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.