Hotel Online  Special Report
People Really Do Make 
the Difference

Harry Nobles & Cheryl Thompson,  January 2002

We were invited to participate in the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) annual conference in November; our topic being “People Make the Difference”.  Our trip to Halifax resulted in two incidents that reinforced this point far better than any example we could have created.
We arrived at Dulles Airport at 5:15AM  for a scheduled 8:00AM departure because current policy requires arrival three (3) hours prior to international flights. 

The most noticeable thing was the closed and dark check-in counter; no employees 

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were present and there were no signs indicating hours of operation.  One other passenger was already in line.

Nothing happened for nearly one hour except the arrival of several more passengers who joined us in line.  At approximately 6:15AM airline employees began to appear at or near the counter. They entered and exited the door behind the counter; they walked past the line of waiting passengers; one actually turned on the lights.  No employee acknowledged the passengers; no one offered any  information on when the counter might open. All appeared totally oblivious to us.  I could tell from facial expressions and overheard comments that the other passengers shared our feeling of frustration and anger.

I do not know much about running an airline, but it seems logical that employees should be required to arrive at the same time as passengers.  A small sign announcing when the counter would open would also have been a big help. A greeting or a word from one of the employees would also have been nice.

Shortly before 6:30AM, a young man arrived at the counter, opened his station, and began assisting passengers.  When we approached the counter, he was very efficient, greeted us cordially and handled the transaction very professionally.  He smiled, addressed us by name, and offered a very simple  apology for our long wait.  That was enough.  He did not make excuses.  He did not apologize to excess, which I would have considered meaningless at the time.  He just did his job very well. 

His professional attitude and conduct did a lot to ameliorate the previous experience and dispel most of our anger.  His actions did indeed make a difference.

When we arrived in Halifax and found we had some free time in the afternoon, we visited the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.  During my years at AAA, I visited hundreds of museums, large and small.  My major criticism of museums concerns the staff.  I have met many very professional and knowledgeable attendants; I have also met many who appeared to have very little knowledge of and even less interest in the exhibits.  To be candid, I was not particularly  anxious to see one more museum, but my business partner insisted. 

Rick, at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic made our visit there very enjoyable and informative.  He was knowledgeable, cordial, professional, and very enthusiastic.  He not only was able to answer our questions; he offered additional information and  appeared to really enjoy his work.  Rick certainly made a very positive difference in our  impression of  the museum and Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

These experiences reinforce our position that people make the difference. Ensuring that  your staff appreciates this simple fact will guarantee that your guests see the difference.

Harry Nobles & Cheryl Thompson


Harry Nobles Hospitality Consulting
POC:  Harry Nobles
Phone:  757-564-3761
Fax:        757-564-0076


  • Former head of AAA Lodging/Dining Ratings Program. 
  • An independent consultant serving the hospitality industry. 
  • A Special Training Consultant to the Educational Institute, American Hotel/Motel Association
Also See: What Is a Boutique Hotel? / Dec 2001
The Non-negotiable Traits of Leaders / Oct 2001 
How Important is Service? / Sept 2001
Front Desk Service Mistakes / Aug 2001
Food & Beverage Mistakes & How to Correct Them / July 2001
Bell Staff Mistakes & How to Correct Them / July 2001 
Attitude vs Aptitude / June 2001
Female Business Travelers' Expectations / June 2001
Is Outsourcing Your Training a Viable Alternative? / June 2001
Unique Identity + Consistent Service = Success / May 2001
AAA Standards vs  Guests' Expectations / May 2001
Are Your Guests Better Informed Than Your Staff? / April 2001
Are U.S. Hotels Rated Differently From Other North American Hotels? / April 2001
The Design Theme - AAA / Mobil Ratings Connection / March 2001
Attitude Can Make the Difference / January 2001
How Should Casino-Hotels be Rated? / Dec 2000
Does AAA Rate Resorts Fairly? / Nov 2000
Is Your Property Suffering From Design Deficiency? / Nov 2000 
The Future of AAA Ratings / September 2000
What Is Your Optimum AAA Rating / August 2000
If You Disagree With Your AAA Rating…../ June 2000
Are AAA Ratings Always Accurate and Objective / May 2000
Creating Atmosphere / Jan 2000
What is "Atmosphere"? / December 1999
Maintaining Your AAA Rating / Nov 1999
Earning a AAA Rating vs Maintaining a AAA Rating: Which Is More Difficult?  / Oct 1999
Can Outstanding Service Offset Hotel Physical Deficiencies in the Rating Systems? / Harry Nobles / June 1999 
Consistency: The Hallmark of a Fine Hotel / September 1999
Who Should Train Your Employees  / Aug 2000 
Mobil Travel Guide Announces 1998 Mobil Four-and Five-Star Award Winners / Jan 1998 
Key to Success: Training + Follow-Up / June 2000
The Legend of the Pineapple / Harry Nobles / Feb 1999 
To Harry Nobles Hospitality Consulting Index Page

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