Tourism: large scale funding opportunities

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” Aldous Huxley

In my opinion Aldous Huxley is correct when he said that tourism is a way to learn and get about other countries. In fact, tourism is a major economic activity in the European Union with wide-ranging impact on economic growth, employment, and social development. A demonstration that in Europe there is a lot to learn!!

Tourism has been recognised as a powerful tool in fighting economic decline and unemployment. Nevertheless the tourism sector faces a series of challenges. These are due not only to the classic economic issues Europe faces nowadays. The fact is that tourism is a very diversified economic activity and it encompasses a great variety of sectors and sub-sectors.

Culture, Sport, Food and Beverage, Industry, Agriculture, Arts&Crafts, Blue economy are just a few topics which can be collected under tourism umbrella. What about the opportunities in this sector?

What is out there for tourism businesses and services providers?

The European Union sets a series of funding scheme which can help tourism and its sub-sector to develop and growth.

Here we will analyse some of them which might be interesting. For a full information you can check this publication: EU FUNDING FOR THE TOURISM SECTOR 2014-2020

 

EUROPEAN FUND FOR STRATEGIC INVESTMENTS

Any type of useful transaction or investment for the development of legitimate (SMEs) activities. Everywhere in the EU, including cross-border projects (no geographic quotas).

 

EUROPEAN REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT FUND

These programmes may for instance support:
– Tourism-related research, technological development and innovation, including service
innovation and clusters (tourism service incubators, living labs, demonstration projects)

– The development of tourism-related ICT products (apps, data mining)

– The development of innovative tourism services, in particular in less favoured and peripheral regions with underdeveloped industrial structures and strongly dependent on tourism (new business models, exploitation of new ideas)

– The development of high value added products and services in niche markets (health tourism, tourism for seniors, cultural and ecotourism, gastronomy tourism, sports tourism, etc.) by mobilising specific local resources and therefore contributing to smart regional specialisation

– Clustering activities among different tourism industries as well as with creative industries, to diversify regional tourism products and extend the tourism season (e.g. in the nautical and boating tourism industry, as well as for the cruise industry).

– Activities connecting the coastal regions to the hinterland for more integrated regional
development

– Measures to improve energy efficiency and renewable energy use among tourism SMEs

– The protection, promotion and development of natural and cultural tourism assets and related services

– Small-scale cultural and sustainable tourism infrastructure

– Measures in favour of entrepreneurship, self-employment and business creation as well as the internationalisation of tourism SMEs and clusters

– Vocational training, skills upgrading

 

EUROPEAN SOCIAL FUND

ESF is providing grants. All projects have to be co-financed, with a maximum EU contribution of 50% to 85% (95% in exceptional cases) of the total project costs depending on the relative wealth of the region (“More developed regions”, “Transitions regions” or “Less developed regions”). The level of funding varies widely, depending of the project and the Operational Programme. Examples listed below range from EUR 50.000 to EUR 3 million.

EUROPEAN AGRICULTURE FUND FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT

– Vocational training and skills acquisition actions (courses, workshops, coaching for instance on how to develop rural tourism), demonstration activities and information actions

– Advisory services to help farmers, forest holders, other land managers and SMEs in rural areas to improve their economic performance

– Business start-up aid as well as investments for non-agricultural activities in rural areas (rural accommodation, shops, restaurants, guided tours)

– Drawing up and updating of plans for the development of municipalities and villages in rural areas

– Investments for public use in recreational infrastructure, tourist information and small scale tourism infrastructure

– Studies and investments associated with the maintenance, restoration and upgrading of the cultural and natural heritage of villages, rural landscapes and high nature value sites, including

– Related socio-economic aspects, as well as environmental awareness actions
co-operation involving at least two entities (creation of clusters and networks; co-operation
among small operators in organising joint work processes and sharing facilities and resources and for the development and/or marketing of tourism services relating to rural tourism)

 

EUROPEAN MARITIME AND FISHERIES FUND

– Studies
– Projects, including test projects and cooperation projects
– Conferences, seminars, fora and workshops

Public information and sharing best practice, awareness raising campaigns and associated communication and dissemination activities such as publicity campaigns, events, the development and maintenance of websites, stakeholder platforms;

– Professional training, life-long learning and the acquisition of new professional skills enabling professionals of the fisheries sector or their life partners to enter into tourism activities or to carry out complementary activities in the field of tourism.

