SEVEN KEY AREAS TO ACHIEVE QUALITY VISITOR EXPERIENCES
To achieve quality visitor experiences it is necessary to consider the individual components that collectively contribute to the complete tourism experience.
Seven key areas have been identified. These are:
- Understanding visitor needs and expectations.
- People excellence – valuing your people.
- Business excellence – maximising business performance.
- Growing destinations – highlighting the complimentary nature of products and services within a destination.
- Marketing excellence * – helps you achieve your business objectives – how to get and keep your customers.
- Fostering innovation – the adoption of innovative practices.
- Sustainability in tourism – consideration of financial, environmental, social and cultural impact of the business.
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Understanding visitor needs and expectations.
This module focuses on identifying and developing quality visitor experiences that meet, and ultimately exceed, consumer expectations. It reinforces the importance of research, product differentiation and quality customer service.
Successful marketing requires timely and relevant market information. Marketing is often a major expense for SMEs, but use of market research can significantly reduce costs by highlighting those market segments that will produce the best results.
There are cost effective measurement tools available to provide consumer feedback and to help understand visitor needs and expectations, but these are often overlooked, or under utilised, especially by SMEs, because of time, perceived cost and work pressure.
Monitoring of the wider social and economic trends can also help a business to anticipate problems and to capitalise on opportunities.
This module will guide you to some of the research options, as well as help you to:
- Segment the tourism market,
- Develop a tourism product that responds to market needs,
- Realign a tourism product to meet changing market needs,
- Use great customer service to boost the bottom line,
- Understand your customers and competitors,
- Create and implement simple customer surveys,
- Use a professional customer auditing service to provide deeper insight to your business.
– valuing your people
It’s a truism that tourism and hospitality is a ‘people’ industry, and it’s often the skill and attitude of staff that provide the essential ‘point of difference’ between businesses. However, for an industry so reliant on the quality of its staff to deliver the product or experience, many operators pay scant attention to the recruitment and professional development of employees.
Tourism is one of our State’s most significant industries. In 2011-12 it directly or indirectly employed over 200,000 Victorians (7.1% of total State employment) – and it is growing quickly. Food services accounts for 27%, retail for 19% and accommodation for 13% of direct tourism jobs.
If the industry is to grow in quality as well as volume, much will depend upon the people we attract and the ways that we manage them: understanding of employee motivation and aspirations, recruitment methods, professional training, and the development of career pathways.
Whether you employ 1 or 100 staff, the management of their professional development should be an important part of your annual business planning. In fact, micro businesses employing only one or two staff are often most vulnerable to problems, because those businesses live or die on the quality of only a handful of people.
On a purely financial basis, good people management has a major bottom-line effect on a business. Staff turnover in the industry is estimated to be about 50% and it can cost up to 20% of payroll*. Consequently, there’s a clear opportunity to improve what we do by simply keeping staff longer.
This module provides some tools and tips to help operators attract the right people and to provide them with a professional career path. In doing so, this should improve business performance and bottom-line results.
(‘Labour Turnover and Costs in the Australian Accommodation Industry’, by Griffith University,November 2006).
In this module you will learn about:
- Retaining good staff, &
- Moving-on the ‘not-so-good’ ones
– maximising business performance.
Tourism is big business in Victoria, employing 204,000 people, involving 70,000 businesses and estimated to be worth $19.1 billion to the economy(2012)
It’s also a fiercely competitive business. We not only compete with other businesses, towns, regions and states, but with all the other demands for the consumers’ discretionary dollar.
The environment for tourism is ever changing. In order to grow and prosper, the tourism industry has to be more flexible and responsive to challenges. International consumers are now more informed, more discerning and culturally and linguistically diverse. Domestic visitors are looking for high quality ‘experiences’, whether it be on a long weekend in Lakes Entrance or during a 5 star inner Melbourne stay.
