I recently enjoyed a trip to the City of London. I’d always wanted to go, for no reason that I can point to other than “I really wanna”, and I have to say the experience was amazing. From every touristy draw (Tower of London, Madam Tussaud’s), to every pub/restaurant, to every interaction with the locals, I can’t say there was a negative nitpick through out my week. Now, this isn’t a tourism blog (though if you know some one who wants to pay me to be a travel writer, I could be persuaded…rubber arm), this is all about customer service so it really got me to thinking: How much do we base our plans to return to a city or country on the interactions we have with its residents?
How is that any different from a local business?
I know, I know, I’m getting a bit meta here but walk with me. Sure, when you go to another city or country, you shop at different retailers, eat at various restaurants, speak with a variety of people. One experience might be mediocre while another might blow you away. But when you look back on the trip as a whole, and you’re determining whether to spend those hard earned dollars and invest in their tourism industry, you look at everything.
Were the people nice?
When I came away from London, I could think of at least 3 or 4 specific instances where the local hospitality blew me away. I don’t look at it as “one offs” but rather “aren’t Londoners awesome, polite and friendly”. In contrast, in a trip I took a few years ago to Montreal, I found the locals rude and standoffish. Am I saying all Montrealers (Montrealites?) are that way? Of course not, but that was the experience I had and there are far too many other places I want to visit (ie competition) that I’m probably not going back to that city any time soon. Sound familiar?
Did I get value for my money?
Of course there are a lot of variables when it comes to “value”. Exchange rate, standard of living, etc. (I’m not an economist so the “etc” is really all the things I can’t think of). But it’s also about the feeling of getting ripped off. Did I feel like I got scammed by the tourist traps in the area? I understand I’ll pay a bit more when I’m in those areas but did they take advantage of me and my curiosity? Most travellers budget and have expectations of what they’ll be spending but they don’t want to return home with the feeling of a low return on investment.
Was there a reason to go back?
Have you ever gone some where and felt like there just wasn’t enough time to get to everything you wanted to see? That’s a good thing. It could be tourist attractions but it also could be that highly recommended restaurant or weekend street market, or it could be a tourist attraction that spices it up so it’s not the same thing every year (ie Disney’s Haunted Mansion now does a Nightmare Before Christmas theme). Is your community interesting and dynamic enough to entice return visits? Really, how is your product?
Sure, as a local, we local at our own businesses customer service individually but for those visiting from far off lands, it’s a holistic experience. Every establishment has an impact on the area’s tourism, whether it’s the tourists they interact with or those the tourists tell of their trips, it’s all linked. Your employees great attitude or shitty behaviour can have a much bigger impact than you might think.