 

LIFE

– Pilot projects assess the effectiveness of a method/approach that is new or has been used in a different (geographical, ecological, socio-economic) context; they compare its results with those produced by best practices, in order to determine if the method should be tested on a larger scale (i.e. in a demonstration project) and inform stakeholders

– Demonstration projects test and evaluate a method/approach that is new or has been used in a different context; they inform other stakeholders of the results and, where appropriate, encourage them to apply these methods/approaches

– Best practice projects apply appropriate, cost-effective and state-of-the-art techniques,
methods and approaches taking into account the specific context of the project

– Information, awareness and dissemination projects related to one of the priority areas.

 

HORIZON 2020

LEIT & REFLECTIVE. For “Research & Innovation Actions”, grants for projects typically lasting 36 to 48 months, with an average EU contribution of € 2 to 5 million over that period. The grant may cover 100% of the total eligible costs. For “Innovation Actions”, grants for projects typically lasting 30 to 36 months, with an average EU contribution of € 2 to 5 million over that period. The grant may cover 100% of the total eligible costs for non-profit organisations and 70% maximum for profit-making entities (companies …). For “Coordination and Support Actions”, grants for projects typically lasting 12 to 30 months and an average EU contribution of € 500.000 to 2 million over that period. The grant covers 100% of the total eligible costs.

SME INSTRUMENT. For feasibility assessment, grants of € 50.000 (lump sum) with a typical duration of 6 months, covering maximum 70 % of total cost of the project. For innovation development & demonstration projects, grants of € 500.000 to 2,5 million (indicative range), with a typical duration of 1 to 2 years, covering 70 % of total cost of the project as a general rule). As for risk finance, this instrument allows financial intermediaries to offer SMEs better loans, guarantees or counter-guarantees as well as hybrid, mezzanine or equity finance.

 

COSME

TOURISM ACTION PLAN

Some of the Tourism Action Plan’s objectives are pursued through calls for Proposals and calls for tenders open to the tourism sector. These may concern, among other things:

– The development and/or promotion of sustainable transnational thematic tourism products (linked, for instance, European routes dedicated to specific aspects of our cultural and industrial heritage, cycling trails, eco-tourism, maritime and sub-aquatic areas, etc.).

– The development and/or promotion of niche products exploiting synergies between tourism and creative industries at European level (e.g. European Route around high-end products)

– Transnational public and private partnerships developing tourism products targeting specific age groups (e.g. seniors and youth) to increase tourism flows between European countries during the low and medium seasons

– Capacity building schemes for “accessible tourism” (i.e. to all, regardless of their physical limitations, disabilities or age) whereby destination managers, entrepreneurs, can learn from experienced and successful ‘accessible’ operators, create synergies with other operators along the supply chain, explore new market opportunities and way to make business.

 

CREATIVE EUROPE PROGRAMME

TRANSNATIONAL COOPERATION PROJECTS
The “Culture sub-programme” funds transnational activities within and outside of the EU, aimed at developing, creating, producing, disseminating and preserving goods and services which embody cultural, artistic or other creative expressions. This encompasses activities to develop skills, competences and know-how, including how to adapt to digital technologies; to test new business and management models; to organise international cultural activities, such as touring events, exhibitions, exchanges and festivals; as well as to stimulate interest in, and improve access to, European cultural and creative works. The programme will not support projects including pornographic or racist material or advocating violence.

EUROPEAN NETWORKS
The “Culture sub-programme” supports European networks (i.e. structured groups of organisations) that strengthen the capacity of the cultural and creative sectors to operate transnationally and internationally, adapt to change and promote innovation. A limited number of networks with broad coverage will be supported across a balanced range of sectors. Greater synergies between existing networks are welcomed in order to reinforce their organisational and financial structure and avoid duplication of efforts.

EUROPEAN CAPITALS OF CULTURE
The title of “European Capital of Culture” is awarded each year to one city in two Member States, according to a chronological list of eligible Member States set for 2020-2033 (Croatia and Ireland in 2020; Romania and Greece in 2021 …). These cities have to create a cultural programme specifically for that year. The “Culture sub-programme” supports the implementation of this programme which has to highlight the richness and diversity of European cultures and the features they share, as well as to promote greater understanding between European citizens.

 

ERASMUS+

– Learning opportunities for individuals through Mobility Projects for Higher Education Students and Staff, a loan guarantee scheme to help Master’s degree students financing their studies abroad and Mobility Projects for VET Learners and Staff (Vocational Education and Training)

– Cooperation between educational institutions, businesses, local and regional authorities and NGOs, mainly through Joint Master Degrees (i.e. high-level integrated international study programmes of 60, 90 or 120 ECTS); Strategic Partnerships (allowing organisations from different socio-economic sectors to develop and disseminate, among other things, innovative practices leading to high quality teaching, – training, learning and youth work); Knowledge Alliances (a/ to develop innovative and multidisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning; b/ to stimulate entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial skills among teaching staff and workers; c/ to facilitate the exchange, flow and co-creation of knowledge between higher education and enterprises); and Sector Skills Alliances (to design and deliver joint vocational training programmes and teaching / training methodologies, with particular focus on work-based learning, providing learners with the skills required by the labour market);

– Not-for profit European sport events encouraging participation in sport and physical activity.