Despite the economic significance and complexity of the industry, the entry requirements to many of its sectors are low and often non-existent. Peoples’ desire to enter the industry is often driven by lifestyle factors, and the decisions to establish or buy a tourism business are often made with little research, or even an assessment of their suitability for the type of work.
It’s an industry that can appear to be deceptively simple to outsiders – after all, it’s all about ‘people’ and you simply need to meet their needs for rest, recreation and entertainment ! However, even at the micro-business level a successful tourism operator requires a mix of business management, marketing and technical skills, combined with a heavy dose of customer service ability and consumer psychology.
Skills development for tourism operators needs to be ongoing, because the marketplace is forever changing.
Like most businesses, tourism businesses have a defined lifecycle. Some businesses may take years to pass through the following four phases, while many move through them very quickly. It’s important to recognise and understand where you are in the business lifecycle:
Uncertain markets, establishing products, uncertain marketing, low/no profit, heavy management involvement in the business.
Establishment of market share, expansion of product lines and or markets, sales growth, possible internal expansion to meet growth.
Levelling of sales because of increasing competition or decrease in demand. This requires new strategies to avoid…
Decrease in sales and profits. If not addressed, it will end in business failure.
Operators need to look at the entire lifecycle of their business. How you manage each stage and respond to the challenges of each usually reflects how strategic you have been in your business planning phase.
The amount of free business development information available to SMEs is huge, yet the uptake among tourism operators is low. Typical barriers to involvement include a lack of time, the labour intensity of most tourism/ hospitality operations, a lack of awareness of options, as well as a prevalent belief that skill development can only be obtained through formal places of learning and structured courses.
This Business Excellence module breaks the topic into
- Starting out in business and
- Growing your business
The information presented in the module is layered, so that you can delve as lightly or as deeply as you want, using the links to excellent resources, such as those provided by Business Victoria. The material takes you systematically through the various stages and processes. We suggest you tackle them one step at a time, otherwise it might seem overwhelming. As they say, when you start to feel that you are working ‘on’ rather than ‘in’ your business, you know that you’re getting much more strategic in your approach and that business success is more likely to follow.
– highlighting the complimentary nature of products and services within a destination
The information in this module is primarily directed at local government management and staff, particularly those who supervise or direct tourism activity in their municipality.
Although the private sector accommodates, feeds and entertains the visitor, it is the myriad of items handled by local government – from road quality to street cleanliness – that can influence how long a visitor will stay, how much they will spend, whether they will return, and whether they will tell others about it.
A destination can be a city or town, or a geographic region such as the Mornington Peninsula or the Yarra Valley, or even a retail precinct such as South Yarra’s Chapel Street.
The ‘experience’ that most travellers seek will often involve several destinations. Their overall experience will be determined by a complex range of behavioural and physical elements, including satisfaction of expectations, information fulfilment, transport, accommodation, dining, shopping, a welcoming host community, security and other services. The key to destination planning and management is to understand what today’s consumer seeks and the aspirations they wish to fulfil. Finding the right market segment/s that will best respond to a destination ‘offer’, and delivering relevant products and experiences, is fundamental to success.
Previously, destinations tended to focus on promotion to maximise visitation. Councils and tourism organisations now appreciate the need to better manage the whole visitor experience. Destinations that have undergone visual degradation and/ or have lost their sense of identity through inappropriate planning, development and management, are being increasingly rejected by consumers, in their quest for authenticity.
Tourism areas now need to consider consumer research, strategic planning, industry structures, leadership development, crisis management and environmental protection in an effort to build a sustainable industry. Above all, development of a sustainable destination must include the needs and aspirations of the local community.
This module highlights many of the elements that need to be considered when establishing a successful tourism destination. They are grouped under three key topics:
- Planning for Tourism
- Destination Marketing
It should be noted that not all regions can be, or should be, tourism destinations. Just as every region does not have the qualities to be an agricultural or manufacturing centre, a community needs to carefully evaluate its assets to determine whether tourism is a viable option.
