My local authority tourism department sent me some text to translate last week. Apparently, the town hall has decided to launch an initiative to persuade locals and business owners to recognise the importance of tourism in the area and to act accordingly, by being friendly and welcoming to visitors. In other words, they want them to ramp up the customer services. The text reminds everyone that we have the holiday industry to thank for our high quality of life we enjoy in our town.
I don’t know if this initiative is in response to specific cases of bad attitude, but in my opinion, a campaign of this type is sorely needed, particularly in a small destination like this, where repeat visitors are so important. The communiqué also urges people to share the local culture with holidaymakers, but there are more Indian restaurants in town now than there are rice restaurants, so that may be a bit more difficult!
On my recent trip to Morocco, the Berbers could not have been friendlier or keener to share their local customs, food, music and so on. I do realise that they are hoping to sell something or get a tip a lot of the time, but it was their fun and friendliness that made our trip so enjoyable. Their drumming, singing, dancing, turban tying and other antics persuaded us to buy numerous over-priced scarfs and necklaces! We were willing participants, shouting ‘tagine’ as instructed every time we had a picture taken, like real tourists.
I know that Spain has been through a long financial crisis, but a lot of people I this town have lost this sense of fun, and when you are spending your hard-earned cash on a meal or on some shopping, you can at least expect a little politeness and enthusiasm. People’s “sophistication” seems to be interfering with their ability to join in and have a good time with visitors, becoming participants in their holidays and providing pleasant service with a smile.
Years ago, when I was a holiday rep in Ibiza, I used to take tourists to barbecue nights, shows and other such extravaganzas, where they were dosed with lashings of wine and live music. As their hosts, we were expected to join in with the fun (not the wine), and remember cringing and wondering why I have bothered to get a degree if I was going to earn a living doing the chicken song and the conga.
Now I understand the importance of good customer service and I hope my town does too, because the holidaymakers will go back to places where they have been made to feel welcome. Let’s all be friendly, and see what happens!