 

Antonella Tozzi, Project Manager at Eurocrea Merchant SRL

About me: https://www.linkedin.com/in/antonella-tozzi-7ab49645

 

Useful links

Project website – http://www.smartourproject.eu/ includes links to our online training tool and events in England and Italy

Twitter @tourismsu   #SMARTOUR

Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/smartourproject/

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Seasonality pressures and the tourism industry

During the high season, service inconsistency and reduced levels of customer satisfaction can be experienced.

Getting the right products in the right place at the right time is crucial in the holiday season. Holiday stress can be felt by the accommodation industry as the holiday season places pressure on getting it right where a large proportion of revenue is earned in a very short time.

The tourism industry is characterised by tight capacity in the high season, affected by competition from favourable commissions and loyalty discounts offered to customers by the large chains, rising fuel prices, rising import prices in general, a shortage of quality seasonal workers and currently inflation rising above earnings growth. All of these factors place pressure on profitability and sustainability.

During the seasons, the industry is impacted by competition from favourable commissions and loyalty discounts offered to customers by the large quality standardised chains such as Marriott, Starwood and Intercontinental.  These large scale providers agree commissions with popular travel websites such as Expedia to favourably promote their services. In addition, the large scale accommodation providers retain customers by the use of attractive loyalty schemes across the world. This competition can make it difficult for Small and Medium size Enterprises (SMEs) to survive.

However, it is believed that SMEs have better scope for creativity and have a special identity where there is no need for standardisation of brand guidelines that lack local relevance. Customers are savvy and are often willing to shop around for a unique experience.  Knowledge of and adoption of the role of points of local interest in tourism can provide a personal experience. Additional extras that do not focus on price such as local excursions, local food and drink, complimentary services such as spa facilities and free wi fi can help to satisfy customers and retain them.  In order to combat fierce competition from the large scale accommodation providers, a number of SMEs have joined forces with consortiums like for example the Leading Hotels of the World and the Small Luxury Hotels of the World groups to benefit from marketing economies of scale where search engine optimisation plays a role in sustainability of bookings.

Brexit has heightened the problem of obtaining quality seasonal workers as the number of people entering employment in the UK faces decline. This in turn puts pressure on the demand for higher wages and sinks into profit margins. The fall in the value of the pound following the announcement of Brexit is a factor which has led to inflationary pressures due to increased import prices and we now face a situation where price rises are above earnings growth; thus resulting in a turbulent business environment.

So, how can capacity challenges be met during the holiday season and during such an uneasy economic period?

  • Forecast key events and seasonal events and how to resource them.
  • Start online promotions early as this will attract customers in advance, create positive cash flow, enable the business to invest and enable the business to accurately anticipate demand.
  • Recruit staff with the ability to multi task as this will lower overall staff costs and enable customer needs to be more effectively met during the peak season.
  • Invest in staff by training them so waste is keep to a minimum, cost savings are made and customers remain satisfied. Encourage staff to take holiday during the low season.
  • Invest in facilities so that customers are not disappointed by out of date or poorly maintained provision. Refurbish in the low season when there is less demand on resources and during the low season take idle accommodation out of use to conserve.
  • Make use of lean production management principles to include developing long term strategies with suppliers. Just In Time (JIT) techniques gained momentum in businesses over the past decade based on having close relationships with suppliers where supplies are delivered at the moment they are needed, reducing waste and adding value.  Reducing the levels of stock can prevent waste if items are not needed or if tastes change. It also helps cash flow and limits the cost of warehousing and insurance.

Unneeded staff, unneeded processing steps, non-value adding activity should be removed to ensure maximum efficiency. In advocating lean production principles, a focus on quality and continuous improvement is needed; increased responsibility in employee roles in involving staff in decision making is integral.  If products are quality assured before reaching the customer by dedicated employees, then customer satisfaction should be fulfilled. Employees can also be encouraged to take a full part in evaluating the need for improvement whilst tasks are completed.

