Monthly Archives: August 2011

How may I help you?

So you are thinking of buying that new luxury car you have always wanted. You stroll into the dealership looking to buy not only a car but into the high end brand family. You see lots of well-dressed staff in kahki pants and black golf shirts, as you wander toward the sales floor. Suddenly, what appears to be the dealership owner’s son, pops in front of you and says “Are you looking for a new ride dude”? “My name is Matt and I will be your sales representative. I just started 4 weeks ago, but man do I love these cars…they rock!”

You look up to reaffirm you are not in the local skate shop. Matt has already been distracted by an incoming text on his smart phone, you walk out for air.

This may be extreme, and by no means is it a slam to all of the students who work in the auto or tourism industries, but my point is why do we leave one of the most important jobs in tourism to absolute rookies?

DMO’s spend a ton of money and time to attract visitors to their region using all sorts of online tactics. Once here, some of them, will pop into the local information centre to get loaded up on recommendations, maps, and guides of all the things to see and do. This is a significant sales interaction where the client is standing right in front of you. The opportunity for a stay to be extended, a tour booked, a hotel upgrade found etc. It may not be worth as much as one luxury car, but given the volumes in the tourism industry, it adds up to a heck of a lot more over the course of a season.

So why is it this sales role is generally seen as a minimum wage summer job? Its because the local chamber of commerce, cvb, or tourist association runs on a shoe string budget and can only afford students. If there was some incentive to ‘make sales’ like in the car dealership, the tables may turn.

One of the solutions is to start running information centres like a hotel concierge service and allow the staff to get paid for making people happy. Referral fees or contra, or kickbacks as they are called in the industry are not a bad thing. Bell or concierge staff usually receive a 5-10% commission on anything they sell. One industry insider says that this is why you see a lot of people making a career out of it. Simply put, they make a ton of money.

This approach accomplishes several goals:

1. Attracts a more career oriented staff

2. Raises the earnings of staff substantially

3. Creates an incentive to raise the customer service experience

4. Allows the operators to become competitive and get involved in their local info centre or hotel.

We need to stop treating front line tourism workers as second class. These are the industry’s best sales people who have the ability to interact and engage with the customer standing right in front of them. Not through Twitter, Facebook or the postal service but right in front of them. So look at your organization and see if you can make some changes and run it more like a high-end car dealership or hotel.

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Filed under Best Practices, Tourism Management

Hard Times and Tourism Marketing

We have been hearing a lot in the news lately about how governments are struggling to balance their budgets. During these hard times, public officials are sifting through their budgets with a fine tooth comb, trying to trim any unnecessary expenses (called “gravy” in Toronto) in order to keep their city or country in good fiscal health.

This is an extremely difficult task, and anyone who finds themselves in this position will undoubtedly face scrutiny as they cut public services that will certainly impact someone negatively along the way. Public officials must make very difficult decisions as to which parts of the budget stay, and which parts must go.

One area that is often looked upon as a place to get rid of some gravy is tourism marketing. To the outsider, spending money on tourism marketing is unnecessary, speculative, and difficult to measure its impact on a community, region, or country.

But hold on a second… maybe spending money on tourism marketing pays for itself….

Recently, the U.S. Travel Association published a report that examined the public costs and benefits associated with destination marketing campaigns. They found that these campaigns actually generate more tax revenue than they cost by increasing visitation numbers and spending.

An example of this was seen in the Pure Michigan marketing campaign that came to Canada two years ago. This campaign stimulated a dramatic increase in tourism spending and also generated $138 million in new tax revenue for the State of Michigan. Not bad, considering they spent less than one third of that on the marketing campaign.

Evidence like this not only points out the effectiveness of destination marketing campaigns, but also suggests slashing tourism marketing budgets during hard times can actually make the economic situation worse. If we cut tourism budgets, it is likely that less people will visit, people will spend less money, and tourism operators and local businesses are left struggling.

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Filed under Destination Marketing, Tourism Marketing

Lazy Squirrels and Low Hanging Fruit

Every now and then, I look out the window here at BC Hughes and see a chubby squirrel indulging in what appears to be an all you can eat bird seed buffet. OK, in all honesty, pretty much every time I look out the window, he is there… filling his face with as much bird seed as possible. In fact, now that I think about it, I have never seen an actual bird using this particular bird feeder.

Based on the size of the squirrel, it became quite apparent to me that it was the same one coming back to the bird feeder time and time again…to feast in the incredibly easy harvest of bird seed. With the bird feeder fully stocked, gone are the days of running around the neighbourhood, jumping from tree to tree, looking for nuts, plants and insects to eat throughout the day… just to fill his belly.

And this got me thinking… here in the world of tourism and economic development, that the squirrel’s eating habits are very similar to the tourism development practices of so many DMO’s today. There is a trendy saying for this, and it’s called: “picking the low hanging fruit.”

Every community has low hanging fruit. These are targets or goals that are obtained very easily and require little effort to achieve them. But do you go beyond picking the low hanging fruit, and work towards developing great tourism products in your community that require that extra bit of attention and effort?

We can never forget about the basic tourism products in any community. But within every community there are other great tourism products that simply need to be uncovered and given a bit more attention to reach there full potential.

What are these products in your community, and what can your organization do to help them fully develop?

So go ahead… snack from the bird feeder every once in a while (low hanging fruit are important too!)… But never forget the importance of going out and uncovering some great new products in your community that could have huge potential!

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Filed under Tourism Development