What Small Towns Can Offer Tourists: Yuma –Agriculture and Military
Convention and Visitor Bureaus may wonder what small towns can offer tourists. They can learn a lot from the example of Yuma, Arizona. How do I know about Yuma? I lived there for one year while I was a visiting professor at Northern Arizona University’s satellite campus. (When I write my life story, it will be the Bonita in the Desert chapter.)
Located in the US near the Mexican border, from early times it was the best place to ford the mighty Colorado River. Of course now there are bridges to cross the river, so why should anyone visit Yuma which is only known for agriculture and military bases, not top visitor attractions? The visitor bureau decided that there were foodies that would want to visit if the right tours were developed.
Agricultural Tours in Yuma
Just want to look? There are farm tours with musical entertainment, lunch and door prizes.
Want to pick? You can visit a farm and pick your own produce to take home with you. After you enjoy a meal using local ingredients prepared by culinary students.
Want to cook it yourself? Local restaurants have culinary classes where you can learn to cook regional specialties.
Yuma could be called the lettuce capital of the world with 350 days of sunshine a year so don’t forget Lettuce Days at the end of February! It includes cooking demonstrations, beer pairing, salad bar tossing and stories by the field hands that make the lettuce growing possible.
Military Tours in Yuma
Yuma is home to the US Army Proving Ground where weaponry is tested. Usually off limits to civilians, special tours have been developed for people who like things that go boom!
Just want to take a look? The At Ease Tour includes a bus tour of the base, visit to the heritage center and a chance to eat at the on base restaurant with military personnel.
Want to see behind the scenes? The tour will also take you to see areas that are usually off-limits to civilians.
So now you know what small towns can offer tourists. Yuma took two industries without direct ties to tourism and packaged them as family friendly visitor experiences.
Airlines have been transporting people for years. For all these years, people have been managing to board an airplane, take a seat and the flight has taken off. What was once considered standard behavior today has become much more complicated.
Now getting on the plane is considered a perk that is to be rewarded or withheld according to the revenue model of the airline.
What is the Reason for New Boarding Models?
Finding a better model for boarding planes can be financially rewarding for airlines. It is estimated that saving 30 to 60 seconds on the time it takes to board a plane can save a significant amount of money for an airline that has thousands a flights a day.
Selling Access to Airline Boarding
But there is a secondary financial motive that developed when airlines started to charge baggage fees. After all there is no need for a passenger to rush to board an airplane to get a seat; if they have a reservation and purchase a ticket they will get a seat.
What impels people to jockey to get ahead in line is the need to get overhead space for their baggage. Since airlines started to charge for checking bags more people are taking their bags on to the airplane.
So, the airlines want to board planes as quickly as possible in an orderly manner while the passengers want to get on as fast as possible. The airlines solution? Give priority boarding to passengers who pay more, have an airline charge card, are frequent flyers or pay for the privilege. It has become so complicated that American Airlines has nine categories for boarding preference.
Oh wait, that would be ten categories if you count the group that is so privileged that it has no number that boards before Group One. What do passengers feel would be the best method? No seems to have asked.
The hotel industry continues to redefine hospitality as society changes. Some of the trends to watch for are co-working, providing experiences beyond the hotel and local means serving locals. All revolve around the concept of hospitality rediscovering its roots. Hospitality is not just about serving the people who need a bed for the night. Hospitality is being redefined as serving all the needs of the guests and reaching out to local residents to also serve their needs.
Co-working Spaces in Hotels
Co-working spaces are of interest to people who work remotely and don’t have a company office. But they are also popular because people like the energy that results from working together. Hotels are responding by adding more communal spaces rather than assuming that people want to work in their rooms.
Experiences Beyond the Hotel
People want local experiences when they stay in a community. Rather than just have a concierge that tells people what to see and do, hotels are starting to create their own experiences that they can then sell to visitors. Local isn’t just using local art for decoration and local food in the kitchen.
