Last week I wrote about the SuperHost program and how it taps into fundamental customer service tools to help businesses improve their NPS scores.
But there’s another fundamental component covered by SuperHost: appreciating the emotional experiences customers go through.
I was reminded of this “emotional component” a few days ago. Some students asked if they could have a meeting with me. It was a busy day, so I asked them to follow me into my next lecture. I was expecting them to ask me for an extension on a project or some advice on studying for the exam.
I was wrong. One of the girls pulled out some stuffed animals, while another produced a card and a small plant. “We read your blog and we heard you’re having a tough term,” they said. “We want you to know we appreciate you and we hope things are going better.”
With that they left. I was blown away. The card expressed the same sentiment with the added words “You are awesome!”
Of course it brought tears to my eyes. The stuffed animals are for my kids, the plant for my desk, and the card … for my heart.
Working in the service industry, it’s easy to get caught up in scores, and ROI, and the grind … don’t get me wrong, these things are important.
But the heart of the matter is that customers are people, with lives outside the scope of our interactions, who need some TLC from time to time.
I’m confident these young women will make great additions to any tourism team because they have the brains, but more importantly, the heart, to make a difference with our visitors.
Am I down with DST? No, you know me! Daylight Savings Time (DST) has been the scourge of my existence as a parent and educator (and shiftwork employer) for some time.
Actually, that’s not accurate! I’m a fan of DST and want to make it a permanent fixture; leaving us with an extra hour of daylight in the evenings simply by not setting the clocks back in the fall (and leaving them alone forever after).
Recently I was asked by a local TV station to share my thoughts on DST and the tourism industry. Here are my musings on why a permanent time shift forward in BC would be beneficial:
More outdoor play when consumers want it. Parks usage studies in the UK show that evenings are becoming increasingly popular recreation times (over mornings) as the local market seeks these activities after working hours.
Healthier for residents. A Washington state economist asserts that daylight saving hours in the evening lead to an increase in recreation and a decrease in screen time. And this is in addition to avoiding the well-documented risks of the time change which include heart attacks and traffic accident upticks.
Healthier for staff. I myself have had challenges with DST, as once per year I’ve experienced staff showing up late for shifts, or falling prey to sleep-related challenges. We’re a people-based service industry and this can only keep our front-line staff more alert and prepared.
On brand. As a recreation-focused, Super Natural brand, with BC residents constituting half of our own leisure tourism spending, this move would encourage more outdoors fun by the guests that matter.
Fewer administrative headaches. As an industry based on itineraries (departures and arrivals, reservations, or check-in times) we are forced to update our systems and records twice a year. By keeping a consistent time zone we save pain and effort (and errors) from having to adjust these twice a year.
Despite these advantages, the drawbacks might include:
Changes for small niche operators in transportation and other sectors. I’m not privy to the schedules of Harbour Air, but my guess would be that the shift in daylight to the evening would impact their operations (they only fly during daylight). This could also be a challenge for daylight-dependent wildlife viewing or fishing … although I can’t imagine guests objecting to an extra hour of sleep (over previous years’ itineraries).
The need for harmonization with other markets like Alberta, Washington, and Oregon. Our DST plan would need to be consistent with changes in these top BC traveler markets to ensure seamless transition for our visitors.
I’m far from the definitive expert in this area, but I did my best to bring these points to the fore. You can watch the piece here.
I pop up around the 10-minute mark in Part 1.
How do you feel about the time shift in BC? Let me know in the comments.
It’s obvious that I’m a do-er. I do. A lot. I get the proverbial “sh*t” done.
But while I’m passionate, there’s a risk to the way I roll, and it’s called burnout. Surrounded by germs on campus, early mornings, late nights, stress … it can easily take a toll.
This term I’m making an even more conscious effort to take care of myself. This includes:
Continuing to abstain from drugs and alcohol (I’m coming up on 10 years sober)
Morning prayer and gratitude lists
Training for “races” (all of which have been in the rain so far!)
