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

UPDATE – The SMARTOUR Tool is now online and covers this topic if you want to learn more 

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/

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The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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

UPDATE – The SMARTOUR Tool is now online and covers this topic if you want to learn more 

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/

SMARTOUR logo

The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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.

UPDATE – The SMARTOUR Tool is now online and covers this topic if you want to learn more 

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/

SMARTOUR logo

The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.”

Training and the hospitality industry – don’t get left on the platform !

The UK hospitality industry contributed an estimated £57 billion to UK GDP in 2014’ (BHA 2015) and still, in my opinion, we can’t seem to be able to train our employees. Is training too expensive, does it take too much time or is it due to our industry’s high staff turnover. When an employee is recruited and gets their ticket isn’t that a guarantee to training?

I was working behind a bar once and I asked an employee to cut a lemon (I was making a gin and tonic). The employee came back and had literally cut the lemon in half! Lesson learnt – communicate precisely and don’t assume that they know what you know! Just because someone is on the train it doesn’t mean they know where they’re going. All employees need training; it makes them feel part valued and part of a team and in turn we’re getting the best out of them. Investing in someone could mean a simple five minute lesson on till procedures or a full day of health and safety.

I often compare the hospitality industry to the music industry. Many people think they can sing- but how many can actually sell records? Many people think they can work in our industry but how many people can be motivated and passionate about their customers and team during the first hour and the 13th hour of a shift? Employees are predominately practical people and this is why on the job training works. Training should be a continuous activity throughout an employee’s journey. Training on the job is about observing others and doing, it doesn’t always have to be formal and structured.

Our service industries are essential; not only to the economy but also to communities, commercial business and relationships! We create opportunities for people to dress up, meet up, relax and enjoy whether it’s latte or lobster! Each service is unique and our employees create that uniqueness to achieve a stand-alone experience that someone will keep coming back for. But we can’t create those experiences without truly investing in our people.

Training is just like being on a busy train – once you have your ticket you have to fight your way to the front to get trained and a seat. You know the journey is going to be long- so let’s make it comfortable. It doesn’t matter if your train isn’t on the fastest or direct route what matters is that you’re heading for the right destination!

train picture

By Tonia Barrett

UPDATE – The SMARTOUR Tool is now online and covers this topic if you want to learn more 

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

Reference -The British Hospitality Association (2015) The Economic contribution of the UK hospitality industry. A report prepared by Oxford Economics for the British Hospitality Association. [Online]

Useful links

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

Twitter @tourismsu   #SMARTOUR

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

SMARTOUR logo

The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Project PERFECT and the University of Twente Purchasing Conference

The PERFECT Project, funded by the ERASMUS+ scheme, is developing a pan-European harmonised higher education curriculum for Purchasing and Supply Management (PSM). The Project is Coordinated by Dortmund University of Technology (Germany), and Staffordshire University are working alongside the Universities of Mainz (Germany), Twente (Netherlands) and Lappeenranta (Finland). Regular partner meetings bring together representatives from the different institutions to discuss progress on the different parts of the project and ensure that the outputs of the project are timely and meet the diverse needs of the potential audience for the curriculum.

Members of the PERFECT team recently conducted a series of interviews with individuals at a wide variety of European companies in order to develop understanding of what skills and knowledge are required by PSM practitioners now and in the future. The University of Twente is currently developing a questionnaire to broaden this understanding. This work will inform the development of a robust and industry-focused curriculum that can be used by educational institutions across Europe and also inform in-house training for companies.Project PERFECT Team at University of Twente

