The difference between a great vacation experience and a disappointing one can often come down to a single person – a front desk agent, a river guide, a store clerk or a waiter.
Tourism is hospitality, and hospitality succeeds when service equals expectations. The actions of one individual who goes above and beyond can convert a one-time tourist into a lifetime cheerleader of Durango. As we hit the mid-mark of the 2016 summer tourism season, we want to recognize the front-line staff of every service business in the area.
When a customer interacts with a front-line employee, it’s called the “moment of truth” because it is where expectations are first tested.
Recalling your last vacation to parts unknown reminds you that travel exposes your vulnerabilities. The environment is different from your normal surroundings and you are not in complete control, so what is intended to be relaxing, can become stressful. An unfamiliar environment, temperature and elevation changes, and no local orientation to attractions or even basic services, can make a traveler heavily dependent on the advice and counsel of others. Go here. Try this. You can’t miss it.
Front-line employees have the unique opportunity to lower a vacationer’s anxiety by listening and putting themselves in the situation of the traveler. The typical problems and challenges of travel are not big ones, but they are very big in the moment. The sooner a person feels comfortable in a new environment, the sooner they assimilate, relax and enjoy themselves. It’s true that familiarity breeds comfort, comfort breeds preference, and preference breeds loyalty.
Vacations are a precious investment of limited time and disposable income not to be wasted or taken advantage of by others. More importantly, travelers put their trust, safety, confidence and ego in someone else’s hands. A person will soon forget what we tell them, or what we give them, but they will never forget how we made them feel. Respect and empathy above all else communicates that we value our visitors’ business.
Later this summer, the downtown Welcome Center on the corner of 8th Street and Main Avenue will hit the half-million visitor mark since opening in June 2012. A stream of travelers from every state and many foreign countries step up to our information desks daily at either our downtown location or at Santa Rita Park. Our knowledgeable staff of long-time locals greet people with a smile, make eye contact and speak first to establish a warm welcoming feeling. They distribute maps and brochures, give directions, and most importantly, increase comfort and lower anxiety.
Speaking for the Durango Area Tourism Office and our board of directors, we thank our information staff: Grace, Charlotte, Debi, Cynthia, Claudia, Kim, Kay, Tricia, Karen, Renee, Chris, Melody and Nora. Your work is noticed and appreciated. And thanks to all the other front-line staffers, because for that one moment of truth, You are Durango.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Bob Kunkel is executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.