Daily Prompt: Promises in tourism

Daily Prompt: Promises in tourism
Moment of Truth
Moment of Truth

When I begin classes, I have to revisit the tourism business environment.  I explain that the drivers of that system are information, money and promises.  Promises are paramount in meeting the expectations and wants of the consumer.

A destination’s marketing organization as well as individuals within the infrastructure, can paint this rosy picture, and beautifully wrap up a package of potential.  They can set the price, design the products, and wait for the phone to ring or chirp of an in-box email with a processed receipt.  They can actively seek out and sell their destination attributes far and wide, especially in today’s global environment.

Working behind the scenes, that may be known and unknown, expressed, or implied, even assumed is the vague and concrete form of promises.  The action is an exchange.  Communication is vital for understanding.  Miscommunication can mean disaster.

And yet there is undefinable aspect of promises and that has to do with expectations–point of view, point of reality of each individual tourist.  Quality and quantity, value mean something different to everyone.  And therefore, it is hard to measure, hard to understand, hard to define value for each individual.

The only concrete is in the written terms to any agreement, and we all know we should read that fine print.  Ask that question to gain knowledge.  But there are unwritten promises executed every day.  Usually this in the interaction between human beings.

What we want in tourism is to have the guest return to our destination.  Promises are made throughout the guest cycle–before, during and after.  If we as host, do not live up to those promises articulated, and implied, the probability of return diminishes with each negative incident.

Therefore, promises are important to create loyalty and competitive advantage.  They are our moment of truth that distinguishes us from others.  We cannot survive without them or the partnerships they create.

via Daily Prompt: Promises

Guest Cycle in Tourism…

Guest Cycle in Tourism…
Guest Cycle in Tourism
Guest Cycle in Tourism

If any of you have visited here before, there are several post devoted to the guest cycle. Most of these post have to deal with a hotel or lodging environment, but I wanted to devote some time to what it means in tourism.

In tourism, the guest cycle is still cyclical in nature, in that it is dynamic and continues in perpetuity for as long as people have a want to travel.  The cycle is two-fold from a management or operations or strategy perspective and a guest or tourist, or end-user point of view.

There are three stages: Before, During and After.

In the Before stage, for the tourist, this is predominately focused on research and decision-making, the actions of making planning before execution of experience.  The tourist is researching when to go, hot to get there, where to go, who is going, how much to spend, and why.  Even making a decision not to go.  They are investigating all the elements of the destination mix or value chain, and ‘packaging’ them for use.  They are purchasing a product.

In contrast, for operations, planners, this before stage is when we are creating goals and objectives to attract tourist to our destination.  We too are researching motivations, reasons for travel, examining and evaluating the success of our destination, and strategizing how to remain competitive during the cycle.  This can go on throughout the three stages for we are constantly evaluating success for customer service delivery and execution. We are communicating to our potential and current guests what we have to offer.  We should be proactive during this stage.

In stage two or during their stay, tourist experience what they have designed.  This is the moment of truth.  Do we live up to what we have communicated?  Do we validate their expectations formed?  Do we deliver on tangibles and intangibles?  During this stage, they can still purchase more products, so communication is an ongoing action.  They may be writing positive and negative messages about their experience.

Aforementioned that this stage is highlighted by our “Moment of Truth”.  We have put our product and services out there, we’ve set a price, a value, through words, and images, through actions, and promises.  Have we lived up to those promises?  Usually during this time we are reactive, and may or may not be proactive.  We are reacting to what is happening within the experience, and hopefully, converting any negative experiences to positive ones.  We are recapturing potential loss that might occur with the unfulfilled aspect of promises.

In the third stage, or after, both sides are processing the event.  Guests are communicating and informing others about their experience.  They are analyzing and evaluating the experience, even writing testimonials to deliver to those interested utilizing word of mouth or electronic word of mouth.  They are demonstrating that they have done something, and that these actions may lead to future decision-making.

In contrast, operations or planner is analyzing, examining to inform, and strategize with stakeholders.  They are being reactive and proactive in this aspect in that they want to create a competitive advantage over others by more than addressing the negative messages.  The goal is to create product or destination that is constantly chosen over another, giving them the competitive advantage over another.