Going to the gym and hot yoga class whenever possible (and carving out additional time to do this)
Spending quiet time with my kids (reading, board games)
Taking about 11 million hot baths
Continuing to cut back on caffeine (‘half-caff’ to the rescue)
Trashy TV when possible
The next question for me has been, what can I drop?
I recently had to back out of hosting experiences with Kudoz, a really cool initiative in the city. I simply can’t find time in my schedule to do this well. While I have a lot to give, it’s important that I take this time to give to myself.
I don’t know how successful I’m going to be, but this post is one way I can hold myself accountable that health is the cornerstone of me, and I need to be well to meet my commitments.
I’m genuinely curious – what do all you folks do to keep it going? What ball do you need to let drop? Let me know in the comments.
In the meantime I’m going to dedicate this post to Molly and the other students this term who’ve dropped my class, because they needed to. Sometimes quitting is the best option!
This Tuesday morning I joined fellow tourism nerds at a Tourism Vancouver presentation of Alex Hunter: The Art and Science of Wow.
Alex is a former Virgin America executive who travels the world as a branding and customer experience expert and keynote speaker. He’s also the host of Attaché, an award-winning online travel show, which brought him to the Vancouver Playhouse main stage.
Alex is a phenomenal storyteller; it’s challenging to take his fluid ideas and anecdotes and pull them together into something cohesive, so here’s what stood out for me:
The Internet Ruined Everything
Maybe it’s because Alex is a fellow Gen Xer who remembers the good old days of pay phones and print ads, but his statement that “marketing was the easiest job in the world until we ruined it with the internet” really struck home. He pulled up the following ad which summarizes the kinds of things Madison Avenue used to be able to get away with:
The internet comment was tongue in cheek, but he’s right that the good old-fashioned decision-making funnel has been obliterated. We can’t grab consumers with a big message (sexually harass her and you’ll be cool), hit them with some PR/evidence (doctors recommend Tipalet), and then do a little price-based sales promotion to nudge them over the line (Tipalet: now 2 for the price of 1).
Consumers today are in a cycle with more points of engagement. Marketers must strike a reasonable balance between pre and post purchase connection because our targets are not in a funnel, they’re on a see-saw adding and subtracting brands under consideration in any given moment.
We’ve moved from a push to influence at the “consider” and “buy” stages to an emphasis on talking with (not to) our customers at the “evaluate” stage (even if that means exposing them to other brands) and at the “advocate” step (encouraging sharing with their sociograph in person and online).
The Loyalty Loop
So if there’s no funnel, Alex argues, we need to pay extra attention to loyalty, which has been something of an obsession for him. The ultimate goal is to get your consumers into what he refers to as the “loyalty loop”.
You can’t have loyalty without someone feeling something, or in the words of Matthew Weiner on Mad Men:
“You feeling something. That’s what sells.”
Alex then called out Apple users (guilty as charged). When I remember back to my switch from the frugal but frustrating combo of a Microsoft Surface and a Samsung cell phone to a MacBook and iPhone in one day, I recall feeling free and relaxed.
And since that day, when I interact with Apple, I know I’m taken care of. I know where to go to get my problems solved, and they’re solved promptly, frequently exceeding my expectations. Prior to this, the tech devices in my life were a source of stress and confusion. Say what you will about the corporation, but Apple really does handle UX very well. By helping me to chill, they’ve got me in the loop!
Emotion is Greater than Reason
Alex also introduced us to Dr Donald Calne. Well, not personally, although Dr Calne apparently lives in Kamloops. Calne is a neurologist who discovered, through scientific study that:
“The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.”
So if we want our guests, visitors, and customers to conclude something about our destinations and businesses, then we can use reason. But if we want them to take action, we have to appeal to their feelings.
Hunter’s example was that of Coke vs Pepsi (specifically Diet Coke in his case). As a Coke drinker, I understood his story immediately. Because if somebody offers me a Pepsi as an alternative I feel incredulous and, frankly, insulted.
Coke is a special treat. It’s birthday parties, summer vacation, going to the movies in a real theatre, and Christmas dinner. Pepsi is … overly sweet Coke substitute. I will stick with water if that’s the only option.
