The very first time I stayed at a hotel, I was 19 years old and on a business trip in Barbados. In fact, I was staying at a hotel in St. James. From 1974 to the present, I have slept in more hotel rooms than one can imagine. In some cases, it would be as a guest in cities like London, Toronto, New York, Miami, Grand Cayman, The Caribbean and the ABC Islands. Most of it was vacation or work and various types of properties from 5 Star to just a guesthouse. I love personalized service. Then from 1983, hotel rooms became my residence as I worked at various hotels in Management positions.
What I came to realize over the years is that hotel rooms are meant for sleeping. Because when one is on vacation, all they want to do is be out there. Be part of the destinations experience, the culture, the people, the entertainment and the cuisine. Learn of the country’s history. Where it was to what it grew to be. As a constant traveler and former hotel executive, I always inform participants at my training sessions that the destination must provide a lesson in history along with an unforgettable experience, one that etches a feeling on their brain that they will always brag about to family and friends.
People travel, not just to take a break from their normal surroundings, to get a stress relief or just get on an airplane or a cruise liner and get away. Visiting a destination for the first time must be like a classroom experience. Travelers want to see something different and familiarize themselves with the location so that the end result can be memorable and become conversation over dinner or at a gathering. When I tell my children about my travel experiences, there is always a storyline, a purpose as to why I remember where I went and why it is still so significant in my mind. While I can say I visited the Vatican in Rome and threw coins in the fountain, or I rode on a train and saw the mountains of Switzerland, there is a significant aspect related to being in London twice. Paris on the other hand, I always remember walking the streets of Paris, looking up at the Eiffel Tower and going to the movies to watch a movie with Tina Turner. Ontario was the visit to a wax museum, driving for the first time on a highway and visiting the Niagara Falls. I speak of New York, and I reflect on the lights of Manhattan at night and the fine dining, My daughter and I visiting Ground Zero, riding the subway, running to catch a bus, my driving in New York and knowing all the Burroughs. But most important are the monuments and the restaurants.
Going on vacation is not just to get on a flight and head to a destination. It’s not just getting to the destination with very little overlay or flight connections. Today’s traveler wants to know why they should spend their hard earned money, visiting a destination they have never been before. In order to achieve demand, a destination must have a purpose for travelers to want to visit. There must be that “MUST VISIT” influence. Think closely, when a destination is mentioned, what comes to mind first. “I heard so much about this place on Dominica or St. Lucia, I must go visit” For example, when you think the Bahamas your first thought would be ‘a visit to Atlantis”. Think St. Maarten and you want to go Duty-Free Shopping. Every visitor has his/her unique reason for wanting to go to a destination. It could be to experience scuba diving, trying the authentic local dishes or visiting one particular place of interest. St. Lucia for example, it can be the shopping, the native patois, and the nightlife.
Marketing a destination must be a well-studied plan. While your destination may have 10 places to visit, one must identify that “ONE PLACE” that stands out. Yes, it could be a waterfall, a local restaurant, a historical venue or just a particular beach with an odd shape or color of sand. The phenomena of Sports Tourism, Health and Wellness are great contributors to a remarkable experience.
We have to focus on the product, some can be natural, and others can be manmade like the products that are manufactured locally or just a visit to a real indigenous eating place that is over 50 years old. Every tourism authority should work on identifying its country’s best attributes and develop it as a marketing tool. Of course, there is the human factor also. How you welcome a visitor to your island. Again, it’s all part of the experience and it starts with that welcome smile, we are happy to have you here. The residents of the island or destination must know that their contribution plays a great role in the development of the target location. Guesthouse owners are the best for giving history, because they are the ones that come from a generation of homegrown families who would know the history of the island and its people.
Just recently a taxi driver on Dominica told me that guests are always asking for him when they visit Dominica and it is because of “word of mouth”. He says he gives them value for money and allows them the time to see and understand the island. While other taxi drivers rush the visitors during their tour, he takes the time to explain the various points of interest, takes them to places where they can have a good dining experience and allows them time to enjoy the beach. He says that at the end of his tour, he receives enough tips to cover his day. He says proudly, “It’s all about the Experience and Customer Satisfaction”.
Now one may ask, “What is the experience”? It is certainly not in the Tourism Policy. It is not even a problem of not having an International Airport. It requires more Destination Management by persons who have had the hospitality and tourism experience at their fingertips. It is the END PRODUCT, the local PRODUCE, the original dances and music, the authentic cuisine. But more so, it’s the knowledge of the tourism ambassadors.
Joseph E. Doway, a former hotel General Manager with 33 years’ experience in Hospitality and Tourism. The founder of 4D Hospitality Management Resources. Joseph has served on the Executive of Hotel Associations in St. Martin and Dominica. 4D Hospitality Management Resources is a boutique type business that offers a wide range of services related to the improvement of the tourism service product. Joseph is very passionate about sharing his knowledge and expertise through training programs and his writing. Joseph’s main interest is the restructuring of SME’s involved in the Hospitality and Tourism Industry. Contact details: 758 730 3291 [email protected].