Last week Dr Steve Kelly and Tom Ward were at the University of Twente in the Netherlands for a project transnational meeting at which representatives from all the partners were present. The meeting ended with the participants joining the annual University of Twente Purchasing Conference (UTPC), hosted by Professor Dr habil. Holger Schiele. Steve was delighted to be invited give the keynote address to an audience of practitioners, students and academics. In addition, other members of the project team delivered a workshop based on the findings of the project so far. The UTPC was organised by the students of the University of Twente who had designed a superb day, full of a variety of interesting talks and interactive workshops, and a great opportunity for networking. The participants found the work of the PERFECT project interesting and stimulating, and the workshop has opened up further opportunities for collaboration between industry and academia.Project Perfect logo

EU flag Erasmus+ logo

The creation of these resources has been (partially) funded by the Erasmus+ grant programme of the European Union under grant number 2015-1-DE01-KA203-002174. Neither the European Commission nor the project’s national funding agency DAAD are responsible for the content or liable for any losses or damage resulting from the use of these resources.

For further details of the project go to http://www.perfect.lfo.tu-dortmund.de/.

Contact Steve at stephen.kelly@staffs.ac.uk and Tom at t.ward@staffs.ac.uk.

Event – Tourism Management the ‘Smart’ Way 17th May

SMARTOUR logo

UPDATE – The SMARTOUR Tool is now online ! 

 

Do you have staff that would benefit from some training? Maybe you would like to develop some knowledge in a new area such as social media or service quality? Would you like to strengthen your links in your region?

We carried out an international survey with managers and staff in the tourism industry to identify the topics that the tourism industry wanted to produce a set of learning materials, workshops and an online training tool. On the day, we will also demonstrate the online tool that has been developed so that after the event you or your staff can do the training at a time that is suitable for you.

Come along to this FREE event to network, update your skills and learn about future opportunities.

Venue: Ashley Building, Staffordshire University, Leek Road, Stoke on Trent, ST4 2DF

Schedule

9.00 Registration (teas and coffees) LT111/3

9.30 Introduction and welcome Prof Jon Fairburn

9.50 – 11.00 Workshops

Workshop 1 –– Managing service quality in tourism – Carol Southall and Tonia Barrett LT14

Workshop 2 – Saving money on your energy costs – Neil Packer LT 111/113

Workshop 3 – SMARTOUR Online learning tool – Prof Jon Fairburn and Tom Ward LT 12

Workshop 4 – Food for thought – Tom Pridmore LT11

11.00 – 11.15 Time to register for online tool or network

11.15  Promoting and sustaining your business with Ron Lawrence owner of Colton House, Lichfield and Gillian Thomson from the Green Tourism Awards LT111/113

12.15 Lunch LT111/113 and LT 115 if needed

1.00 Close

Please register on the link https://smartour.eventbrite.co.uk if you have any queries about registration please contact Tom Ward t.ward@staffs.ac.uk or 01782 294902

About the presenters

Ron and Gay Lawrence have won many tourism awards including Green Tourism Gold Awards and Gold Tourism Awards from Enjoy Staffordshire and Visit England. Colton House is a luxury 5* Gold rated B&B, with awards for breakfasts and dinners from VE and the AA. Colton House is the highest rated accommodation provider in Staffordshire, with the facilities of a boutique country house hotel. www.coltonhouse.com  Tel: 01889578580

Prof Jon Fairburn leads the SMARTOUR project, teaches on the MSc Digital Marketing Management and runs the No1 twitter account for Business Schools in the world (according to Edurank) @BusinessStaffs

Carol Southall is a senior lecturer and the Award Leader for Tourism Management courses at the University she has also worked extensively in the tourism industry over the last 20 years. @cdesouthall

Tonya Barrett has previously worked in the tourism and hospitality industry and current lectures at Staffordshire University

Neil Packer is a Senior Lecturer in Engineering he has previously worked in the private sector and public sector on energy issues before joining the University.

Tom Pridmore has worked in the tourism industry for over 30 years. He is currently a Ribble Valley Tourism Officer and a director of TEAP Associates and a leading member of the Tourism Management Institute 

If you are a member of a professional organisation then attendance should count as 4 hours CPD accreditation (more details to follow soon)

Useful links

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