As Alex puts it, “if brown water in a can can produce that reaction, no product or service is immune.”
The Small Stuff
Back in ye olden days, when I was a kid (so, the 1980s), businesses used to interact with consumers one-on-one. This is another thing the internet ruined, for a spell. We got so fixated on broadcasting wider and wider on the web, that we lost this connection. But we can get it back.
And it’s not that hard to do well. You’ve heard my example of being bowled over with the gift of well-timed water on a WestJet flight. And Hunter is loyal to a hotel in New York City where, time after time, they’ve stocked the fridge with Diet Coke, left a basket of his favourite snacks, and a handwritten note. The first time it was a surprise (based on a questionnaire he’d filled out). But they treat him to this every time he stays – prompting the comment “I am no longer a transaction, I’m not just a room night, I’m a relationship.”
We Are Magicians
We have all this data and the capacity to use what we know to create delight. And so many opportunities (touchpoints) to do this online and in person. But Alex cautions us NOT to tell our guests how we do it. He shared the story of a famous airline that used iPads to produce out-of-this world personalized greetings and experiences for their guests. Except in a PR move, they published a white paper on how they did it. They ruined the trick (“you don’t love me, the iPad told you”), and forgot the context of the relationship. To create magic for the guest, never forget that you are a magician.
The Handwritten Note
Take the time. Get the pen. Write the note. And for the love of everything, if you’re going to do a mail merge, do it correctly. Alex quit banking with an institution that sent him a “Dear null null” letter. I’ve broken up with a car dealership that uses my two middle names in all their communication. Get these things right the first time.
People Remember How You Make them Feel
There were so many nuggets in this presentation and the Q & A that followed. Ty Speer joined Alex Hunter on stage and they wrapped the session up with a from Maya Angelou:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”
Alex Hunter made me feel excited to work in tourism, excited to bring the magic to my students, and pumped to be a better businessperson and host. You can check out his website here, or follow him @cubedweller.
So in case your Facebook feed didn’t pile up with pictures of little back-to-schoolers on Tuesday, I’m here to remind you it’s that time of year again!
It’s the time of year I:
Realize that I am the teacher
Promise not to take on too much
Take on way too much
Here’s a list of commitments that I entered into over the summer, and am now realizing might be impossible to meet:
Elected member of the BCIT Education Council (EdCo)
Member of the programming committee
New volunteer at Kudoz
Volunteer member for the BC Hospitality Foundation scholarship committee
Member of a cool new committee to do with the Tourism Industry Conference (TIC is my jam, as you know)
Member of the selection committee for a new Associate Dean for our department
And assistant coach of the marketing team for JDC West
Of these, I have decided to drop the last item (coaching) because mercifully another (more qualified) volunteer stepped forward out of the woodwork. That’s great, because as an instructor I’m now having to go from public speaking hibernation to ‘on’ several hours a day. And plan. And prep. And parent. Also apparently I have a social life?
Don’t let the calm-and-poised instagram post fool you, folks, I’m low-key freaking out over here. Next post I hope to address some (relatively healthy) ways I’m trying to cope with the stress.
What are your ways of dealing with back-to-school stress? Hit me up in the comments.
On August 20th, 1954, the SS Groote Beer docked in Quebec City and my two-year-old father disembarked alongside his family to start their life in Canada. My Opa made the decision to leave Germany as a result of his experiences in World War II.
As I approach a milestone birthday in 2019 I’ve been working towards a trip that combines a bucket list destination (Paris) with an opportunity to connect with my German roots. And since I’m the “tourism nerd”, I’ve been thinking about this trip and what it means from an Explorer Quotient (EQ) perspective.
EQ is a psychographic tool developed by Destination Canada, and in use across the country, that attempts to move beyond demographics (age, gender, country of origin) and into the psychological motivations and desires behind travel.
Typically as Canadian tourism professionals we focus on the ‘hot’ EQ markets for our destinations: Free Spirit, Cultural Explorer, and Authentic Experiencer. These are great segments to target, and you can read more about them, and how to apply EQ, in this handy PDF: EQProfiles2015.
