provide clean efficient and friendly service and products prospered in 2016. Others, who took their visitors for granted, had disappointing results. A basic rule of tourism and travel is, if you treated your customer fairly, provided a good product in a safe and clean environment then your industry did just fine. If on the other hand, prices are not in line with your competition, service is poor and security is weak, the opposite is bound to occur. Consider then the following fundamentals of tourism:
a. Tourism is security dependent. In a world where one can experience “virtual” travel, where meetings can be held on a computer, and where the traveler is exposed to twenty-four hour news cycles, our customers no where it is safe and where it is not. Countries such a France, Turkey and Egypt saw major declines in tourism because they were perceived not to be safe. It is essential that you create a safe and secure atmosphere. To create such an atmosphere local security professionals must be part of the planning from the beginning. Tourism security is more than merely having police or security professionals at a site. Tourism security requires psychological and sociological analysis, the use of hardware, interesting and unique uniforms, and careful planning that integrates the security professional into the enchantment experience.
b. Strive to provide an enchanting travel and tourism experience. Tourism is not about education or school but about enchantment and the nurturing of the spirit. A lack of enchantment means that there are fewer and fewer reasons to want to travel and to participate in the tourism experience. For example, if every shopping mall looks the same or if the same menu exists in every hotel chain, why not simply stay at home? Why would anyone want to subject him/herself to dangers and hassles of travel, if our industry destroys the journey’s enchantment by rude and arrogant front line personnel? To help your locale or attraction make money put a bit of the romance and enchantment back into your tourism product
3. Love your customers! If your employees “hate” tourists then the message they are giving is one that destroys a sense of being special. Often managers are more interested in their own ego trips then in the vacationer’s experience. An employee who is unique, funny, or makes people go away feeling special is worth thousands of dollars in advertising. Every tourism manager and hotel GM ought to do every job in his or her industry at least once a year. Often tourism managers push so hard for the bottom line that they forget the humanity of their employees. Be with the visitors and see the world through their eye.
4. In tourism a perception may not be true but its consequences are always true. Negative reputations are not easy to erase and negative perceptions can destroy a tourism industry. If our visitors perceive that they are not wanted, or are seen as easy prey, then they will soon find alternatives.
5. Never forget that there is a lot of competition in the tourism industry. It behooves tourism industry executives to remember that there are lots of locales that have beaches, sun, serf, good restaurants, mountains and rivers. In today’s interlocked world major cities no longer sell only their local products but provide wide variety of products from around the world. Basic principle: if you can get it there, you can probably get it here.
6. Our clients have more information than ever before. The worst thing for a tourism industry is to be caught lying. It takes a long time to rebuild a reputation and in today’s world of social media, one mistake can spread like wildfire.
7. Marketing can aid in product development but it cannot substitute for product(s) development. A basic rule of tourism is that you cannot market what you do not have. Remember that the most successful form of marketing is word of mouth. Spend less money on classical marketing strategies and more money on customer service and product development.
8. Emphasize the unique in your business or community. Do not try to be all things to all people. Represent something that is special. Ask yourself: What makes your community or attraction different and unique from your competitors? How does your community celebrate its individuality? If you were a visitor to your community would you remember it a few days after you had left or would it be just one more place on the map? For example, do not just offer an outdoor experience, but individualize that experience, make your hiking trails special, or develop something special about your beaches or river experience. If, one the other hand, your community or destination is a creation of the imagination then allow the imagination to run wild and continually create new experiences.