Tourism Tidbits: Tourism and Human Resources
By Peter Tarlow, President of Tourism and More
Many travelers, and most vacationers, see a tourism experience as a luxury or way to pamper oneself. Often people will work an entire year for the sake of a few weeks of "vacation magic." Without good employees, no matter how luxurious the circumstances are, the dream vacation has the potential to turn into a nightmare. Tourism success, to a great extent then, depends on the quality of your business' or tourism office's human resources. Tourism managers must find ways to inspire employees provide their guests with the best experience possible. Ironically, tourism experiences are rarely a question of money spent but of caring and a sense of being hospitable.
- Tourism managers or directors must be the "heart" of your human resource team. Ask yourself how passionate you are about what you do. If you are burnt out or are in the travel and visitor business only for the money, you will never have the necessary passion to turn an occupation into a vocation. Assess yourself: what are your own weakness and failings. Are your weaknesses knowledge-based or are they personality-based? If your weakness is knowledge-based, can you hire those employees who complement your skills or make up for a deficiency? If the weakness is personality based, for example you are introverted and must work with people whom you dislike, ask yourself how you have ended up in that position and if you are in a job that is right for you.
- Think of your staff development as a flow-throw model. In a small tourism business, such as a family restaurant or CVB, there is a direct link between the provider and the customer. You are the provider of tourism services (or information) and the visitor is your customer. The entire relationship is based on a direct approach. In larger tourism businesses, the manager (director) is often several people removed from the client. In a larger tourism entity, the director/managers must communicate with department heads who in turn communicate with front-line staff people who now communicate with the guest. This estrangement/separation from the tourist means that often the people who get paid the least and care the least are those who deal with the most important part of our chain, our guests. Often directors note that as they rise in an organization, they know less about what is really happening with their visitors. Avoid this problem by spending some time each month with your visitors. Never forget visitors are the reason we have our jobs.
- Determine how many employees you really need. Employees bring both opportunities and challenges to a job. Few employees will share your passion or your style. Employees will take up part of the slack or allow a tourism business to expand, but be prepared for extra bookkeeping, and personality and relationship problems. Before hiring someone ask questions such as:
- How many employees can you manage?
- Do you really want to grow the business and by how much?
- Who is encouraging you to take on extra employees?
- Will these employees add to the organization's efficiency and good service?
- Know that managing employees takes many of the same skills as a successful tourism business. Just as the tourist professional cannot succeed without good people skills, a lot of flexibility, and follow-though, so the tourism business needs those same qualities. To make sure that you get the most from your employees, think through if they are people who have good people skills and enjoy a highly changeable work environment. Then develop a team by defining roles clearly and precisely, define opportunities in the job and what are its limitations, do not promise what you cannot deliver, and let employees know that they will receive regular appraisals.
- Do not forget that the staff represents you. Very few people will ever meet the owner(s) of a hotel, major restaurant, or large tourism attraction. Visitors then will judge you by the way your employees act. Good customer service begins the moment an employee sees/hears a customer. Good employees know how to judge a customer's needs and enjoy fulfilling those needs. Never forget that good customer service will not only be remembered but forms the basis of word of mouth advertising.
Training is an essential human resource investment. Successful tourism business train, train, and train some more. Good training is the key to success. Good training not only allows the tourism manager to update his/her employees' strengths and weaknesses but acts as a professional refresher and rejuvenator. The more professionalized your staff is the better the service and in the long run the higher the profits.
Professionalized staffs are an inexpensive form of marketing, If tourism is the selling of positive memories then a highly trained and motivated staff can be a major asset in delivering the "product" to the customer. We might say that good employees are the way that we unite the selling of a product with the products image or advertising.
Dr. Peter E. Tarlow is the President of T&M, a founder of the Texas chapter of TTRA and a popular author and speaker on tourism. Tarlow is a specialist in the areas of sociology of tourism, economic development, tourism safety and security. Tarlow speaks at governors' and state conferences on tourism and conducts seminars throughout the world and for numerous agencies and universities.More from Peter Tarlow