Loveridge: Our tourism workers must deliver world-class service standards

“I have questioned many times in the past, that it is totally unreasonable to expect our tourism workers to deliver a level of service that they have never been exposed to.”

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

I have just returned from spending ten days in the United States, eight of which were spent in the state of New Hampshire at a two property resort hotel in the White Mountains.

The standard of accommodation was very high. What stood out was the number of nationalities involved in service delivery. In fact management and staff were from thirteen different countries excluding the host. Fourteen of those employees came from the state of Moldova, and I would not blame you for a second if you are scratching your head and thinking ‘where on earth is that?’

Before you leap to GOOGLE, Moldova is a small land-locked state in Eastern Europe, formerly part of and now bordering Romania with the Ukraine. For part of its history, it was a Soviet satellite. Shortly it will be celebrating two decades of independence. Nearly a quarter of their entire population (4.5 million) earn a living abroad and one third of the country’s GDP consists of remittances.

Moldova is often described as the poorest country in Europe, but offers tremendous tourism potential in years to come, with over 140 cultural heritage sites, outstanding natural attractions, an important health and beauty niche, together with a thriving wine industry, which ranks it as the twenty-second largest producer in the world.

And this is why it is so critical that emerging nation’s have inspired and visionary leaders that fully comprehend the realities of modern day tourism: leaders who speedily draft and implement a medium to long term Master Plans that all the players can follow and use as a benchmark for achieving excellence.

Long before substantive overseas investors or locals build world-class hotels, the Government of Moldova is ensuring that the workforce receives all the necessary training to ensure their nationals meet the service standards expected in a global marketplace.

Yes! I know some will say that Barbados has a programme that allows some of its citizens to gain work experience in North American hotels, but are we really doing enough? Varying service levels are often the subject of negative comment on travel reference websites like TripAdvisor. I have questioned many times in the past, that it is totally unreasonable to expect our tourism workers to deliver a level of service that they have never been exposed to.

Within hours of returning to Barbados, both hotels where we stayed had contacted me personally, inviting comments to gauge the quality and satisfaction of our lodging experience. It is difficult not to be impressed and would surely influence most people returning to the same locations or another hotel in the same chain.

This is the level of customer service we are competing with, worldwide.

Not surprisingly, this is standard practice for most of the more successful individual or chain properties, because for the simple reason that if you keep the guests happy, they will come back. Frequent user programmes are also increasingly used to maintain that loyalty and are getting more creative year after year. As in our case, tea or coffee delivered to your room, a late check-out, room upgrade and even free nights, once you have met the minimum requirements.

Downward trend at home?

Sadly, while the authorities have not yet informed all of the private sector tourism partners, I understand we are about to lose further airlift. This, after Philadelphia, then Atlanta and now Dallas/Fort Worth. Questions must be asked and reasons given for Barbados not being able to sustain a single tiny Boeing 737 per week out of one of the world’s busiest airports.

7 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism

7 responses to “Loveridge: Our tourism workers must deliver world-class service standards

  1. From Alaska to Zimbabwe

    Don’t you think the onus should be on the hoteliers themselves to properly train their staff and to ensure that with the stick, in the event of unacceptable customer treatment, the honey is also there as an incentive to staff who purport themselves appropriately. As it stands there is no pride within the service industry in B’dos, as it’s often seen as a stop-gap rather than a career, which primarily differentiates the level of staff you encounter in B’dos and other destinations worldwide. Without exception, I have been disappointed with the level of service I have encountered in B’dos hotels, and I encourage my fellow bajans to experience this for themselves, to have a balanced view of the product we are offering in an increasingly competitive global market. I would suggest to you, Mr. Loveridge, giving your staff the opportunity to become ‘guests’ might provide them with the insight to ‘deliver a level of service that they may never have been exposed to’.

  2. Scrupie

    I sit here wondering why if the government fiscal strategies working, what would force a hotelier of such vast knowledge and skills to close in the advent of better coming seasons.

  3. Adrian Loveridge

    Scrupie,

    A very good question which deserves an answer.

    For the last 25 years, my wife and I, ably assisted by a wonderful small staff have taken, what for several years was a derelict empty collection of 18 buildings, most without waterproof roofs, and turned it in to a multi-award winning hotel with an occupancy level to be proud of. We are both at around retirement age and honestly feel that we have done our bit and cannot continue to work 17 hour days with the next day-off six months away.

    We also honestly feel that P&Q needs to be taken to a higher level, as without marketing support of the national promotional agency, need to generate higher levels of revenue to upgrade and re-position the property into a boutique hotel.

    I have really tried hard to share my skills acquired over 46 years in the tourism industry, across 67 countries, but frankly many of the policymakers believe they know it all and it gets to stage where you cease to have the energy to fight anymore. We are still working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week maintaining the property and are actively looking for new owners.

    I hope this answers your question.

  4. Junior

    I am yet to hear a real tourism discussion as all I get is people with large egos and personal agendas avoiding the important questions. example: Is tourism a real benefit to Barbados or is it a drain on government finances? If the answer to the question is that is a drain what do we have to do to reverse that. If it is a real benefit give me real facts a figures that comply to established measurements of tourism success.

  5. satirist

    #Junior
    You are a real Barbadian. Your knowledge are awesome. It puts everything else into the shade. The incarnation of simple thinking.
    I can not believe what it says.
    I wonder how many Barbadians ask the same question:
    “Is tourism a real benefit to Barbados or is it a drain on government finances?”
    Just one question:
    Are you lost in thoughts about what you could have, would have, should have done differently maybe at school or in life?
    I will “give ..you.. real facts”!
    Here are directions to help you find your way out.
    Answer the question to you:
    How is it that I can buy a bottle of rum?
    It allows you to ask your friends or your relatives or anyone in your rum shop.
    What a nation, I am desperate but alive!
    Oh my God!

  6. eleemosynary

    We are hotel owners and should make the Barbados government responsible for the training of our employees. It makes sense because if Barbados wants tourism it is going to have to “cough” up some type of money to help us. We know that Barbados cannot do without tourism and if we pressure the Prime Minister enough he/she will have to give in.
    Normally businesses do their own training but why should we bother about training our employees; that would not be a good business decision. Why not look to Moldova. Just go to the states and see all those Moldovians and you wouldn’t believe the service they give. And they are so happy unlike those rude Barbadians.
    It so happens that I live in the states and have never met the Moldovians but I have met a lot of Mexicans and minorities in the industry. I know that many hotels and restaurants in the States use an army of “illegal aliens” who are taken advantage of; some employees still being paid the tip credit of $2.46/hour without benefits, no overtime for extra hours worked and in some cases living out their cars. I would suggest that the next time you meet a Moldovian that you ask him about the job. Ask him if he loves his job. Do this questioning when his boss is not watching so you can hear the real story. Many times these employees are slaves to the hospitality business. It is the only possible job they can perform. They make no decisions; no one listens to their suggestions; they are just social security numbers if they have a SS card. They come and they go. They are hired and fired without cause. They are nobody. Probably a great model for Barbados.

  7. 197

    Without tourism what exactly do we have left?

    We are a small Caribbean Island. We have a great tourism product albeit delivered quite poorly at the moment.

    Its our main industry and of course we need it. We are too “proud” to admit it.

    Unfortunately we are lacking at the moment even as a tourism destination and people constantly complain how rude we are and how poor our service is. Training is required, better pay for staff and some incentives.

    Change is very much required. Yes you can always compare with other countries but are we not focussed on bettering Barbados…..Dont believe we need to do better get on a plane and travel……..