Hotels Serving the Locals
While hotels are creating tours to gain more revenue from guests they have traditionally ignored the local community. They may have contributed to local charity. They may also book meeting rooms for local organizations. Now hotels are considering how they can extend hospitality by providing services to the hundreds of business people who work in the buildings around the hotel. This includes use of a hotel room for freshening up before an evening event, use of the gym facilities or package delivery.
Any group that follows a religious belief that prescribes certain behaviors for daily living may have unique needs when traveling. This is true of conservative Muslims that follow halal practices, a set of rules of what is permissible and what is not.
While not every Muslim will feel the need to do so, some want hotels that reflect their beliefs. As a result, there is a growing number of hotels that promote halal tourism.
These hotels do not serve alcohol, serve halal food, have separate recreational facilities for men and women. Other ideas for making conservative Muslims feel at home are providing prayer rugs in the rooms and having staff dress conservatively. Why do so? It is estimated that by 2020 11 per cent of travelers will be conservative Muslims.
Growing Tourist Segment
This is a market segment worth over $200 billion. Turkey already has 40 hotels that cater to this segment. In 2016 the annual conference dedicated to halal tourism attracted attendees from 30 countries including Western countries as the need for such hotels is not just confined to Muslin countries but anywhere a conservative Muslin may wish to go.
Every business in hospitality dreads when customers walk out. A survey was conducted to ask what would make a person walk out of a restaurant, whether it was fast food or fine dining. Customers walk out because of staff unfriendliness, poor quality of food, poor quality of service and, worst of all, lack of cleanliness.
21% of those surveyed said that unfriendly staff attitude was a reason they would walk out. Staff can follow all the correct procedures but if their attitude reveals they don’t care about the customers, it shows.
Poor Food Quality
23% stated that if the quality of the food disappoints they may leave, and certainly won’t be back. People understand that the quality depends on the type or restaurant, but expect the level promised.
Poor Service Quality
26% would leave if the service is poor. This reason is different from unfriendly staff. This has to do with how the service is given and also if the diner is given what they want when it is requested.
Lack of Cleanliness
30% of those surveyed said they would leave if everything from the windows in the front of the restaurant to the restrooms in the back is dirty.
After all, if the restaurant doesn’t keep the places customers see clean, heaven knows what the kitchen looks like!
Before the internet the only way to book a trip was to use a professional travel agency who had the knowledge and the tools to make the airline and hotel reservations. The number of travel agencies peaked in the US in 1997.
However less than half were in business in 2012! What happened? People could find information and book everything online.
Travel Agencies are Back!
Why then are some travel agencies making a comeback? There is now way too much information! Travelers no longer have the time to wade through it all to create their own unique travel experience. The busy Millennial doesn’t have time to do their own taxes, shop for their own groceries or clean their own home. They rely on professionals for these tasks for which they either are not equipped or do not have the time to perform. No is the time for the resurgence of the travel agency!
Called by different brand names, but often referred to as Departure Lounges, the new travel agency looks like a upscale bar and sells craft beer, wine and upscale cocktails.
They also have travel consultants who will take over the task of designing a personalized itinerary. These new travel agencies also hold special nights to learn about travel to exotic locations. Family events are held where children are involved in the planning.
Spending Money on Travel
Does it work? Eighty per cent of clients who come in to meet with a travel consultant end up booking a trip.
The average cost of the trip $10,000! There are no fees for the traveler, but the departure lounges do make money on the high priced drinks they sell. But if you are going to book a $10,000 trip, you are not going to complain about the cost of a drink.
Consumers now have information at their fingertips. Want to know the weather? Any traffic delays ahead? Find the best hotel? All they need to do is check their phone.
Travel Technology Targeting the Travel Experience
Travelers want a personalized experience that meets their lifestyle and activity preferences. This is true whether they are single travelers or families. Cruise companies have responded by adding unique experiences both on and off board that focus on anything from nightlife to environmental issues to volunteer opportunities.