  • Be energy efficient – see energy training module: www.smartourproject.eu
  • Make use of market segmentation with identification of niche markets including markets with local relevance to maximise revenue where concentration on the needs of such a market can bring competitive gains. Promoting the benefits of low season which include promotional pricing, reduced congestion and quieter relaxation to target markets such as the older generation or empty nesters that are not limited to taking a break during school holidays can be beneficial in controlling demand.
  • Concentration on customer relationship marketing by actively listening to customers, closely meeting their needs and taking action where there is customer dissatisfaction should lead to repeat business.

Coping with seasonal fluctuations in demand presents challenging decision making. Smartour has been developed to provide an insight into these challenges with training modules and an opportunity to share in developing sustainable tourism:  www.smartourproject.eu

By Vicki Disley, Newcastle under Lyme College

 

Useful links

Project website – http://www.smartourproject.eu/ and links to our online training tool and events across England and Italy

Twitter @tourismsu   #SMARTOUR

Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/smartourproject/

SMARTOUR logo

Teaching and Learning: International Cooperation

The Business School has been working with a number of international partners to support their efforts to upgrade the curricula and enhance the teaching and learning experience of their students for many years now. We have had partners in most Central and South East European countries as well as the Middle East. The Teaching and Learning Conference on 20 June provides an opportunity to invite some of our current partners to join us for a day of activities to consolidate the work we have been doing over the year.

Teaching and Learning has always been the focus of attention of our partners mainly because of the contrast between the traditional ‘talk and chalk’ approach, which had been common in almost all our partner universities, and the modern student centred learning or other alternative approaches. The idea of having students sit on different tables in one classroom, doing different activities baffled some of our visiting colleagues (I am sure it still baffles some colleagues in this country). Assessment in any form other than oral exams was dismissed as not sufficiently rigorous and not appropriate at university level.  Group work, presentation, poster making and other methods of assessing students’ work was treated as not serious.

However, over the years, as the relationship with Western universities developed and EU funded programmes aimed at reforming, restructuring and upgrading the higher education systems and studies were implemented, the university environment and attitudes changed too. The change agents were the younger, Western educated lecturers who gradually entered the higher education sector and began to use methods which they had been exposed to during their time at Western universities. In the meantime, the student numbers had soared too. Students had become very choosy and, being technologically more savvy than their teachers, they could access advanced knowledge and information easier than their professors.  Professors, therefore, had to change their attitudes and raise their games to meet the challenges of a larger number of demanding students and modern technology.

Staffordshire University played an important part in the transformation of the teaching and learning approaches in many partner universities, especially in Albania, Croatia, Kosovo and Macedonia. While working with universities in these countries to upgrade their study programmes and enhance the capabilities of their teaching staff, we also trained a large number of their younger staff on our MBA and MSc/PhD in Economics. Almost all of these young graduates have returned to their universities and are contributing to the training of the next generation of economics and business students. Over the years, around 150 young scholars completed Masters and PhDs at SU, constituting a critical mass of knowledge and skill in the region and in some universities. They have been instrumental in bringing new teaching and learning methods to their universities, something that has been particularly appreciated by students.

Currently we have two EU-funded projects working with 11 universities in Kosovo and Albania. Both projects involve supporting their teaching and learning practices and improving their curricula with the aim of embedding employability skills in the syllabi of different courses. We have hosted a range of staff (from Rectors and Deans to senior professors and new lecturers) and introduced them to the Staffordshire Graduate programme and how it is evolving in different schools – and they are very interested in this programme particularly because they face high levels of graduate unemployment in their countries. Some of our colleagues have also participated in either teaching or running seminars for staff on curriculum development activities. Dr Jana Fiserova from the School of Business, Leadership and Economics, Dr Mohammad Hasan from the School of Computing and Digital Technologies, and myself, for example, were recently engaged in these activities in Kosovo.

In the week beginning 19 June, we will be hosting young lecturers from three universities in Kosovo (University of Prishtina, Riinvest College, University of Business and Technology) and two universities in Albania (University of Tirana and Agricultural University of Tirana). Among other activities, they will be participating in the Teaching and Learning Conference on 20 June. They will be interested to learn about our efforts to improve students’ learning experience by using innovative methods, new technology and a variety of assessment methods that encourage student engagement with the subject and with the graduate attributes. They will also share with us their experience of a different group of students and different teaching environment. In some of these universities, staff have to deal with hundreds of students on their modules and, therefore, are eager to find out how we deal with large classes and how they can adopt some of these methods in their settings. At the same time, their experience of working in universities (and countries) with greater resource constraints would also be of interest to our colleagues.

We look forward to the exchange of ideas on 20 June.

