The International Traveler: Their Special Needs

By David Benton Vice President and General Manager, The Rittenhouse Hotel | October 28, 2008

The global travel market is one of the fastest and dynamic growth businesses on the planet. Not only are business travelers jetting around the globe attending to, and managing the globalization of commerce, but leisure travel is just as robust as the so-called 'tourists' look for more adventure and uniqueness in their limited free time.

How has the travel and hospitality industry adjusted to meet this insatiable demand for both business and leisure travel?

It was not too long ago, when the majority of business travelers visited London, New York, Paris, Rome, Hong Kong and Washington. Just visit any major airport and read the "Arrivals and Departures" boards to see the myriad of destinations that business travelers are flying in and out of...Surabaya, Yangon, Maputo, Cabinda, Porto Alegre Magnitigorsk... to name but a few of the destinations reachable by air.

Leisure travelers want a more fulfilling experience than going to an amusement park, strolling along a boardwalk or simply soaking up the sun. Climbing Macchu Picchu, diving on an ancient shipwreck in the South China Sea, or taking cooking lessons in a villa in Provence are today, quite typical of the experiences that travelers are looking for to maximize their free time with interesting content.

The enormous expansion of airline routes, cruise destinations and specialty travel operators and agencies has made what was once a dream vacation, become reality, as these travel-related businesses recognize and understand the new needs of the international traveler.

Not only have the transportation options become plentiful together with well-qualified travel specialists to offer expert assistance, but the variety of accommodation options has also multiplied.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.