This leads to the concept of action-reaction-result loop.  This is a collective movement towards achieving goals and objectives.  This generations reflection, and helps the destination understand is strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Action-Reaction-Result Loop
Action-Reaction-Result Loop

There is an action undertaken by the client or planner, for that action there is a reaction by the guest albeit make a decision to travel, and operations makes promises, and as a result, the client will purchase products and contracts are delivered by operations.  This then leads to more actions, clients will travel whereas operations deliver on said promises.  There is a reaction on both parts, positive or negative, and there for a result.  Have we validated our promises?  If not, the guest will react, which results in negative comments, and as operators we must address that result.  If we don’t address that result, this could lead to an action by the consumer to pick someone else next time.

Recall that tourism is dynamic, ever-changing, and evolving.  These actions, reactions and results are ongoing as is the guest cycle.  They are looped and people are constantly considering travel.  It is our purpose as operations to convert interest into use.  Have them pick us time and time again, creating loyalty, repeat customers.  If so our entity will continue, and we create not only value for the customer but also the firm.

Recall the mantra:

Recall you are selling the right product {to the right person} at the right time, for the right price, for the right place or location, having the right promotion, engaging the right people, utilizing efficient and effective processes, and using truthful physical evidence, that is stories and testimonials to engage with your customer…

Tourism and geography: Understanding the Landscape

Tourism and geography:  Understanding the Landscape
Powerpoint Presentation Scotland's Landscape: The Making of Scottish Tourism
Powerpoint Presentation Scotland’s Landscape: The Making of Scottish Tourism

Last year I was granted the privilege of speaking in a geography class on my favorite subject, Scotland and its’ landscape.  I wanted to talk about the making of the tourism landscape, and I knew some of my own students would be in the class.  And had to put a different twist on it to keep their attention.  It is hard, but I persevered.

I started off the discussion with one of my favorite quotes from Neil Oliver and his book, A History of Scotland:

But there is a way of feeling about a place, about home, that transcends nationality and geography.
Sometimes the right words are found in the wrong place and remembrance – the reach of memory – matters as much as history.

~Oliver, Neil (2009-12-17). A History Of Scotland (Kindle Locations 145-147). Orion Publishing Group. Kindle Edition

I then showed them the brief intro from his TV show, because it is a powerful example how a landscape changes over time.  From a tourism perspective, landscape is more than just the geographic representation of green spaces and cityscapes.  We derive, as does geography, a complete picture from understanding three prime environments: the economic, the socio-cultural, and the natural/man-made world.  Yet, Oliver delivers something more.  He asserts the time element into the equation.  That over time our point of view of those landscapes change, and are morphed into something with mythic tones.

Before memory or history – beneath everything – is the rock. We are shaped and tested by it. Just as we are of the people we call family, so we are of the land we walk on every day. Magic is elusive stuff, but in the ancient landscapes of Scotland there is the genuine shimmer. It’s also a tough and demanding place – much of it made more of storm-swept rock than anything sun-baked. This is important. It is the landscape that has authored the story of this place, and this people, far longer and more indelibly than any work of our own hands.

~ Oliver, Neil (2009-12-17). A History Of Scotland (Kindle Locations 147-151). Orion Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

It is hard from students, at first, to understand the complexity that is tourism.  Mill and Morrison (2012) assert that tourism isn’t really an industry.  System, yes.  But more.  It isn’t just one entity, but a collection of entities within a specific landscape (a destination).  That it is more of an observable event, a phenomenon.  Yet, they articulate that “industry is a collection of entities producing the same goods and services (1)*, and tourism is nothing like an industry.  Here is where the waters become murky.  Tourism utilizes resources to create a collection of choices for individual travelers.  They produce goods and services to fulfill the expectations and wants of tourists.  Some of them don’t produce the same tangible and intangible elements.  But it is an industry when that collection of enterprises strive for the same goal in maximizing the capture of revenues in order to reward stakeholders and reinvest in the firm, destination.  Yes, tourism is a dynamic action; a behavior; a migration of people and resources to fulfill a need or a want, and thus creating loyalty.  We make promises every single day in tourism, and if we don’t deliver on those promises, more than likely our customers will go some place different.  They will choose another destination.  Tourism is an inter-woven tapestry of businesses.  They are inter-dependent and co-dependent on each other.  I would agree that they complement each other, but they are striving for one goal.  Tourism is rooted in promises, that intangible variable that is unique to each individual.  Promises are both input and outputs, associated with before, during and after travel.  That the observable event is ongoing, never-ending.  That as a business, no matter what area, we strive for mutually beneficial partnerships, and linkages to create value.  That is another promise.