Read a checklist of key attributes considered important to the establishment of a tourism destination
– helps you achieve your business objectives – how to get and keep your customers.
Effective marketing is at the heart of every successful business. In a very competitive environment for the discretionary dollar, even well established and respected brands need to keep themselves in front of consumers.
Gaining communication ‘cut-through’ is a great challenge in an era when it is estimated that we’re directly and subliminally exposed to between 2,000-3,000 marketing messages a day.
Good marketing is much broader than just advertising and promotion. It should begin with product development and positioning – gaining a crucial point of difference to make you stand out from the crowd.
Fundamental to effective marketing is researching and selecting an appropriate target market/s. There is no longer such a thing as a mass-market and especially tourism comprises a number of smaller and even niche markets. Finding that niche, and effectively communicating with it, is one of the keys to your success.
Putting a price on your product that not only reflects market expectations, but also provides you with a return on your investment and day-to-day effort, is the next marketing challenge. Business operators often base their prices on what their competitors charge or what they think the market might wear, rather than objectively analysing what it costs to deliver the product and to make a profit.
Only once the product and pricing have been determined should you start marketing communication, including brand development, advertising, on-line marketing and promotions.
This module works hand-in-hand with module 3 ‘Business Excellence’. It’s important that your marketing plan reflects and addresses the key objectives of your business plan. This module takes you step-by-step through the key processes of:
- Planning your marketing
- Developing the product
- Product positioning and targeting
- Marketing Communications, incl. e-marketing
- Media relations
Some useful tools and resources, as well as case studies, are also provided.
– the adoption of innovative practices.
Innovation is about ideas and developing new knowledge. More importantly, it’s about transforming, disseminating and applying that knowledge to build value-creating outcomes. Put more simply, innovation is “Change which adds value”. (Roger La Salle).
Innovation often involves creativity, but it is more about acting on creative ideas, i.e. bringing the ideas to life. Innovation is also different to invention: “Invention is the first occurrence of an idea for a new product or process, while innovation is the first attempt to carry it out into practice” (Fagerberg, 2004).
Innovation is now recognized as the single most important ingredient in a successful economy, as well as a major contributor to export success. In fact, with the rise of the global economy, the fragmentation of markets and an increasingly short-lived product life-cycle, innovation has become the lifeblood of most successful modern businesses. While the average lifespan of U.S. listed companies in the 1920s was 65 years, it is now less than 10 years. The top 10% of electronics companies change 80% of their product range every five years. The message is clear – innovate or perish.
While innovation has certainly become associated with technology, there are many forms of innovation. New technology often induces new business models and sometimes those new business processes can be more innovative than the technology itself. It is often about simply developing better ways of doing what we already do. Most innovation is the result of incremental progress and value-adding.
Business model innovation
Involves changing the way business is done in terms of capturing value
The development of new marketing methods, with improvement in product design or packaging, product promotion or pricing.
Involves the creation or alteration of business structures, practices, and models, and may therefore include process, marketing and business model innovation.
Involves the implementation of a new or significantly improved production or delivery method.
Involves the introduction of new or substantially improved goods or services. This might include improvements in functional characteristics, technical abilities, ease of use, or any other dimension.
Refers to service product innovation which might be, compared to goods product innovation or process innovation, relatively less involving technological advance but more interactive and information-intensive. This type of innovation can be found both in manufacturing and service .
Supply chain innovation
Where innovations occur in the sourcing of input products from suppliers and the delivery of output products to customers
Introducing a different product or service within the same line, such as the movement of a candle company into marketing the electric light globe
There are no prescriptive rules and specific techniques for developing innovation – it is more an attitude and a state-of-mind held by businesses, organisations and individuals. It often flourishes in business environments that challenge assumptions, encourage problem solving, actively elicit ideas from all staff levels, and that have supportive management leadership.
