Five ways to achieve operational excellence in your tourism business

You already know how competitive the tourism industry is. Although it may not feel like it, this is a good thing because it keeps you on your toes. The challenge with the tourism industry is that it is particularly vulnerable to economic instability and other shocks that are beyond our control. This often leads critics to suggest that the tourism industry is fickle. It isn’t. Vulnerable yes; resilient definitely; it always bounces back. That reliability is a factor that has not escaped the attention of the strongest economies in the world; that’s why they’re all in tourism. Our industry is getting more and more competitive and it is not an exaggeration to say that only the very best tourism businesses will succeed in the long term.

This explains why excellence is a major concern for our industry. It matters everywhere and to everyone. Whatever your particular circumstance, excellence matters because guests progressively demand it and lasting success depends on the ability to consistently provide it.

Here are five ways you can work towards making excellence a habit to improve your operations.

1) Get the right people on the bus. One may argue that the first step in achieving business success is to create a vision and strategy for the company and then get people committed and aligned behind that vision and strategy. Not everyone agrees. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins presents research findings from an analysis of over 1,000 of the largest public companies in the U.S. who had improved business performances. It was found that company executives first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats—and then figured out where to drive it. The old proverb “people are your most important asset” turns out to be wrong. People are not your most important asset. The right people are.

2) Develop a strategic map. In the book How to Run a Great Hotel by Enda Larkin, it was observed that some small hotel operators feel that having a strategic map is irrelevant, as they have no control over anything that occurs in the business environment.  Additionally, spending time to strategize about the future is a luxury that you simply can’t afford when running the day-to-day operations of a small hotel. The truth is nobody has control over what occurs in the business environment, regardless of size. However, it is possible for you to have direction and because of that you will be in a stronger position to anticipate, or at least manage change.

Having a strategic map is crucial for tourism and hospitality businesses of any size, but if you manage a small operation, the need for a map is even greater because where larger companies might survive expensive mistakes, you won’t. Consider asking yourself the following questions when developing your strategic map:

  • Where are we now?
  • Where do we want to be?
  • How will we get there?
  • How will we know we are getting there?

3) Take employee engagement to the next level. Spending time and energy trying to motivate people is a waste of effort. The real question is not “how do we motivate our people?” This brings me back to my first point. If you have the right people, they will be self-motivated. The key is to not de-motivate them. According to Irene Becker, voted as one of the Top 100 Employee Engagement Experts online, you can do this by ensuring that:

  • Personal, professional development, as well as structure for growth and recognition is present in your organization.
  • Managers, mentors and trainers are equipped to coach, inspire and bring out the best in employees.
  • Transparency of communication and the integrity of your organization’s commitment to growth, recognition and optimizing individual and collective potential should be reflected in ways of creating team spirit and collaboration.
  • Human interaction and social activities should occur to engage people as individuals being part of a vibrant, growing, blossoming culture.

Click here to read more from other industry experts about employee engagement.

4) Captivate your guests. Simply providing good service is no longer a source of competitive advantage. To stand out you must aim for a higher goal and offer a positive guest experience like no other. Think of every touch point your guests come into contact with and make it a priority to pamper them in extraordinary ways.  These don’t have to be big, but can be small gestures such as greeting your guest by his or her name and anticipating their needs beforehand. After all, the main difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra. Some years ago I met a hotelier whose favorite question to his staff was “What have you done to surprise and delight a guest today?”

Ensure that website pictures of your property look exactly how they are in real life. No one likes to be welcomed to a hotel room that looks nothing like what they reserved, unless of course the rooms look much better in reality! It is also important to know how your guests evaluate your business to know what areas to improve on. A useful tool for this is CTO’s Guestpitality Total Visitor Satisfaction™ that was discussed in my previous post The Role of Guestpitality in the Hospitality Industry.

5) Lead with questions, not answers. No company is perfect. We all face adversities in business that can either make or break us. To achieve excellence, we must face what’s up against us. As a leader, it’s okay not to have the answers to everything. It also doesn’t mean coming up with the answers and encouraging everyone to follow your angelic vision. It means having the humility to be aware of the fact that you do not yet understand enough to have the answers and then ask questions that will lead to the best possible insights. Consider asking “why” five times to determine the root cause of a problem. An example highlighted by André Bello, Commercial Manager for the Caribbean at Virgin Atlantic is as follows:

  • A guest complained. -> Why?
  • Bad smell in hotel room. ->Why?
  • Dead mouse in a/c system ->Why?
  • Hole in a/c vent -> Why?
  • No maintenance for 5 years -> Why?
  • No process for periodic preventative maintenance

If you’re hungry for more about achieving excellence in your tourism business, be sure to attend the CTO’s 8th Tourism Human Resources conference to connect with industry leaders such as André Bello and many more! Click here for more information. HR conference flyer 2016

Until next time, join us in #MakingExcellenceAHabit!

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