Front-desk cluelessness; UK finally discovers tourism
Front-desk cluelessness; UK finally discovers tourism
03 DECEMBER 2018 8:21 AM

Front-desk staff just need to know more, and while after years of hard work and well-honed planning, tourism has been finally recognized by the U.K. government as a sector, thus permitting far more nuanced planning and strategy.

A number of years ago I was in Atlantic City, New Jersey, staying at one of the newly opened hotels in the city’s newly developed district of Renaissance Point.

I was off for a run, and I asked a receptionist what the best route was to the main part of the city, the part along its famous boardwalk.

“It’s too dangerous,” came the reply.

My naïve reasoning is that all the bad guys have been up all night being bad, so at 7 a.m. they are sleeping it all off, so I would be perfectly safe, thank you very much.

Some front-desk staff are very clued in, I should add, just not too many. That’s my experience.

But the disappointment here is that I was not being told any information, not even that I might prefer to use the treadmill in the hotel’s gym (by the way, I would not).

Last week I was staying in an upscale chain hotel in Greenwich, Connecticut, and asked another receptionist to recommend a quaint New England seaside town to visit for breakfast and a walk.

My question was “Apart from Old Greenwich, could you recommend a quaint New England seaside town to visit for breakfast and a walk?”

“Old Greenwich is nice,” came the reply, betraying the poor fact that my question had been only partially listened to.

“Oh, sorry, Stamford then,” came the next response.

Now, Stamford is, I am sure, perfectly nice, but it does not really fulfill my search criteria, and besides it was, I thought, only offered as it is the very next town to Greenwich.

Have your front-desk staff be aware of their area.

All guests have different interests, and front-desk staff should have suggestions—that café that makes its own bread, that newly opened craft-beer spot, that secondhand bookstore, et cetera.

Another thing is that front-desk staff only know distances by how long it takes to drive, not to walk, or run, and I know because I have asked so many times.

First impressions and all that, and so many times I have been left wanting.

However, the staff at the new CitizenM Bowery in New York City I recently stayed in knew everything.

The difference is that they were engaged. I do not want to say staff elsewhere are not curious, but the staff at the CitizenM were passionate enough to want their curiosity and excitement to rub off onto guests, and that for me makes a difference between a stay and an engagement.

The UK has discovered tourism
It has long been the bugbear of many in the United Kingdom hotel and hospitality community that tourism is not officially considered an industry, even though it is one of the country’s biggest ones.

Tourism is wedged into the ministry of digital, culture, media and sport. That makes no sense, even though no doubt it costs a great deal of money to set up and administer a ministry; plus the fact that words such as tourism, hospitality, travel and hotels are not mentioned by name.

All this remains the same today, but good news came in last week that the U.K. government has finally recognized tourism as its own sector, one of only eight to be awarded such a nod.

The government has published the very Orwellian-sounding “modern industrial strategy” and was looking for conclusive arguments from industries that they should be included as “sectors.”

The government’s criteria includes evidence that shows “one voice, clear leadership and a plan for the future” so as to be able to grant chosen industries “a long-term deal for policy, planning and boosting overall competitiveness.”

Such a distinction will allow the industry to have the ear of government on such issues as taxation, employment, training and regional initiatives.

Lobbying organizations such as UKHospitality and the British Tourist Authority have fought hard for this.

The next step is for industry representatives to meet with government civil servants at another ministry, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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