Originally, however, nine EQ profiles were developed. And while I’m not suggesting we should focus on all of these, in my circumstances think it’s important to note a ‘special’ category, which is the Personal History Explorer (PHE).
In the context of this specific trip, as a PHE I’m having a hard time accessing the resources I need. Part of this journey requires birth records (destroyed during the war), part of it relies on memories (my dad is a grandparent now, it’s hard for him to remember when he was two years old), and the rest relies on research that frequently yields incomplete results. For example, I’ve visited seven different websites with Groote Beer manifests, all of these are partial, most focus on arrivals to Australia and New Zealand … it’s a bit of a mess.
And let’s talk about shifting geography for a second!
My Oma and Opa were from the Sudentenland, which was the area of the now-Czech Republic inhabited by Sudeten Germans. Since Bohemia and Sudetenland are no longer political regions, and haven’t been for decades, I’ve had to rely heavily on my uncle to determine where, exactly, I should be visiting.
Finally, there is the emotional component of developing a trip like this. Immigration is a stressful change for a family, even when it’s for the better. Talking about family origins can dig up deep feelings of regret, loss, or even anger. If I’m honest I’m currently harbouring some resentments at my father for choosing not to keep his German citizenship, and for not teaching us to speak German – even though intellectually these decisions make sense in hindsight.
In his book “Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche“, Bill Plotkin talks about our need to return to our psychospiritual roots. He asserts there is an innate connection we have with our ecology of origin. I’ve looked at photos of the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) since childhood and deeply known that those streams, trees, and mountains are somehow of me, just as parts of British Columbia like the Fraser River, North Shore Mountains, False Creek, and Burrard Inlet are part of my makeup.
Returning to these primal, ecologically-emotionally connected places is what Plotkin calls “relocalization” (p.55). I think as more boomers, Gen X, and even Millennial travellers start seeking out PHE trips, tourism developers and marketers will need to provide more support for this type of journey.
What I’m recommending is:
Local tourism professionals keep an eye out for unique stories like these and create customer journey maps to understand the ‘pain points’ of developing this kind of trip
Residents, staff, or other passionate locals help PHEs develop itineraries
Destinations with shifting geography/place names make this very clear in their marketing materials
Tourism marketers use these stories as a means to connect with other PHEs who may be interested in the region
Do you have a PHE trip on your mind? Where might you need to go to feel truly reconnected to your psychospiritual roots? Share in the comments.
A question I get asked regularly is “what is dark tourism”?
Many people conflate dark tourism with sex tourism, exploitation, and other challenges related to overtourism.
According to Stone, Seaton, Sharpley and White, dark tourism is “the contemporary commodification of death within international visitor economies.” The distinction here is death, which is why the phenomenon is also referred to as thanatourism from the Greek ‘thanatos’ or personification of death.
An example of dark tourism is a visit my daughter and I took to the Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam, included as part of a group tour of the country.
This network of underground tunnels just outside of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) was used during several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, serving as the Viet Cong’s base of operations.
We visited the Ben Dinh site, featuring reconstructions, re-enactments, with tunnels widened to accommodate visitors. Guests are taken through the tunnels (if desired) and shown various components of life during the war. I was taken aback by the shooting range where guests paid by the bullet to fire M16s.
Ahead of our visit I did the best I could to debrief my then seven-year-old on the Vietnam War. Our guide was a former solider who walked us through the areas and provided colour commentary. But if I’m honest my daughter mostly knows this as “the place I went in the tunnels from the world war” (she doesn’t understand the difference between conflicts). And I had been reluctant to visit the site from the start.
So who are Stone, Seaton, Sharpley and White? They’re the co-authors of the definitive reference text for the study of the phenomenon of dark tourism. Their newly-released text (click here for more) examines dark tourism and visitor sites of death or disaster in order to better understand issues of global tourism mobilities, tourist experiences, the co-creation of meaning, and ‘difficult heritage’ processes and practices.