Innovation certainly involves a degree of risk; breaking-away from the traditional methods of doing things. Market failure is the biggest risk, especially when launching a new product, but the risk can be significantly reduced by gaining an understanding of the marketplace. A business needs to ask “ what is the real benefit in this for the customer? ” and “what would provide real value-for-money to them? ” (ie the value proposition).
Tourism is an inherently conservative industry. It tends to slowly react to market trends and demands, rather than getting ahead of them. Tourism and travel innovation usually involves a series of small steps that lead to incremental growth, of which the most common outcome is product evolution. Those who can take an idea, improve it, add value, or who can deliver it to the market more efficiently or more cheaply, are often the biggest winners. Within reason and practicality, the ability of operators to discard their risk aversion is one of the first steps to becoming more innovative and, ultimately, more successful.
This module is an introduction to the topic for tourism industry leaders and operators. The following pages, the case studies and the links to deeper information are designed to stimulate broader thinking and to encourage innovative practice among Victoria’s tourism businesses.
- Innovate to stay afloat
- Creating a workplace environment for innovation
- Innovation through product development
– consideration of financial, environmental, social and cultural impact of the business.
‘Sustainability’ is the catchword of the new millennium. Not a day passes without some major media reference to climate change, the vulnerability of the planet, and the role of business and individuals in slowing environmental decline. The issues have quickly moved from fringe to mainstream.
As one of Victoria’s larger industries, and a sector heavily reliant on natural assets as its product, tourism not only contributes to the problem, but it could become a major casualty of a failure to address the issues.
However, the broader notion of sustainability goes beyond traditional ‘green’ elements. The World Tourism Organisation defines ‘sustainable tourism’ as “tourism which meets the needs of the present tourist and host regions, while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future”. The broader notion of sustainability not only encompasses the environmental, but also the economic and socio-cultural aspects of the industry.
Economic sustainability goes to the heart of any business operation, regardless of size or market orientation. Yet it is surprising how little financial and business planning is actually done by SMEs. Module 3 in this series deals specifically with this aspect of sustainability.
Consumer trends in travel have been steadily moving away from overcrowded, polluted, and culturally homogenous experiences. The new traveller ethic recognises the need to protect finite resources and indigenous cultures. Victoria’s key international markets have been displaying this ethic for more than a decade, fuelled by the growing world-wide environmental consciousness.
Sustainable delivery of services to meet the needs of visitors requires careful consideration of the desires and identity of local communities. In fact, attractions and facilities that reflect the personality and heritage of an area are much more likely to be accepted by its residents. The provision of visitor services that also help to enhance the residential lifestyle are often favoured. Sustainable tourism also means retaining the economic and employment benefit of tourism within local economies.
The focus of this module is largely on environmental sustainability. It is unfortunate that environmental sustainability is often thought to be an expensive and complicated ideal, especially for small business. It has been seen as the domain of specialist eco-tourism companies. However, there are many simple things that can be done on a day-to- day basis that cost next to nothing and take only a few minutes to undertake: reducing energy consumption, minimising waste, and conserving water. The rewards for making the effort are both environmental and financial.
The ‘greening’ of your business also has marketing benefits, especially in attracting the rapidly growing market of environmentally-conscious visitors . A survey by Nexus Research in 2004 revealed that 62% of people are inclined to choose a green accredited accommodation property over another. This is a new, virtually untapped market for operators and an easy way to help differentiate your product.
Tourism can also be a driving force for conservation, enhancement and interpretation of the natural and cultural environment – directly through raising awareness, and through the generation of funds to support projects.
Dominating the media in recent years has been the issue of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. Tourism is both vulnerable to climate change impacts and it contributes to climate change through high levels of Green House Gas emissions.
Sustainability should be important to all tourism enterprises, regardless of size or market orientation. This module provides a starting point for operators to begin their journey towards a more sustainable business future. It uses fact sheets provided from a number of sources, plus case studies to provide ideas and very practical tips. Above all, it aims to demonstrate that sustainability is not only good for the environment and the local community, but also for the hip-pocket.
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