November 3, 2014

Delivering on the Tourism Experience


Anyone who has traveled in the last year has faced the fact that the travel experience has some key challenges.  Tourism is promoted as a stress reliever and a way to renew both body and soul.  Unfortunately what should be and what is are often very different experiences. In too many places, travelers face imprecise language, fine print that does not deliver what is promised, add-on fees, poor customer service and angry employees, sub-quality food, and buildings and locales that are tidy or even sanitary.  Perhaps then the greatest challenge for the tourism industry in the coming years is to create a tourism experience that matches the public’s expectations.  In a world of high prices, security challenges and poor customer service standards, turning the ideal into reality is not an easy process.  The tourism industry, however, has no alternative.  If it does not deliver than the cost in lost business will far exceed the cost of business improvements.  It is essential that tourism professional see their industry from a long-term perspective.  With the exception of some business travelers, and health and family emergencies, many people can choose not to travel. The concept of the “staycation” (vacationing at home) came about due to the high cost and difficulties of travel, the lack of good service, and the fact that all to often the hospitality industry has become the “hostility” industry. Changing some of travel’s negative aspects will not be easy. Marketing can only do so much and when hype cease to match reality then customers are lost.  Improving the travel and tourism experience cannot be done by fiat but rather will require each tourism professional returning to the basic principles of the hospitality industry.  To help each of us return the industry to a state of fun and hospitality consider some of the following ideas.

-Do not work in travel and tourism if you do not enjoy being with people.  Tourism is more than a job; it is a vocation.  It is not easy to work with the public.  Some people love it and others do not. In the world of travel, filled with stress and tired people, only those who truly enjoy being with people can offer outstanding customer service. Tourism should be a fun job and when it is merely a paycheck then the time has come to find another job! 

-Learn about all aspects of the tourism experience.  Unfortunately all too many people in travel and tourism only know about their small part of the tourism industry. Our clients however are not merely purchasing our services and products but the entire experience. That means that hoteliers need to know about local events, places to visit and areas of a locale that are best to avoid. Car rental companies need to provide more than an unreadable map that cannot be read while a person is driving, and restaurateurs need to integrate their menu with the locale’s culture and themes.

-Seek to make tourism affordable no matter what your market niche may be.  No one wants to be taken advantage of. It really does not matter if you are selling to the high end or low end of the market; the travel expects value for his/her money.  Customer loyalty comes from the “experience.” Travelers will excuse a few negative experiences but when value for money paid consistently declines, so will revenue. 

-Dependable Customer Bases are based in dependable relationships.  Go out of your way to show people you care.  In today’s information oriented world there is no excuse for not knowing your customer’s preferences, allergies and special needs.  The hospitality industry is based on personal relationships. That means send a birthday email, offer special “we care\” bonuses and find ways to personalize your service so that each person is treated as an honored guest. 

-Compete less and partner more.  One of the great hassles in tourism is that all too many organizations duplicate each other or are so competitive that the customer (guest) is lost in the process.   Find ways to work with other parts of the tourism industry. Go out of your way to provide full concierge services no matter in what part of the industry your business is located. The more seamless the vacation experience, the higher the probability that you will gain a loyal and repeat customer. 

-Make the total community part of the tourism and travel industry: Tourism is about the total experience. A tourist or visitor does not judge your locale only by the people that work in the T&T industry but by everyone with whom s/he comes in contact. That means that tourism professionals have to market as much to their local community as to their potential customers. If the local community does not understand the importance of tourism and resents outsiders, in the end, moist tourism communities will suffer a major economic loss.-Provide visitors the most current and accurate local information possible.

 There is nothing more frustration to a visitor than to be stuck in a traffic jam, not discover that s/he is in the midst of road construction and detours, or that the recommended attraction or restaurant is closed on a particular day.  If you are an hotelier provide the best local information possible. Communities may also want to consider electronic information boards that a visitor can download from the next. 

-Keep out of politics.  Tourism is based on person-to-person relationships and not on a political position.  Stay away from controversial issues such as climate change, immigration, tax issues or class warfare.  These may be important issues of the day, but in the end can only lose your business friends and customers. 

-Be thankful that you have a job!  It is always a good idea to remember that were there no visitors, travelers or tourists, we in the tourism industry would be out of work. Act as if your personal economy depends on tourism, because it does! Whenever you are frustrated with the visitors or just people in general, take the time to remind yourself that these people are more than your guests, they are also your customers.

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About the Author

Dr. Peter Tarlow
Dr. Peter E. Tarlow is a world-renowned speaker and expert specializing in such areas as: the impact of crime and terrorism on the tourism industry, event and tourism risk management, and economic development. Tarlow earned his Ph.D. in sociology from Texas A&M University. He also holds degrees in history, in Spanish and Hebrew literatures, and in psychotherapy. Since 1990, Tarlow has been teaching courses on tourism, crime & terrorism to police forces and security and tourism professionals throughout the world. ithin the US government Tarlow has lectured for the Department of the Interior, for the Department of Justice (Bureau of Prisons and Office of US Attorneys-General) and for the Department of Homeland Security. Tarlow’s fluency in many languages enables him to speak throughout the world (United States, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, and Africa, and the Eastern Pacific). Tarlow lectures on current and future trends in the tourism industry, rural tourism economic development, the gaming industry, issues of crime and terrorism, the role of police departments in urban economic development, and international trade. For more please visit


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