Maybe industry isn’t the right word, and we need something more?  How is value measured with such shades of gray?  Is there black and white?  In today’s day and age of technology, an arm-chair traveler could be considered a tourist because they are utilizing and consuming resources from a destination.  What if they order a souvenir online and have it shipped to their place of residence, post travel?  What if they order up unique items from a destination because they want a bon voyage party?  Value has not been fully recognized from these individuals because they haven’t made a choice yet or their conversion doesn’t happen till a future date.  Tourism is complex.  When exactly do travelers enter into the system?

Crazy thought?  Sure, but with the advances of technology, and global uncertainty, will the Internet Highway be the destination of the future?  Will that be a new landscape?  Will a new even more complex tourism entity grow?  What about the value of these arm chair travelers that convert others?  Word of mouth, eWOM, is becoming critical with the application of technology.  Technology is another resource that needs to be addressed in that umbrella.

It is hard to measure total impact when tourism actions mirror every day life.  How do we know when a person pulls into a petrol station and fills the tank his purpose for that purchase?  Unless we ask, and gather that information as to the purpose of his trip will we understand exactly what is happening within that observable event.  This illustrates the point that perhaps we should not solely measure the value of tourism by numbers alone.  There is more to that confining digit that we readily see or imagine.  Ask the right questions.

So the debate continues.  Governments can continue to give tourism lip service, and stipulate that it isn’t important enough to the GDP.  We can’t discount the numbers.  We can’t discount the good that tourism does.  But that is for another post.

From that landscape, the resources for tourism sprout, and grow.  As managers, we strive to put heads in a beds, and butts in a seats.  We have to remember that we are a collection of individuals working together, and in competition for traveler choice.  A destination will utilize resources and the landscape will change.  Simplicity turns to complexity with continued development.  We must understand the parts of the puzzle as well as the whole puzzle to gauge impact.  To plan and strategize for the future.  As a manager we must remember the mantra:

Recall you are selling to the right person, the right product at the right time, for the right price, for the right location, having the right promotion, and employing the right people utilizing effective and efficient processes, and truthful, physical evidence, that is the right stories or testimonials to engage with the right customer.

Perhaps tourism is about creating and writing the story of life? (Another post)

Mill-Morrison. The Tourism System,  7th Edition. Kendall Hunt Publishing, Co., 08/2012. VitalBook file.

Weekend fun…

Weekend fun…

Visited Mall of America this weekend to shop and to see the new JW Marriott hotel attached to the Mall of America. Awesome property, and employees so welcoming. The design of the front desk caught my eye because I have been saying for years that eventually we will be getting rid of the front desk as we know it, especially with the advanced application of technology. We are tethered to our gadgets, but this Marriott is an example of how to integrate technology, function and design with luxury and style. Other hotels are doing the same, notably Hyatt and Hyatt Place. I’m looking forward to see what the concept will eventually manifest into.

Tourism and Crisis Management

Tourism and Crisis Management

The Turkey Bombings this past weekend demonstrated the worst of our society.  In my lodging class this week, we are weaving the elements of communication, security, and safety.  We are examining the effects of current events such as the Boston Marathon Bombings, 9/11, and other crises on hotel management.  What should you do in the event of….?  Bringing reality into the classroom.  The probability of such a crisis happening on their watch might be relatively low, but in today’s world, you can’t think like that.  You can’t think that something like this can’t happen in your neck of the woods.  Every contingency should be addressed, and preparation taken.  My old health ed teacher, Mr. Matsko, used to say, as probably my parents, who grew up in the age of World War II, and the Cold War, “it is better to be prepared, to be safe rather than sorry.”

Action plans must be developed for every type of emergency.  You never know what will happen, whether you are a tourist or work in this industry.  You may be called upon to act.  You may be the one to ensure that your guests survive.  You can’t rely on others to prepare, take the initiative and inform yourself on procedures.  You can’t run away from responsibility.  The ramifications and implications are far-reaching to your operation, your organization and yes, we know we don’t like to talk about it, but also the financial side.

I can see the look in their eyes now as I stand in front of the classroom, the look that tells me, “Wait, I have to do what?”

“I have to do all these tasks?”

“I have to remember all of this?”

Yes.