I was privileged to work on a chapter with Dr Geoffrey Bird of Royal Roads University and Natalie Thiesen of Tourism Winnipeg. We argue that marketing plays a major inventive role in tourism world-making, the shaping of culture and place. Additionally, we consider how marketing can be consciously, responsibly, and appropriately employed in politically charged sites of memory. Our section starts on page 645 – this truly is THE handbook for the subject, and it’s the size of a phone book (if some of you remember those).
Having now experienced a dark tourism attraction, I’m struck by the popularity and Disneyfication of what is a profoundly disturbing place to me. Tour groups jostled each other to get a position climbing on a tank for photos. Our guide’s dialogue was fascinating but at odds with the story we were being presented. My daughter was encouraged to scramble through the tunnels as if it were a game, not really grasping the severity of the conflict or how many lives were lost.
One of the principles of dark tourism is that the visitor and the site co-create meaning in the moment of the experience. Overall I was grateful for the chance to visit a challenging site, but wish I had been better prepared to work through it with my child.
Are there any ‘dark tourism’ sites in your community? And if so, how are they approached?
Last week I got the thrill of a tourism nerd’s lifetime when I met THE official EXPO ERNIE!
For those of you who haven’t sat (suffered) through one of my lectures on the growth of BC’s tourism industry, Expo Ernie was the mascot for Expo ’86, which marked the birth of our industry as it is today. Approximately 22 million people descended on Vancouver for the World’s Fair from May to October 1986.
Not without controversy (which you can read about elsewhere), to this then 7-year-old Vancouverite Expo was a thrill. Check out this CBC retrospective on the event to get a sense of the scope.
But how did I come to meet THE Expo Ernie? He was the guest of honour at the official re-launch of SuperHost, a program developed in 1985 in preparation for Expo, which has become the standard for service excellence in BC and an internationally recognized leader in training for the tourism industry.
With go2HR now in charge of the program, there was no better time than Tourism Week to announce that the suite of courses has been revitalized with a new Foundations of Service Quality to be followed by Service for All and Destination Ambassador, available later in 2018.
I’m proud to be a SuperHost trainer and happy to offer it to our tourism students each fall, as well as to new industry entrants through programs like Embers, and private-sector clients in the hotel and food and beverage industries.
At the launch, Grant Mackay from Destination BC referenced our goal for British Columbia to be the most highly recommended destination in North America. We can’t do that without offering our guests exceptional service – a tradition that started over 32 years ago, and continues to this day.
Walt Judas, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of BC, talked about the excitement of Expo 86 and how if you “take the experience and extrapolate it to 365 days a year, that’s the life of a tourism professional.” I couldn’t agree more. What makes me such a tourism nerd is that I get to share this province with visitors, and help shape the strategy that makes us great, but more importantly I get to share my enthusiasm for BC with the world.
“Beauty is not what sets us apart,” he added. “It’s the service by well-trained professionals that turns visitors into advocates for our province.” Hear, hear.
I’m going to take my exuberance at meeting Expo Ernie into my SuperHost training at a local hotel this month, because #bctourismmatters and #superhostmatters!
WestJet’s Christmas Miracle campaigns, which combine corporate giving with strong public and media relations. Too numerous to mention them all, a recent WestJet effort in the Dominican Republic offers a good example. Click hereto watch it.
“Red Sucks”, the video from a small mountain in the Kootenays. This campaign was a tongue-in-cheek look at 24-hours in a guest’s life at the local resort. Watch the video here.
The transcendent nature of the “Super, Natural British Columbia” brand that has persisted through several organizational structures to touch the hearts and minds of hundreds of visitors. Students this year referenced the Wild Within video (here) as being particularly memorable.
Tourism Calgary, the Calgary Stampede and other stakeholders’ “Come Hell or High Water” statements, and “Calgary, We’re Open” a 2013 collective effort to invite visitors to the destination despite excessive flooding. See the official tourism video here.
5. UNILAD Adventures’ look at Zimbabwe, as posted on Facebook.
“Pure Michigan” radio campaign, particularly in the Windsor-Quebec corridor. Apparently to those who live there, these spotsare a near-constant presence.
Tourism Australia’s “Best Job in the World” campaigns. Starting with a 2009 contest for the NSW region, this grew into a national youth-focused initiative drawing global attention.