Professor Iraj Hashi

School of Business, Leadership and Economics

Join our new Staffordshire University Business School LinkedIn page!

 

EU Tourism Quality principles

Unhappy customers that are not listened to, untrained staff that are unable to complete tasks, poor cleanliness, poorly maintained accommodation, staff that lack knowledge of the local area, inability to communicate with the accommodation provider in a common language……

The EU Tourism Quality principles are a much needed approach in promoting consistent standards in tourism for accommodation providers across the EU and for them to be sustainable as a result.  The standards  should be of particular benefit to the sustainability of Small and Medium size Enterprises (SMEs)where frequently the larger accommodation chains  have standardised a quality that has become acceptable to customers.

However the standards are only voluntary and were introduced  in 2014 when the EU Commission proposed a set of European Tourism Quality Principles to ensure tourists travelling within the EU get value for money.

The principles, if acted upon and promoted should provide a confidence to customers when booking accommodation in terms of customers being listened to with actions enthusiastically taken to improve the customer experience, helping language barriers to be removed, training of staff in maintaining standards of service, ensuring standards of cleanliness and maintenance.

Providing information and making use of local amenities and points of special interest that the larger conglomerates often lack in their aspiration for a standard corporate look should give SMEs a competitive edge.

To find out more about how to implement these standards and share in developing sustainable tourism see www.smartourproject.eu

By Vicki Disley Newcastle under Lyme College

 

If you are interested in service quality  issues as a manager or want some service quality training yourself then sign up to our FREE half day event on 17th May at Staffordshire University

Useful links

Project website – http://www.smartourproject.eu/

Twitter @tourismsu   #SMARTOUR

Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/smartourproject/

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A Good Education – The Art of Employability

Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world” but what is education? There are many definitions.  One is that from Albert Einstein whilst often misquoted said something paraphrased as “Education is what remains after everything you have ever learned has been forgotten”.

So … we appear to be grappling with something that could be construed as quite intangible and more art form rather than science.  But what exactly is it that remains and how can we look to build and harness it?

Uppermost in many students’ minds given the ever rising costs within higher education is the prospect of ‘employability’.  There has therefore been an increasing trend to characterising employability through the use of simple algorithms and whilst not scientific they are very a very useful tool as a focus & guide to good education.  As such they are appearing more frequently in use at both schools and universities and there have been a number of different versions of varying complexity.  For example, one version is:

 

E = Q + E +(C x N)2

Where:         E = Overall Employability

Q = Qualification

E = Experience

C = Competency

N = Networks

If E is an individual overall employability potential, then first is Q – the qualification or the level of attainment.  Qualifications might ordinarily be related to a particular discipline or subject area specialism and hence knowledge based e.g. “what do you know now that you didn’t know before?”  The second E is experience – not necessarily always work related but can be life experiences such as travel or particular activity from which an individual has learned and benefitted.  The third C is competency.  This is not so much about “what do you know?” but more about “what can you do?”   Competency can be defined as the ability to apply a skill.  A simple example might be a presentation skill.  This becomes a powerful competency if an individual can apply that skill to present in a variety of different circumstances e.g. small or large audiences, subordinate, peer group or superordinate etc.  Last but by no means least is N for networks.  The old saying “it’s not what you know but who you know” rings increasingly true – especially with the growth of digital technology and increasing access to the plethora of social media channels which are now an intrinsic part of many peoples lives.  Networks have never been so accessible and extensive.  Never overlook networks in pursuit of employability in which there are powerful stakeholders.     Many key positions are filled by those who prudently develop and operate through networks.

The particular importance of competency (C) and networks (N) is recognised in this algorithm by identifying them as a product raised to the power 2 or squared.  The impact and hence contribution to employability is therefore significantly enhanced.

Putting it all together and building both competency & networks around a solid base of knowledge and experience begins to shape how by adopting this particular algorithm, the education process could seek to tick all the boxes.  Emphasis may well be different for different courses of study but the point is the need to be conscious & consider how each factor might be embedded in both teaching and assessment.

The conclusion might then be that the powerful weapon alluded to by Nelson Mandela and the concept of good education being what remains after all is forgotten alluded to by Albert Einstein could well be employability.  Those receiving a good education should evolve to become truly employable and effective in whatever context employment in life is eventually pursued.

Andy Hirst

Senior Lecturer – Business School

Stress Management at work: It’s complicated

Work can be good for psychological well-being but ‘poor’ psychosocial working conditions (things like excessive workloads, constant change, or unsupportive management) have well-established links to work-related stress and the development of distressing mental and physical health problems.  Estimates suggest that around one-third of workers experience chronic work stress and a recent evaluation of the government’s ‘Fit Note’ shows mild-to-moderate mental health problems were the leading cause of long-term sickness absence.  The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence calculate that employers who take a proactive approach to dealing with this, based on prevention and early identification of problems, could save approximately £250,000 per 1,000 employees, each year.

