By Tim Wren
So many amazing places to visit, so little time.
The travel and tourism industry are keenly aware that there are many enticing and fascinating destinations vying for your attention, and that reputation means everything when hotels and attractions strive to lure visitors — and welcome them back again.
In some vacation spots, the local economy also depends heavily on the arrival of tourists who enjoy their stay, choose to return, and share with their friends on social media about a winning experience. The travel and tourism industry is a competitive and loyalty-driven business, tailor-made to benefit from international standards that support strong reputation management.
User Reviews Are the New Guidebook
With social media and crowdsourcing eclipsing guidebooks and travel agents, most leisure travel and tourism decisions are now driven by word of mouth and instantaneous user-generated reviews and photo shares. Studies have found that a whopping 70 percent of consumers value recommendations from their peers over polished campaigns from brands themselves. According to an Adweek survey, almost half of vacationers are more likely to hear about a new travel company or destination on Twitter than anywhere else.
The same persuasive force of social media means that a trend toward negative online reviews for a location or brand can quickly steal potential visitors who opt for a competitor’s hotel or a different destination all together.
So, hospitality operators must get it right — the first time.
For all these reasons, it’s critically important for travel and tourism brands to build in organizational resilience to protect their reputation. Organizational resilience is the ability to respond and adapt to change. It enables organizations to anticipate and respond to threats and opportunities arising from sudden or gradual changes, both internal and external. Enhancing resilience should be a strategic organizational goal.
Factors such as customer service, food, weather and accommodations influence a guest’s perception of a winning vacation experience. Most, but not all these factors are within an organization’s control, which is why it’s critically important to anticipate and plan for the unexpected. For example, ensuring food quality and safety is easily manageable with a catering food safety certification. While controlling the weather isn’t possible, resort operators in weather-vulnerable areas, can still plan and manage catastrophic events with standards like ISO 22301, which helps businesses respond to a natural disaster or a disruption in the supply chain to protect against, reduce the likelihood of, and ensure a business recovers from such incidents.
Another ISO standard that can prove pivotal for the hospitality industry is ISO 9001, the world’s most recognized quality management standard, which can help businesses continually monitor and manage quality across all operations and outlines ways to achieve, as well as benchmark, consistent performance and service. This integrated approach to quality and risk management for hospitality and tourism players is often used to better coordinate cross-functional management mechanisms, improve performance measurement, ensure continual improvement, and reduce misaligned management objectives.
Without standards in place, hospitality brands put at risk not only their reputation, but also their bottom line, and the health of the overall economy.
Think Global, Impact Local
We shouldn’t forget the impressive power of travel and tourism to influence and often strengthen local economies. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the travel and tourism sector contributed $8.8 trillion and 319 million jobs to the world economy in 2018. The council reports it’s the second-fastest-growing sector in the world, with an expansion rate of 3.9 percent last year, ahead of health care (3.1 percent) and information technology (1.7 percent).
Economic dependence is yet another reason that reputational management must be a goal for the hospitality industry. Let’s look at the Caribbean region, the dream destination of many vacation planners. In those idyllic islands, tourism contributes 14 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), according to a 2018 USA Today article, underscoring the need to implement standards protocols there that burnish establishments’ reputations while protecting jobs and the economy.
Additionally, look no further than the Dominican Republic, a country in crisis, which has seen a 74 percent decline in tourism in the past year following the death of 10 Americans. As a result of these mysterious deaths, which remain under investigation in most instances, even airlines have begun waiving any change fees to passengers originally traveling to the Dominican Republic who want to rebook their travel to another location in light of recent events. It’s certain the country will continue to feel the local economic impact of their global tourism downturn for years to come.
With the weight of good reputation and organizational resilience so apparent to this industry, using ISO standards to absorb and adapt in a changing environment can give certified businesses the best chance to survive and prosper. More-resilient organizations can anticipate and respond to the many risks and opportunities that abound in the world of travel and tourism today.