1. And the “winner” is? Incredible India. I promoted this to the top spot because my BCIT undergrad students also voted this the top brand in our destination development course. Click here for a 2013 commercial from the campaign.
To view the list we created in 2017, click here. And let me know what campaign springs to your mind (from any era) in the comments below!
It’s almost the end of term and time for me to reflect back on my teaching practices. One of the things I’ve been focusing on this year is engagement: connecting with my students as people, and encouraging them to connect with me as well.
A practice I’ve implemented in all of my sales courses is to ask a bonus question that awards one mark for demonstrating that the students have gotten to know something about me:
“Share one thing you’ve learned about your instructor (her background, likes, dislikes, family or other fact) while taking this class.”
This year, I decided to compile some of these. I hope you find them as funny as I do. And please share your ‘engagement’ practices with me!
From my introductory sales class:
A passion for marketing and utilizing blogs and social media accounts (i.e. Instagram) to share professional knowledge and personal experiences respectively. Also dislikes getting stuck on a snowy mountain and missing class.
She’s into Star Trek and possible TOTR (editors note: had to Google this … I think they mean LOTR?). She likes poutine.
She likes visual aids, dislikes pushy salespeople, enjoys traveling and has at least one child … is that everything, gel?
Amiables (smile emoji) explains things clearly.
Does not like telemarketing. In the tourism industry.
BCIT grad. She recently went to Vietnam with her adorable daughter named Fraser. We can find her Instagram account @tourismnerd. She likes lemons?
You like pets! You have kids?
She likes travelling.
You have a very cute daughter. You are confident, and have beautiful voice.
You went to BCIT!
She likes getting up mountainsides, but no so much down!
She likes to climb mountains/hike instead of teaching her students. JOKES (smile emoji) . Morgan graduated from BCIT as well.
You were a sales manager before. You are teaching sales class at night as well.
Funny, enthusiastic, active and responsible.
Has a daughter.
I learned that Morgan has a 7-year-old daughter.
The love for Star Trek and dressing up as those characters for Halloween.
She has a daughter.
Morgan is hungry all the time. Thank you for teaching this class! I had a great time learning and you’re a great teacher! Good luck with everything.
Her daughter is really cute. Morgan has amazing traveling experience, I am so jealous!
You throw student evaluations in the garbage, LOL. (smile emoji) I knew it was true! I’m sure most teachers do.
How do you engage with your learners or peers? Post your ideas in the comments!
It’s that time of year again! The annual BC Tourism Educators Conference is being held at Okanagan College and as per usual much debate, discussion, and learning is happening around key themes in tourism education.
First up this morning was Tom Baum from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. For over 36 years Tom has been seeking to address the social and strategic contexts of low skills employment, with particular focus on hospitality and tourism.
Dr Baum challenged us, as a group, to look at the future of work in tourism, by first looking at the past. He suggested that for decades we have been engaged in the same conversation around tourism employment issues: lack of meaningful pay, low-skilled work, and high turnover – to name a few. He referenced a quote by George Orwell who was a pot-washer (plongeur) in the Paris of 1933: “a plongeur is a slave, and a wasted slave, doing stupid and largely unnecessary work.”
The fact is that in 2018, if we take a global view, there are still many “plongeurs” in our industry. Dr Baum cited reports including:
Global hotel chains – making London an unethical tourist destination through ‘standard industry practice’ by Unite the union Hotel Workers’ Branch: UnethicalLondon
Wage Theft in Australia – finding of the National Temporary Migrant Work Survey: WageTheft
The great training robbery – assessing the first year of the apprenticeship levy: TrainingRobbery
Dr Baum shared findings from one document in particular, “Working for the Mouse”, in which they found that despite challenges including homelessness and extreme commutes, and yet over 85% of the workforce interviewed at Disneyland in Anaheim reported that they loved their jobs. You can read that report here: WorkingfortheMouse
So where to from here? Dr Baum’s presentation set the stage for a day of “backcasting” (also the process used by The Natural Step), in which we looked at the outcomes we want to produce in our institutions, communities, and industry.