The Caribbean urgently needs to focus on training its people as it promotes itself as the destination that offers unparalleled levels of customer service and memorable experiences.
Bahamian tourism director Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, who also serves as deputy chair of the Caribbean Hotel Association Charitable Trust (CHACT), said there are common beliefs that only people with inferior levels of education have to stoop to delivering quality service, and that with a bit of training anyone can deliver quality service as well as any expert.
“Both of these beliefs are harmful to our making any significant improvements in service quality,” said Vanderpool-Wallace, who said “it ain`t so much the things we don`t know that hurts us, it`s the things we know that just ain`t so!”
Vanderpool-Wallace, who along with Barbadian hotelier Ralph Taylor has been at the forefront of efforts to market the region as a single destination, said marketing is just part of the equation that fosters sustainable tourism development.
“Training, and the capacity to deliver effective training, is the real skill set that we need to have in much greater supply in the Caribbean. I see little evidence of our recognizing this need and acting urgently to provide it. On the contrary, there are many people who run away from this requirement,” he said.
In his native Bahamas, quality service is defined as “anticipating the needs of our customers and providing for those needs before they ask for it, or before they even know that they want it”. The tourism director said that, contrary to common belief, quality service is really as much a mental as a manual exercise. “It has as much to do with what we do as how we do it. Doing the wrong and insignificant perfectly is as useless as doing the right things poorly. That is why those who consider the act of delivering quality service as infra dig misunderstand the real source of quality service. At the end of the day, it is the cerebral among us that deliver the best service because they are constantly thinking about and anticipating the needs of our customers,” he said.
The Caribbean tourism executive said the region needs to focus more on the service aspects of hospitality in the school system. “Throughout our lives in secondary schools (high school), there is little emphasis on personality, service, initiative, energy and many of the other features that our economies require for continued success. We persist in delivering and developing those skills that de-emphasize many of the very traits that we seek when the graduates approach our doors for employment. Personality is a highly valued skill in the tourism business. There is no CXC or SAT in personality,” he said.
As deputy chairman of CHACT, Vanderpool-Wallace has represented the public sector in the development of the Caribbean`s multi-million dollar campaign to market and promote the Caribbean as a single destination. The Trust, a successful a public/private sector alliance, unites major hotel chains, airlines and credit card companies with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, and with both CARICOM (Caribbean Community) and non-CARICOM nations.