The December 2001 issue of Tourism Tidbits was dedicated to the idea of “re-enchanting tourism.” Some seven years have now passed since that edition, and travel and tourism officials are still struggling with this issue. While the impact of September 11, 2001 has begun to fade in travelers; memories the need to re-enchant tourism may be greater than ever. During the last few months tourism has seen another “industrial earthquake” in the form of economic undulations within the world’s economies. The dollar and world stock markets’ instability have created both crises and opportunities for tourism and travel officials. The passenger revolt against airline fuel surcharge ought to remind everyone in the tourism industry of just how fragile the industry is and how vulnerable it is to the ups and downs of the market place.
One way that tourism can succeed in the hard times is to make the travel experience more than merely getting from A to B or more than spending the night at a hotel that might be in “anyplace.” While it is always importance to add a bit of romance and enchantment to our clients’ travel experience, during difficult economic times, it becomes essential to create an enchanting and memorable experience from the time that the traveler leaves his/her home until his or her return. Travel and tourism leaders must not be so focused on efficiency and quantitative analysis that they forget that each traveler represents a world unto him/herself. No matter how inexpensive the locale may be the basic rule that “quality must always override quantity” holds true.
This month’s edition of Tourism Tidbits emphasizes the importance of adding a sense of romance and enchantment to your tourism and travel business. Consider then the following ideas and possibilities.
Create enchantment through product development. Successful tourism industries will rely less on marketing and more on offering value. Too often in the past, travel and tourism has not met expectations. The way to win customers is to exceed their expectations. Rather than overstating your case, make it known that your staff and you care. The best form of marketing is a good product and good service. Provide what your promise at prices that are reasonable. The public understands that seasonal locations have to earn their year’s wages in a few months. Higher prices may be acceptable but gauging never is never in fashion. Enchantment oriented communities realize that everyone in the community has a part to play in creating a positive tourism experience and one that creates a unique and special environment.
Enchantment does not have to be grounded. Often the further away from reality we are the greater the enchantment. Cities with extraterrestrial visits, or colorful characters from the past can create special moments for people. Often tourism can be built around the enchantment of a particular successful film or book.
Enchant your staff. No matter how good your policies are, the public judges you by the actions of your staff. Travel and tourism ought to be fun. If they are not, then working in these areas loses its enchantment. If your employees hate tourists then the message they are giving is one that destroys a sense of being special. Often managers are more interested in their own ego trips then in the vacationer’s experience. An employee who is unique, funny, or makes people go away feeling special is worth thousands of dollars in advertising. Every tourism manager and hotel GM ought to do every job in his or her industry at least once a year. Often tourism managers push so hard for the bottom line that they forget the humanity of their employees. Be with the visitors and see the world through their eyes. Find ways to make your staff want to come to work everyday, and never cease emphasizing that tourism and travel personnel exist to serve the public. Without the public’s approval tourism and travel jobs simply fade away.
Seek the enchantment within your community. Few cities and communities can cater to every need. Rather than stating that you have something for everyone, seek experiences and places that represent something that is special. Ask yourself: What makes your community or attraction different and unique from your competitors? How does your community celebrate its individuality? Who in your community is special or unique? If you were a visitor to your community would you remember it a few days after you had left or would it be just one more place on the map? Tourism does not stop when the sun sets. Use your evenings to create new forms of enchantment. If your community lacks night life, create special moon-lit walks, star gazing experiences or moments of solitude.
Improve those areas of your tourism experience that destroy enchantment. If you are an attraction with lines that are too long, find ways to entertain people while they stand in line. If service is not to your liking then provide extra training for personnel, if airports and traffic are negative experiences then seek ways to provide feasts for the eyes that will overcome the hassles of travel. Perhaps nothing destroys the enchantment of tourism as much as poor signage Make sure that your signage is clear and precise, use international symbols and provide translations when necessary.
Create enchantment through beautification and environmental project. Work with specialists in such areas as lighting, landscaping, color coordination, exterior and interior decorations, street appearances and city themes, parking lots and internal transportation service. Even utilitarian devices, such as subway cars or airports can become vehicles of enchantment. Santiago Chile’s subway is filled with classical music, and Monterrey, Mexico’s airport is a museum in motion.
Create a safe and secure atmosphere. There can be little enchantment if people are afraid. To create such an atmosphere local security professionals must be part of the planning from the beginning. Tourism security is more than merely having police or security professionals hanging around a site. Tourism security requires psychological and sociological analysis. Remember that no matter how good your security hardware may be, it is only as good as the people who use it. only for the visitor but also for those who live in the community.
Never forget that we dare not take our customers for granted. The visitor does not have to go on vacation travel to our destination or use our facility, hotel or transportation mode. Enchant your customers and you will enhance your greatest asset, namely your reputation.
[Dr. Peter E. Tarlow is a world-renowned travel safety and security expert. He may be reached via the website www.tourismandmore.com/contact or e-mail at [email protected]]