How do you prepare, tell me what to do?  How do I be an effective manager?  I can’t give you everything.  Sometimes it is experience (which I hope they never have) that gives you the confidence, and the ability to act.  Some have an innate ability, and capability.  Others, it takes time.

I can only give them so much.  The way I prepared for this, is I armed myself with information.  I actively read about these situations, and consider questions.  I took courses, I talked to friends, and I have experience.  For instance, the Boston Bombings, happened near several hotels, one in which I worked during my internship.  My first question that filtered through my head, is what did they do?  How did each level of the organization handle guests?  What was the scene like?  What would I do in this situation?

If you are in a position of leadership, in all of its varied forms, others will be looking to you for direction.  During stressful, difficult times, the cream does rise to the top, and people will surprise you.  In honesty, on certain things, I don’t know how I would act.  I just hope I am prepared for anything.  And working in this industry for as long as I have, I have been witnessed to a host of nastiness.  It has changed me, and helped, and hindered my point of reality, and what I am capable of.

Do my students think like this?  Do they ask the right questions?  Do they visualize themselves in this scenario in their minds, and plant themselves there, run through what possibly could happen?

I’m a writer by avocation, and professionally.  I create worlds, and incidents that challenge my characters.  Most of my heroes, and heroines, are modeled after my own personality traits (Not all…).  I ask them, given these traits, what would you do?  How would you react?

I am an avid reader of genres that are close to what I like to write in order to learn the craft.  Any manager in our industry that wants to develop to be top of their game needs to READ!  Needs to find out how others reacted to these scenarios and learn.

Be proactive not reactive.  Therefore, you must engage in some mental preparation and construct plans to address crises.  And then you must test yourself.  Test your employees, train and test.  Finally, reflect on actions, and adapt.

Again, another favorite saying is, “Do not put off what you can do today…tomorrow…it may be too late.”

 

 

 

What does Service mean in Hospitality?

What does Service mean in Hospitality?

So I have been noodling around YouTube, Google and other materials to find out more about service.  There are a host of resources out there, both factual, and opinionated.  So I went to the source for an example of exemplary service.  There is perhaps one name, that has stood the test of time for consistently delivering on their promise of quality guest service.  And that is Ritz Carlton.  Yet, do their promotional videos get at the heart of what service really means?  For instance, here is their latest video upload to YouTube:

Of course any promotional material will be from the point of view of the customer, but here are host of promises from business to consumer.  As I have stated in class, there are three drivers influencing our industry, money or financial, information, and promises.  Service is a promise.  Service is a human element; a coordinated effort between all team members to deliver on a promise.

Okay, but what about the definition:

According to Brymer and Johanson (2014, glossary), Service is:

A type of product that is intangible, goods that are inseparable from the provider, variable in quality, and perishability.  The reason why private clubs exist; members receive high-end, personalized service at their club.

The authors go on further to define Service Experience:

Sum total of the experience that the customer has with the service provider on a given occasion.

So, we can draw several inferences from these two concepts.  One, that service is an intangible element, varies in delivery, and is perishable.  That would mean that is has links to the human element of our industry, that it may or may not be consistent, and that it may or may not last.  Yet, perishability, in terms of service, needs a little more thought.  How do we draw turnover into this concept?  If service is perishable, part of the human element, could that not mean that we have a tenacious grasp on retaining valuable employees, that understand service, and its effect to the bottom line (profitability), and loyalty?  That employees, if not seen as a valuable asset to our company, could easily jump ship and migrate to another company that values their efforts.  Therefore, how we plan, how we coordinate, how we train, the matrix of our corporate culture, envisioned in our mission and vision statements, should relate back to that core concept of service.

So let us revisit The Ritz’s Credo:

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.

We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.

The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.

That is a solid promise to guests, that must be communicated down through the layers of an organization.  Every day this must be reinforced, and understood.  It’s not just about the job, it’s an ideal, an attitude, that must percolate consistently through every employee’s mind.  This also extends the argument to empowering the employees with clearly defined promises.

Yet, what is that empowerment to the Ritz employee?  We must visit their motto.

At The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C., “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” This motto exemplifies the anticipatory service provided by all staff members.

Here the culture is proactive, already a thought in their mind, even before a guest decides to stay with them.  They understand the moment of truth, that at any contact point, they can and will make a difference.  The Ritz further articulates this into the Three Steps of Service:

  1. A warm and sincere greeting. Use the guest’s name.
  2. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.
  3. Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest’s name.

