By Dr. Peter Tarlow
Throughout the northern hemisphere, October begins to set the stage for the winter months. Its tourism leaders think about travel during the winter months and although they know that weather conditions might be harsh, there are many new opportunities for winter sports and holiday festivals. In the southern hemisphere October is a time to plan for summer and school vacations. Soon people will have more time for leisure and visitors from harsh northern climates consider warmer locations as a way to escape from the damp cold days of winter. Throughout much of the planet, autumn’s leaves turn the world into a sea of yellows, oranges, and vibrant reds. No matter in which hemisphere your tourism industry is located October is also a good month for all of us to remind ourselves that the essence of tourism and travel is the passion of creating “memories-in-the-making.” In most years this is true, but in this year of worldwide shutdown due to Covid-19, this statement is especially true. Most of 2020 has been a year of shutdowns and economic challenges. In the world of travel and tourism the year 2020 has produced few good memories, instead it has been a year that many would simply prefer to forget.
All too often, travel and tourism professionals have become so businesslike that they forget that the basis of a great marketing program is “a passion-for-excellence.” Tourism marketing is dependent on four intangibles: (1) good luck, (2) hard work, (3) a sense of integrity, and finally (4) a passion for giving people wonderful experiences and lasting memories. There is little that we can do about our luck, but the other three intangibles are within our control. In this year when so many seek some good memories to compensate for the year’s challenges, the tourism industry can provide a much needed and essential service. Tourism professionals, more than ever, need to think about their industry not merely as travel but also as a one additional tool in creating good mental health.
Tourism and travel professionals must never forget that despite whatever personal problems each individual might have it is still important that s/he comes to work with a smile on his (her) face and the desire to serve his fellow human beings. To help you re-ignite your passion for tourism here are several ideas to inspire those working on the front lines, those working behind the scenes and of course your community members.
-Think about the values inherit in the tourism industry. Ask yourself, why did you enter the field? Ask each person on your staff to develop a personal list of which benefits tourism brings to your community and then discuss the list at a staff meeting. Use the list as a way to determine which values each of your staff members share and then build in these values. Seek ways to understand why different people have different values. If the only reason that the person comes to work is for a paycheck, tourism and travel are not the correct profession for that person. At staff meetings it is a good idea to start a conversation with a question such as: “What is the basis for tourism?” Do we like our jobs? Dowe enjoy people? and What are the results that we are all seeking?
-Do not just be enthusiastic, live your enthusiasm. It is unfair to ask salespeople or other employees, such as security or maintenance, to be upbeat about your product if managers are not examples of tourism-enthusiasm. All too often tourism and travel professionals become complacent, enter into negative cycles, or take their jobs for granted. When negative thinking enters the realm of tourism, the customer’s dreams often are not realized, and the passion for tourism dies. No one wants to go to a place to “purchase a nightmare.” Think of which dreams you want to bring to the forefront. For example, are you selling the dream of great service, beautiful moments, or wonderful food? Then ask yourself how you can make your attraction, hotel, or community a place in which to realize those dreams.
-Share, laugh, and then share and laugh some more! Take the time to share examples of successes and information with colleagues, staff members and the community. Learn to laugh with your colleagues. Laughter builds esprit de corps and that in turn helps tourism professionals to create memories. In the information age, the more we share, the more we earn. On a subconscious level, we might argue that tourism marketing is nothing more than our helping others to share and live our passion for the experience that we are selling.
-Develop strategies that will demonstrate results. All too often we create grand schemes that may be so complicated that our staff members or fellow citizens fail to understand where we want to go. Inspire others by offering no more than four or five realizable ideas. Pick at least two projects that are easy to accomplish especially if you have staff members working from home. Pick project that do not require a great deal of technical and administrative support. Nothing inspires a marketing operation like a success.
-Do not get bogged down in too much democracy or too much bureaucracy. All too often tourism entities are so committed to everyone participating in all decisions that nothing gets done. Leadership has a responsibility to listen and learn, but also to decide and to make the final decision. Often leadership’s responsibility is to help an organization from getting so bogged down in details that nothing happens. It is often a good idea for tourism entity leaders to make a list of exactly what their responsibilities are and how they intend to implement these responsibilities.
-Don’t be afraid to ask. Isolation of a travel professional is destructive to the professional’s enthusiasm, organization, and career, and this has been a year of too much isolation! Ask co-workers for reports, ask for advice, and ask questions. By taking the time to ask question, not just in your office but where the tourism action is, the travel and tourism professional enters into the real world of travel. Travel professionals need to experience the challenges of Covid-19 era travel on a firsthand basis so that they can develop solutions. The travel professional can never improve the clients’ experience if he/she does not experience it. By going into the real world of travel, enjoying it and chatting with our clientele we can renew our passion for tourism and once again remind ourselves that the dreams of tourism are based on the passions of the tourism professional.