Tourism – The community is the product: Part I

In communities where tourism is one of the primary industries, the community is the product, not your product or service.

Customer service is a common topic among businesses, particularly those in communities where tourism is one of the primary industries. The basics of customer service are no secret – a friendly greeting, an accurate transaction and a sincere thank you for their business. But when your business resides in an area where tourism is one of the primary industries, you need to think about these items at the community level.

When someone lives in a community and has a bad experience as a business, they can choose to not go back to that business. When someone visits a community and has a bad experience at a business, they may choose not to come back to that town. It is in this context that local businesses can bring wider benefit if they think about the community being the product rather than whatever product or service their particular business may provide.

Think about the basics of customer service in the community context. Does your community offer a friendly greeting? This could be a welcoming attitude or the aesthetics of the physical entrance to your community. Does the community feel welcoming? Does the community appreciate visitors to the area? You may do everything right at your place of business, but if after you get off work you go somewhere else in the community and complain about the traffic, the slow drivers, the wait for service at another business, will that impact the perceptions of a visitor who overhears you complain?

Many communities focus customer service training on the lodging and dining businesses and the attractions. When you look at the broader picture, think about all the businesses a tourist may touch. In some communities, the local gas station can be one of the biggest ambassadors for the community if they are provided with the right information.

Are all businesses helpful when someone needs assistance? Unfortunately people do have unplanned events when they travel – they get sick, their car breaks down, or their glasses may break. Does the staff at those businesses have the knowledge they need about the community to help put a vacation back on track? Does the staff at the traditional tourism businesses of lodging and dining know where to direct people to get assistance if they need it?

Additional information on tourism resources is available through the Michigan State University Extension tourism webpage.

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