Thursday, 22 March 2012 02:31
By caribarena news
Antigua St John's - The Ministry of Tourism will be focussing on three core areas in 2012, to revive and sustain the industry which is the life-blood of the nation’s economic activity.
These areas - service excellence, a new online marketing strategy, and a Tourism Development Plan - were the topics of the most recent edition of ABS television’s Monday Night Live programme.
Panelist Cynthia Simon, manager of Tourism Education Training and Awareness within the Ministry of Tourism, outlined the three pillars of the tagline “Service excellence, live it, give it, celebrate it,” as (in order of importance) dealing with ethics and core values, standards, and capacity building. These tie into the overall objective of creating a culture of service excellence in Antigua & Barbuda, according to Director of Policy and Planning Cortwright Marshall.
One of the first steps toward creating this culture of excellence is sensitizing nationals on the industry's importance to local economic development and sustainability, and the need for all visitors to have a pleasant experience. In the age of new media, bad news travels exceptionally fast. According to the experts, it costs more to attract a new customer than it does to make an old one return.
This is one of the areas where the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA) will be focusing its efforts; the marketing of the country’s tourism product to locals, with schools being the primary training ground for this exercise.
After this, supervisors and human resource personnel will need to be trained to set an example for line staff to follow.
Manager of the Antigua Hotels and Tourist Association Neil Forrester said, “Service excellence is more than smiling and being nice to guests, it’s about going the extra mile and being extra professional; but this has to begin with the managers and supervisors.”
He added that the Service Excellence Program could seem complex, because hotel line staff has to be happy in their jobs, in their surroundings, and in their relations with fellow employees, and in turn this comfortable feeling will be reciprocated to guests.
CEO of the ABTA Colin James said, “It is important to celebrate good employees. Reward them properly for professionalism, as satisfied employees give good customer service and employers must recognise that service does not mean servitude."
Another component in the quest for the delivery of excellent customer service is the need to measure the existing product via surveys and questionnaires to visitors. Service providers should offer avenues to collect visitor feedback, and act on suggestions and experiences. An example of the effectiveness of this modus operandi is the ease and efficiency with which yachtsmen are now able to clear customs and immigration when they visit the island for racing purposes.
Prior to the new pre-arrival online registry arrangement, the yachtsmen used to complain about the bureaucratic process that used to frustrate and deter them from participating in the island’s major regattas. Since voicing and penning their dissatisfaction with the past arrangements, the respective authorities took their issues into consideration and delivered a higher quality service delivery product.
The Tourism Authority is interested in qualitative information, and hopes to engage focus groups of varying types of visitors to gather such information.
Cruise satisfaction scores are tallied by cruise lines which gauge visitor satisfaction at each destination based on service, signage, transportation etc. These scores determine whether the destination remains on the cruise itinerary. This shows the importance of delivering a high standard of service to the survival of the country’s cruise industry.
According to Simon, local businesses can adopt the concept of regular employee evaluation and customer service training not just for frontline staff, but for all employees. This will produce a more aesthetically pleasing work environment for everyone, and the ideas will be inculcated into the culture of the business. This in turn will yield higher profits which will be beneficial to the entire country economically.
A release from the Ministry of Tourism said, "It is the hope that a nationalistic approach to service excellence will be adopted. It may be the general view that service excellence should be the goal of tourism based businesses and personnel only, however, everyone has a stake in the final product that is used to brand Antigua & Barbuda as a first-class tourist destination."