SERVICE EXCELLENCE AMONG KEY PRIORITY AREAS FOR THE MINISTRY OF TOURISM IN 2012Wednesday 21st March 2012
The Ministry of Tourism will be focusing its efforts on three core areas in 2012 with the intentions of reviving and sustaining the industry which is the life-blood of the nation’s economic activity.
The three core areas being service excellence, a new online marketing strategy and a Tourism Development Plan were the topics of discussion during the most recent edition of ABS televisions’ Monday Night Live program, with Service Excellence compelling prominence during those discussions.
Panelist Mrs. 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 and Barbuda as is the intent of the Ministry according to Mr. Cortwright Marshall Director of Policy and Planning.
One of the first steps towards creating this culture of excellence is the sensitization of nationals as to the importance of the industry 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 the execution of this exercise.
Following on the heels of this, the need is seen to train firstly supervisors and human resource personnel so that there is an example for line staff to follow.
Manager of the Antigua Hotels and Tourist Association, Neil Forrester says that “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.”
Mr. Forrester went on to say 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 the comfortable feeling will be reciprocated to guests.
“It is important to celebrate good employees. Reward them properly for professionalism as satisfied employees give good customer service and employers must recognize that service does not mean servitude”, relays CEO of the ABTA Mr. Colin James.
Another component in the quest towards the delivery of excellent customer service is the need to measure the existing product via surveys and questionnaires to the 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 an efficiency with which Yachtsmen now are 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 highly interested in qualitative information and hopes to engage focus groups of varying types of visitors to our shores 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 and these scores determine whether or not 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 Mrs. 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.
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 and Barbuda as a first class tourist destination.
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