It’s better for business to be nice than naughty

Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016 8:21 PM
Bob Kunkle

It is the season for tales of Christmastime, so here is mine.

Remember the Disney character old Scrooge McDuck, the penny-pinching, most rotten, rich man in town? Well, he was as sour as a grapefruit and had no feelings for others. Then Scrooge is haunted by his former business partner Jacob Marley and the three spirits of Christmas who remind him about his selfish behavior and his dreadful future, unless he changes his ways.

Scrooge wakes up with a new attitude and begins spreading happiness, gratitude and his money all over town.

Did you know that when people are feeling happy, they become more willing to open their pocketbooks? Yes, and the same can be said about visitors in cities that capture their hearts. When visitors are delighted with their travel experience in a particular town, they spend considerably more during their stay than the average traveler, according to the first-ever J.D. Power 2016 Destination Experience Satisfaction Study. (JD Power is the research firm that promotes itself as the “voice of the consumer.”)

The study assessed customer vacation experiences based on six factors: activities and attractions; cost and fees; food and beverage; community infrastructure; lodging; and travel/arrival experiences.

The report finds that, on average, visitors spend $1,169 on a trip, or $301 per day. However, visitors who are especially delighted with their experience (rating their overall satisfaction a 10 out of 10) spend, on average, $1,446, or 24 percent more than average. Those who are either indifferent (6 or 7) or disappointed (5 or lower) spend nearly $250 less per trip than average – a full 37 percent difference in spending between delighted and disappointed.

Moreover, while visitors spend more when they have a great experience, they’re also more satisfied with the value they receive for their expenditure, making the investment in delivering an outstanding and memorable visitor experience one that can really pay off. And isn’t that what hospitality is all about – treating people as you would like to be treated if your family was on vacation.

Another key finding was that visitors often view cities as more than just a place to visit; they develop a strong emotional connection. A community that delivers a warm welcoming feeling quickly makes people feel comfortable, which begins a wonderful chain reaction – that is, comfort breeds preference, and preference breeds loyalty. What good are happy customers, if they never come back? True marketing success is building life-long, loyal customers who return again and again.

So what makes travelers happy and what captures the hearts of visitors here in Durango? Visitor happiness starts with basic respect and empathy for the customers’ trust and time. It takes a lot to pack up a family and conquer the challenges of travel. After that, it’s a community’s attitude of friendliness, warmth and helpfulness that puts the icing on the cake. Durango is a tough a place to be a Scrooge. Merry Christmas to all. Bob Kunkel is executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.