Good Ser­vice Seeds Fu­ture Tourism Growth

Seeds Fu­ture TOURISM GROWTH

Tourism Tattler - - EDITORIAL - By Brett Hen­dricks About the Au­thor: Brett Hen­dricks is the Gen­eral Man­ager of the Thebe Tourism Group. For more in­for­ma­tion visit Thebe.co.za

Th­ese days, trav­ellers do not vote only with their feet when dis­sat­is­fied with the qual­ity of ser­vice they re­ceive. They also vote with their fin­gers, shar­ing sto­ries of their ex­pe­ri­ence with friends and post­ing mes­sages on so­cial me­dia.

Mil­len­ni­als, in par­tic­u­lar, have be­come ac­cus­tomed to rat­ing ev­ery­thing – ac­com­mo­da­tion, trans­port, food and bev­er­ages. And the po­ten­tial for an in­ci­dent of poor ser­vice to be cap­tured on video and end up trend­ing on so­cial me­dia is huge, with dam­ag­ing con­se­quences for the busi­ness.

But this cuts both ways.

When peo­ple re­ceive ex­cel­lent ser­vice, they of­ten share this among their friends and so­cial me­dia chan­nels, po­ten­tially in­flu­enc­ing them to try out the ex­pe­ri­ence, be it a new restau­rant or a visit to an­other coun­try. They also leave glow­ing re­views on travel ad­vice web­sites such as TripAd­vi­sor and Lonely Planet.

More tourists have been vis­it­ing South Africa this year than last, with large growth be­ing posted in vis­i­tors from Asia and the Mid­dle East. Th­ese over­seas vis­i­tors travel thou­sands of kilo­me­tres and spend large sums of money to come to our coun­try, and rightly ex­pect that they will be wel­comed warmly and treated to a mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence.

De­liv­er­ing high-qual­ity ser­vice, there­fore, should be our num­ber one pri­or­ity. And if we get it right, it will serve as the base for fu­ture growth in tourism as a whole. This is es­pe­cially im­por­tant for busi­nesses in long-haul des­ti­na­tions such as South Africa be­cause one bad ex­pe­ri­ence can dis­suade a po­ten­tial trav­eller from mak­ing the in­vest­ment in time and money to travel such a great dis­tance.

Of­ten, when­ever the topic of ser­vice qual­ity is brought up, a com­mon re­sponse from tourism busi­nesses is that we do not have the right cal­i­bre of peo­ple work­ing in the sec­tor. Or that the coun­try has a short­age of skills.

This is true to some ex­tent. But ser­vice ex­cel­lence is not some­thing we are born with. It has to be taught – and skills have to be de­vel­oped. Tourism em­ploys large num­bers of un­skilled or low-skilled peo­ple, and their work af­fects the qual­ity of the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence. It is in our best in­ter­ests as busi­nesses to see the in­vest­ment in up-skilling such peo­ple as an in­vest­ment in the fu­ture prof­itabil­ity of the tourism sec­tor and our own busi­nesses. That sim­ple change to how we think about it will put us in a frame of mind to treat in­vest­ments in train­ing and skills devel­op­ment as we would any other in­vest­ment.

That is to say that we should ex­pect it to gen­er­ate some kind of fu­ture eco­nomic or fi­nan­cial re­turn. And we should have in place the sys­tems to mon­i­tor the per­for­mance of our train­ing and skills devel­op­ment pro­grammes so that we can make changes if the outcomes are not what we an­tic­i­pated.

I have seen some ex­cel­lent train­ing and skills devel­op­ment pro­grammes, es­pe­cially in the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor. Many of th­ese are run by large tourism busi­nesses that have the re­sources to in­vest in such pro­grammes. I would like to see busi­nesses that run ef­fec­tive pro­grammes de­velop part­ner­ships with smaller tourism busi­nesses to help them up-skill their em­ploy­ees.

The tourism eco-sys­tem in this coun­try is such that no busi­ness, no mat­ter how big, can claim to be com­pletely im­mune from the ef­fects of poor ser­vice else­where in the value chain. As I said ear­lier, one bad ser­vice ex­pe­ri­ence can put off a trav­eller from re­turn­ing to the coun­try, or from rec­om­mend­ing that others visit, with knock-on ef­fects for ev­ery tourism busi­ness in South Africa.

We want the tourists who will be vis­it­ing our shores in 2017 to come back again. We want them to be­come am­bas­sadors for tourism in South Africa. And the only way we can do this is if we en­sure that their en­tire stay in the coun­try is the best and most worth­while that it can be.

Note: South African Tourism has a Wel­come SA web­site filled with re­sources to help make your guests’ stay a mem­o­rable one. A free mod­ule-based on­line learn­ing pro­gramme is also avail­able to equip your staff with the skills to bet­ter sell South Africa as a tourist des­ti­na­tion. There are two cour­ses: SA Spe­cial­ist: Es­sen­tials and SA Spe­cial­ist: Ex­pe­ri­ences. For star-graded hos­pi­tal­ity es­tab­lish­ments, the Lilizela Tourism Awards pro­gramme pro­vides recog­ni­tion for ser­vice ex­cel­lence, while the TGCSA’s Bas­ket of

Ben­e­fits pro­vides free tips, le­gal ad­vice, and pro­cure­ment dis­counts. Edi­tor.

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