In a competitive global tourism arena, Barbados cannot afford to deliver bad customer service which could result in a massive blow to the island’s tourism product.
This warning came from Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner, parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Tourism as she delivered opening remarks at the ministry’s Inter-Secondary Schools Annual Speech Competition where the winner was titled 2014 Junior Minister of Tourism at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
In recent times, there has been a growing trend of mediocre customer service being experienced by locals and visitors alike across the island, particularly in the areas of courteousness, attention to detail and commercial urgency.
A recent visitor focus group facilitated by the Ministry of Tourism revealed that the service in Barbados was inconsistent and varied as some establishments were truly outstanding when it came to great customer service, whereas others were simply unsatisfactory.
“It is noted that in this changing and competitive global tourism arena there is also a demand for a higher level of customer service. Our level of customer service delivery is often far from acceptable when compared to other destinations and unfortunately these negative attitudes and behaviour can prove to be detrimental to a small destination such as ours,” she said.
The parliamentary secretary also indicated that one bad report on social media from a visitor who experienced bad customer service could go viral and cause a massive blow to the local sector that is vital to the island’s economy.
The competition focussed on questions related to accessible tourism and customer service in the tourism sector which Senator Sandiford-Garner said were of high importance to the island’s current tourism agenda for all stakeholders and had been addressed in policy development through the white paper on the development of tourism in Barbados 2012.
She said that “Barbados is not doing too badly at all when it comes to being an accessible destination” and gave an example of a disabled cousin who commended the island for its accessible provisions for the disabled when she visited the island from the United States last December.
“She said that we do better when it comes to accessibility than her hometown in Pennsylvania. So we have done very well. We shouldn’t rest on our laurels but if we can have somebody comparing us to Pennsylvania, I think that we have done pretty well for a small island state.
“By making the tourism experience on offer in Barbados accessible to all, everyone benefits,” she said.
She made reference to a 2009 formed partnership between the Ministry and the Barbados Council for the Disabled under their Fully Accessible Barbados (FAB) programme which was established to promote the island as one working towards an all inclusive society and destination.
“The continued success of our Barbados tourism industry is heavily dependent on the development of a cadre of hospitable motivated, creative, technologically competent young people who will be the leaders, managers, planners and developers of the tourism industry in the near future.”
Speaking about the future, 16 students from the islands secondary schools participated in the speech competition.
Sixteen-year-old Janae Kellman from The St Michael School won the competition after she impressed the judges with her five keys plan to improve customer service in the tourism sector.
During a well delivered speech, the fifth former’s five keys included fast service, follow-ups, friendly employees, focus and freshen up. The participants were also judged in a mystery tourism topic segment where they were asked to answer a question about marketing the island’s tourism product.
The new Junior Minister of Tourism has been awarded the opportunity to represent Barbados at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) Youth Congress in October, a tablet, a $300 gift certificate, a Staycation and a three-week summer internship within the ministry, among other prizes.
Jermaine Als from Harrison College placed second, while Miracle Ann King from Deighton Griffith took third position, both receiving certificate and prizes for their accomplishments.