Many destinations suffer under the misapprehension that once a visitor has been attracted to an area, the job is complete and that economic benefits will flow. Destinations need to be mindful that attracting the visitor is only the start of the satisfaction process. When the visitor arrives on your doorstep it is vital that the area delivers and exceeds the promises made through marketing. Failure to deliver on the promise will severely reduce repeat visitation and could result in the spreading of negative publicity.
It is often quoted that if a business can sustain a 5% improvement in customer retention its profits could double within five years. The lifetime value of a highly satisfied visitor is often years of return visits, increased expenditure, increased length of stay, and highly positive word of mouth.
Major determinants of visitor satisfaction include:
- The welcoming nature of the community,
- The quality and attitude of tourism providers,
- Good quality infrastructure, especially roads, signage, toilets, recreation areas etc.,
- Information provision, such as visitor information centers, information bays, electronic kiosks.
The sense of ‘welcome’ displayed by business people and residents contributes significantly to a positive impression. Destinations where the tourism plan also embraces the needs and opinion of the resident community usually display a more positive attitude towards visitors. Negativity and conflict usually arises when residents feel that their local community is becoming overrun by visitors, for the economic benefit of only a few. A campaign to show the much wider benefits of visitors on local communities could be considered.
The commitment of tourism operators to upgrade their skills and those of their staff play a major role in building a healthy attitude and excellence of service. Unfortunately, commitment to training and professional development is usually a low priority among tourism operators, and even among many tourism industry organizations. The incorporation of regular training sessions on relevant topics should be part of the networking role of local and regional tourism organizations.