Again, these steps illustrate the need to understand your guest, before, during and after their stay.  We need to understand their decision-making process, their needs, their wants, even if they don’t understand quite what they want themselves.  It is about relationship building, CRM (Customer Relationship Management); about asking the right questions in order to understand, to progress from a limited awareness to a greater awareness.  To be cognizant of our world around us.  If someone family suddenly pops into your establishment without a reservation, and Mom is holding a three-year old, and Dad is trying to coral and maintain order with the other two youngsters, you know to ask a few questions to make their stay more comfortable.  Look at the people, look at what is going on, note the time, note the weather, even if you are sold out.  Service is about going that extra mile for your guest.

These steps can be further broken down into objectives or values:

Service Values: I Am Proud To Be Ritz-Carlton

  1. I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.
  2. I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
  3. I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.
  4. I understand my role in achieving the Key Success Factors, embracing Community Footprints and creating The Ritz-Carlton Mystique.
  5. I continuously seek opportunities to innovate and improve The Ritz-Carlton experience.
  6. I own and immediately resolve guest problems.
  7. I create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met.
  8. I have the opportunity to continuously learn and grow.
  9. I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me.
  10. I am proud of my professional appearance, language and behavior.
  11. I protect the privacy and security of our guests, my fellow employees and the company’s confidential information and assets.
  12. I am responsible for uncompromising levels of cleanliness and creating a safe and accident-free environment.

What these are,are goals and objectives, in developing a corporate culture.  Something that is deeply rooted in the psyche of every employee.  Not only for the guest, but also, in how all employees are treated.  And thus a promise is made between the company and their employees:

At The Ritz-Carlton, our Ladies and Gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests.

By applying the principles of trust, honesty, respect, integrity and commitment, we nurture and maximize talent to the benefit of each individual and the company.

The Ritz-Carlton fosters a work environment where diversity is valued, quality of life is enhanced, individual aspirations are fulfilled, and The Ritz-Carlton Mystique is strengthened.

So, what have we learned.  Service is about promises, about experience for both the employee and the guest.  And that leads to the final definition offered by Brymer and Johanson (2014, Glossary):

Service product: Entire bundle of tangibles and intangibles in a transaction that has a significant service component.

 

 

The Tourism Business Environment, part 2

The Tourism Business Environment, part 2

The Functions of Managment

Functions of Management
Functions of Management

So as we tumble into the first areas of hospitality, understanding careers and the different opportunities, I want to expand on the business environment (part 1).

In hospitality sector, if we are talking about any business entity there are several different departments that comprise operations.  In a hotel for instance, we have Rooms, F&B, Sales & Marketing, Facilities, Administration, and Security.  At golf resorts, sometimes the Golf area is under a leisure heading or stands on its own.  Each of these departments work interdependent on another.  Yet, each execute three core functions:  planning, organize, and control.

These core functions can be broken down into efficient and effective processes that equate to staffing, evaluation, directions or delegation, coordination, reporting and budgetary.  These process my demonstrate the fiscal responsibility of the department to the stakeholders.  Managers must maintain and build positive employee relations, engage in social responsibility, and finally the goal of each team member is to develop and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with quality service execution.

How do they compose the goals and objectives to achieve these ends?  These strategies are developed from a conceptual standpoint, based on qualitative and quantitative data mining from the exchange of information, money and promises fulfilled during service execution.  These strategies are influenced by trends and issues, external forces exerting influence with the dynamic nature of the industry.  Technology in all its forms helps to ‘crunch’ the numbers, analyze the information, and communicate that information to all interested parties.  Leadership cannot rise to the challenge without this information, without synthesizing with all exchanges formed and developed in the guest contact cycle.

This stems back to that moment of truth, which is basically the fulfillment of strategic goals and objectives for a parties.  Management has overcome any objections, or adversity of problems to recapture and retain quality.  They utilize the diversity of this industry to its positive end.  Mistakes are lessen with time, experience, utilizing perceptions of that aforementioned analysis, to address the future.

Promises are kept and made today, and in the future.  Our product lines are validated and value created.  We have delivered on what we say, and the expectations of the consumer.  We have fulfilled our contracts, both physical, psychological and social.  We have executed a successful transaction, and created loyalty.