However, employers may be attracted to off-the-peg solutions such as ‘resilience’ training or employee assistance programmes, that attempt to or improve ‘coping’ ability or deal with the symptoms.  Now, these could be beneficial, but unless organisations are also dealing with the sources of work-related stress, research suggests that – on their own – such solutions are likely to be ineffective in the long-term.  Yet, despite the logic of ‘prevention is better than cure’, research evidence for preventative approaches to work-related stress is surprisingly inconsistent.  Why?  Having spent the last few years researching this very topic, I have to say that it’s far from simple.

The main sources of ‘stress’ in each workplace will depend on the people, the jobs, and organisation, among many other things, so any preventative intervention must be tailored to the needs of each setting.  Before taking action, employers need to understand what is most problematic for their employees; the Health and Safety Executive recommend starting the process with a stress-risk assessment to help identify and target the most relevant risks.  Because solutions should be tailored, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer, it can be difficult to compare the evidence for different kinds of preventative stress-management approaches.  However, based on research evidence and the findings from my own large-scale research study in a public sector organisation, there are some useful general lessons that any employer should keep in mind before starting out.

  • Communication: Ensure employees know what you are planning and why. Set realistic expectations, because disappointment can lead to cynicism; on a related note…
  • Coordination and follow-up: make sure there is someone with a clear responsibility for ongoing monitoring of progress of agreed project actions. There are few things likely to deflate enthusiasm and momentum more than unfulfilled promises.
  • Questionnaires: these can be a quick and easy way of getting an overview of potential issues and tracking progress, but tick-box surveys are simply not enough on their own. At the very least, they should also allow employees to provide comments, but this is still fairly limited. The Health and Safety Executive also recommend the use of focus groups to ensure staff have an opportunity to have some real input into the process.  This can help employers get a fuller understanding of what the real issues are, but it also has a further crucial benefit…
  • Employee involvement: prioritise identifying ways of involving staff in the selection and development of possible solutions. A consistent finding from the research is that employees should have involvement in the process; having a say, and crucially, having their views acknowledged and – where appropriate – acted on, are all associated with more successful outcomes.  Staff need to feel that any employee consultation or participation is meaningful; where input is invited, ensure these are followed-up and fed-back in a timely fashion, even (or especially) when it is not possible to implement them.

This is just a snapshot of a complex process and these lessons don’t guarantee success, but paying attention to them can certainly give you a much better chance.

John Hudson

Lecturer in Human Resource Management & Organisational Behaviour

School of Business, Leadership and Economics Pride Awards Night

On the 30th March, final year Events Management students Josh Lonsdale, Tom Gater and Lorna Wilde organised and hosted the first (and hopefully not the last) Business, Leadership and Economics Pride Awards evening. Staff and students in the School were asked to vote for nominations in various categories and the event was part of their final year project module.

The evening started with a buffet and bucks fizz and Lorna performing a wonderful selection of songs. We were all blown away with her brilliant singing voice and professional delivery. Isabelle Clarke was master of ceremonies and Lorna, Josh and Tom presented the awards.

The event was for both staff and students celebrating their contribution and impact they have on the School and University. It was held in one of the School’s rooms in Ashley
decorated by the students. As Josh said “it was great to see staff and student support each other hand in hand about the great achievements we had within the school” and It has been a pleasure as final year Event Management students to put on an event that gets to showcase how many talented staff and students are in the school. We hope that this event will be continued by the school and we hope that the other schools may take the initiative to host a similar awards ceremony.”

The evening ended with Lorna again singing, this time ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ and ‘On My Own’ from Les Miserables especially for Carol and Angela. There was not a dry eye in the house – at least from Carol, Angela and me!

  

The winners of the awards were:

Exceeding Expectations Award

Given to a student who has gone above and beyond during their time here at the Staffordshire university Business School.

Dee  Rahmat

Commitment to Excellence Award

Awarded to a staff member who consistently and proactively help raise the reputation of not only the Business school but also Staffordshire University.

Karl McCormack

Outstanding Leadership Award

Awarded to staff members who lead students and or staff to achieve improved results across the Business school but also Staffordshire University.

Alison Maguire

Student Honours List

Awarded to students who have had a positive impact on Staffordshire University and the Business School throughout their studies.