Destination Information Overload
Travelers want to get the most from their cruise experience but don’t want to waste anytime searching, and possibly missing, an event. With today’s huge cruise ships and varied opportunities, how do people know where to go and what to do?
Technology presented the answer with a wearable medallion that is a personal concierge. It allows travelers to know where they are on the ship and help them to navigate to where they want to go. Locate friends and family. Book dinner and spa reservations. Provide virtual experiences of excursions before they are booked. As the software learns the travelers’ preferences it will make customize recommendations of where to go and what to see.
Hospitality organizations know they need to conduct research on what people want. But sometimes the results of a survey differ from what people actually do. For example, a survey was conducted on what amenities people want when they visit a hotel.
A majority of survey respondents stated that fitness was important to them and that they wanted to able to work out while on a trip. So hotels have been busy installing fitness centers, which are costly not just for the initial design and equipment but also the ongoing expense of maintenance.
But Don’t Use Them!
The survey results were that 46 per cent said that they would use the fitness centers. However in reality only 22 per cent of guest use them. The higher end the hotel, the less likely people are to use the equipment even though they said they planned to do so.
Gap Between Research and Reality
This gap between survey results and actual behavior occurred with other amenities. While 66 per cent of guests want free WI-FI, only 42 per cent use it at the hotel. This is true even with bottled water. Fifty six per cent of guests state they would drink it, but only 49 per cent do.
Conduct Observation Research!
The report’s conclusion? That hotels would be better served by observing the guests actually usage behavior than relying on survey results. People do not always act the way they say they are going to do.
A hotel, attraction or event understands that they must have a message that resonates with their targeted visitors. They may spend considerable time researching to get just the right words that describe the benefits they will provide. But what if no one reads the email? Video email may be the answer!
Calls to Action Work!
Potential visitors want information and the hospitality industry makes the request process simple. Calls to action are embedded on websites and social media. It is quick and easy for an interested potential visitor to request an email with more information.
But Emails Aren’t Read
The problem is that even though the information was requested it is not read. Why? First, people are busy. Second, the desire has passed. Third, no one wants to read.
As we have become to increasingly rely on visual communication, people have less patience with the written word. The old saying, that a picture is worth a thousand words has always been true, but now even more so.
Video Email Gets Action
It is known that having the word video in a subject line increases the open rate. The new forms of video email marketing have the video play immediately when the email is clicked.
The reader/viewer can immediately see smiling visitors, beautiful scenery and exciting action!
Valentine’s Day has now gone global. What was once considered just a Western holiday is now celebrated in many countries. How important is Valentine’s Day? A research study in the US found that 53% of women would end a relationship if they did not receive a token of love on the day!
Alone on Valentine’s Day?
However not everyone is involved in a romantic relationship. For these customers, the emphasis on romantic love can be a bit depressing.
Host Special Single Events. But be sure to keep it upbeat! No one wants to come to a pity-party.
Market Self Appreciation: What better day to offer a special offer at a spa! While everyone else is having a romantic dinner, singles can enjoy pampering themselves.
Focus on Others: Have a Valentine’s event that focuses on love of the community. A charity event that provides for those less fortunate can put romantic disappointment in perspective.
Sponsor a Seminar: A talk on goal setting can broaden the single person’s perspective and also provide an opportunity for singles to understand they are not alone.
Never Ask: Are Your Alone?
And, hotel personnel please remember – don’t ask “only one?” or “are you alone?” when a single person approaches! After all, no one asks a couple “only two?” or “aren’t there more of you?” Treat single customers exactly the same as a couple!
International Tourism Strategies is now offering a customized English language and guest relations training program for hotel employees at all levels in providing excellent customer service.
As the hotel industry expands there is a need for trained staff. However, many potential employees need extra help in learning to give excellent customer service.
Working with the hotel I provide a customized program to train hotel staff to understand how to communicate and serve across language and cultural differences. Lessons are based on the vocabulary needed by staff so that they can bothprovide and sell the hotel’s services.