The Hult Team, Daniel Griffiths, Danielle Nugent , George Balshaw and Sarah Wright

Future Leader Award

Awarded to a student who encompasses of the Staffordshire Graduate Attributes.

Henry Greentree.

Community Partnership Award 

Awarded to a member of staff who with the community while maintaining a positive image of the Business School at Staffordshire University.

Carol Southall

Exceptional Contribution Award

Awarded to a member of staff who has contributed to not just the business school but Staffordshire university for several amount years

Anni Hollins

Future Leader Award

Awarded to a member of staff who has developed an original and contemporary assessment with positive feedback

Angela Lawerence

Written by Anne Harbisher

How to sustain word-of-mouth advertising, the holy grail of marketing?

Staffordshire University is a proud regional university which is important to the local community, contributes to the local economy and society, and cooperates with local businesses. Indeed, we use our expertise to help businesses grow; by using sound research we can support practice by theory to help businesses make well-informed strategic decisions.

We are so committed to create a strong and sustainable relationship between industry and academia that we not only make our undergraduate and taught postgraduate curriculum practice-based, but we even have special doctoral programmes that are designed to contribute to the body of knowledge as well as to practice. Professional doctorates, as they generally referred to, are a great example of the relevance and importance of applied research (i.e. research that seeks to solve a real-life problem).

Doctor of Business Administration

Andrew Stephenson joined the Doctor of Business Administration programme when he was the Human Resource Director at DFS, a UK leading sofa manufacturer. DFS, like many firms all over the world adopted the Net Promoter System (NPS), a customer loyalty metric which was introduced by Frederick Reichheld in his paper ‘The one number you need to grow’, published in 2003 by the Harvard Business Review. The NPS is determined by asking customers one question, “How likely is it that you would recommend [brand] to a friend or colleague?”. Customers are asked to record their answer on a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 representing ‘not likely at all’ and 10 being ‘extremely likely’. Respondents are categorised in three groups – detractors (0-6), passives (7-8) and promoters (9-10). The Net Promoter Score is then determined by subtracting the proportion of detractors from the proportion of promoters. It is not surprising that NPS quickly gained popularity with management in many industries; the measure is very simple to calculate, it has face validity and intuitive appeal to managers and other stakeholders, and it is a comparable metric that companies seek to include in their reports. DFS was no exception and thus decided to start collecting information from their customers, including the ‘magic’ question.

 
Both DFS and Staffordshire University soon realised the potential of establishing a collaborative relationship on this project and the benefits such collaboration would bring to both institutions. Staffordshire University would be able to contribute to a success of a business through research; academics working on the project would use it to contribute to the University’s Research Excellence Framework submission; students would benefit from having their learning supported by practice-based cutting edge research. DFS on the other hand, would get answers to the numerous questions that needed answering so that they could drive their company forward. This led to DFS providing Staffordshire University with access to a large data set of responses to customer satisfaction surveys.

We have now cleaned up the data and set it up for econometric analysis which is already yielding some very interesting results that will not only contribute to the existing body of knowledge on NPS but also directly to industry practice. One of the aims of the project was to determine what drives customer propensity to recommend a brand. We used factor analysis to reduce the large number of survey questions to a manageable number of explanatory variables which we then used in a logistic regression model to determine what influences the likelihood of a customer becoming a promoter.

The most important factors have been identified to be satisfaction with product quality and sales experience, and the ability of the company to exceed customers’ expectations. Therefore if businesses get their product right, implement basic sales techniques to deliver great sales experience, and exceed customers’ expectations, customers will reward them with glowing recommendations which in turn will attract more promoters, creating a multiplier effect which will sustain the word-of-mouth advertising, the holy grail of marketing.

I am very excited to be a part of this project where cutting-edge industry practices meet cutting-edge research; where theory meets practice; where outputs of robust econometrical analysis are interpreted in business context and applied to make well-informed strategic decisions; and I very much look forward to discovering the endless possibilities and opportunities this project will bring.

By Dr Jana Fiserova

So how can Snapchat be worth over $20 billion?

Snap Inc, the parent company behind the disappearing images app Snapchat, has just floated on the New York Stock Exchange at $21.44 per share valuing the company at around $20 billion (yes, billion, not million dollars), making the founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy multi-billionaires. Not bad when you are not yet thirty.

Snap Inc’s shares jumped over 40% in early trading at the beginning of March, valuing the company at some $28 billion but a week later after some profit-taking by investors, dropped back 10%. So what, you might say, but Snapchat despite having 160 million daily users managed to lose $372 million in 2015 and over $500 million in 2016. Its trading loss 2016 was even more than its turnover, which takes some doing. It has never made a profit.To put Snapchat’s valuation into perspective, the company is now valued at more than the combined market valuations of established (and profitable) retailers Next, and Sainsbury’s. Is this all social media hype or will Snapchat become the “new” Facebook, currently valued at $393 billion, three times its valuation when it first became a public company in 2012. Snapchat has a long way to go – Facebook’s turnover in 2016 was $28 billion, some 70 times those of the “upstart” Snapchat.

Optimists will argue that share valuations are all about future, not past, profitability but, of course, the future is uncertain and Snapchat, which is only accessible by mobile phone, faces many challenges to justify such a massive valuation. When Twitter floated in 2013, it projected massive growth and plans to sell adverts to its large user base but three years on it is deep in the red and its share price has collapsed.

Snapchat’s unique selling proposition is that it is seen as “cool” and having 160 million daily users, up 48% on the previous year, is certainly impressive. But can Snapchat turn this mainly young and perhaps fickle audience into profitable customers generating substantial advertising revenue as successfully as the now-mainstream players, Google and Facebook? Can it compete with and emulate these big boys who have very deep pockets – particularly its more direct competitor Facebook, who own both Instagram and WhatsApp – or will it end up like the now-forgotten MySpace and Tumblr?

Only time will tell.

Paul Hammett BA, FCMA, FCMI, PGCHPE

Senior Lecturer

School of Business, Leadership and Economics at Staffordshire University

Service Quality in Tourism – The Road Less Travelled?

BY Carol Southall – Award Leader for Tourism Management 

It is often purported that customer service is common sense. After all we know how to look after people; we know how to deliver good customer service. There are however two questions here, if we ‘know’ then how do organisations get it so wrong, and if it is common sense, why isn’t everybody delivering? In 2009 only 19% of visitors to Britain felt extremely welcome and whilst perceptions have improved significantly since 2009, Britain still ranks only 12th out of 50 Nations for welcome (Anholt Nations Brand Index in Visit Britain, 2017). Making visitors feel welcome however, is fundamental to customer service and enhances perceptions of service quality.

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, the pursuit of quality is an organisational imperative, regardless of industry sector, and yet the attainment of quality is increasingly difficult, not least because of the difficulties in reconciling different perceptions of quality. Organisations offering similar products and services are increasingly forced to review their quality of service, as it is often the only differentiating factor between organisations. Thus, the challenge for organisations is to enhance the overall experience to such an extent that customers, both prospective and current, will become and remain loyal.

Happy customers are more likely to be loyal and generate repeat business

Within the service sector and more specifically the tourism industry there is the additional problem of the temporal, spatial and fragmented nature of the industry. It is also characterised by inseparability, in that customers are part of the product, and further complicated by the nature of the intercultural encounter in tourism. Tourism organisations that realise the benefits of enhancing the cultural awareness of both their staff and customers in order to facilitate the service exchange, are more likely to retain the loyal custom so essential for businesses to survive. Additionally organisations that take into account cultural differences when gleaning feedback from customers are most likely to have a strategic advantage over those organisations that do not.

service

Customers of tourism services now require a range of services at times and in places convenient to themselves. The challenge for tourism organisations today, of providing a flexible, convenient and appropriate service, has never been greater. In today’s highly competitive tourism market, those organisations that fail to continuously meet and exceed customer expectations will be unlikely to survive in an industry highly dependent on repeat business and loyal customers. It is impossible to meet customer expectations without firstly ascertaining those expectations (Zeithaml, Parasuraman and Berry, 1990) and customer feedback has become a vital tool in the identification of customer needs, satisfaction and expectations (Crotts and Erdmann, 2000; Zeithaml, Parasuraman and Berry, 1990). Knowing what customers want makes it far easier to meet and even exceed their expectations.

The tourism industry, by its very nature, involves a very high degree of employee-customer interaction and consequently facilitating that interaction in order to enable as smooth a process as possible must be the prerogative of every tourism organisation. The opportunities for service failures to occur within such an interactive context are high and dissatisfied customers frequently switch between service providers in order to gain satisfaction. The highly competitive marketplace within which tourism organisations operate makes it very easy for customers to change allegiance very quickly if they feel dissatisfied. The tourism industry may be considered as the sum of its interactive and interdependent parts, and thus consistency in quality is even more difficult to attain.

If you are interested in service quality  issues as a manager or want some service quality training yourself then sign up to our FREE half day event on 17th May at Staffordshire University

Useful links

Project website – http://www.smartourproject.eu/

Twitter @tourismsu   #SMARTOUR

Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/smartourproject/

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