Happy – or not – Valentine’s Day!

Happy (or maybe not so happy) Valentine’s Day!

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.

Here’s how the hospitality industry can help!

Hospitality Industry Events

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 both provide and sell the hotel’s services

Millennial Traveler: Myth vs. Fact

How Are Millennials Really Different?

Because they spend so much time online we might think we know all about Millennial traveler preferences. Everyone in tourism seems to be focused on attracting the Millennial traveler. They are children of the digital age, born between 1982 and 2004.

Millennial Travel Myths

We do know that these travelers are confident and goal oriented. We know that they view travel as a necessary part of their lifestyle. Not a pleasure to be earned. Because they travel frequently, they are targeted by many in the tourism industry. To successfully attract Millennials you need to understand myth vs. fact.

Myth: All that is needed is social media marketing.

Fact: It is the content, not the media, that gets their attention.

There is nothing new about social media with this group. 97% are already posting their own travel stories online.

What they want is to find travel stories by peers that have a human connection. Over 50% of Millennial travelers were inspired to take their last trip because of something they saw on social media!

Myth: They are online bargain hunting.

Fact: They are online experience hunting.

This group has money to spend if they can be convinced that they will get a personalized experience.

60% of Millennials would rather spend money on an experience than a possession. To them, travel is a social experience and what they want  is to interact both with other travelers and local residents. The lesson learned, sell peer to peer using stories of local experiences.

Question: What stories are sharing online?

Tourism Customer Service

It’s Not the Time in Line: 
It’s the People at the Front of the Line

Tourism customer service: Everyone knows, including the employees, that how you treat your customers is critical. How critical? Here’s an example.

Everyone Hates Standing In Line 

No one enjoys going through security at the airport. You never know how long you are going to have to wait. When a research study at a major airport was conducted of travelers’ views of security procedures it was thought that a shorter length of wait time was the factor that determined customer satisfaction.

The assumption was wrong! Survey research found that the critical factor was how the passenger was treated when they got to the front of the line.

People could forgive the long wait, if they were treated well!

The secret to good customer service is not the technical details, although these should be considered, but the human interaction. The answer seems simple. Tell your employees to shape up and treat people better! Why doesn’t this work?

Why Employees Care

The airport study interviewed employees as to why they had problems interacting with customers. A quote from one employee revealed the answer.


“I will care about what you say, when I believe you care about me.”

If employers don’t treat their employees well, how can they expect their employees to behave differently with guests!

Employees Can’t Help if They Don’t Know

Observation research was also conducted at the airport. Researchers watched employees going about their daily routine. They noticed that as they walked through the airport they avoided eye contact with travelers. Again, it might have been thought that employees were just simply rude.

Not so! When employees were asked, it was found that they avoided contact with passengers because they knew that they would be asked questions for which they did not have answers. After all, why should gate attendants know answers to such questions as, Where is the closest restroom? or Where can I recharge my phone? when they don’t use these services.

Only if employees are given all the information needed, even if it is not immediately relevant to their jobs, can they provide excellent service.

The Answer to Excellent Customer Service

The answer to ensuring good customer service in tourism businesses is to treat employees well and give them all the information they need to serve the public.


Question: Do I know what questions my customers ask to which my employees don’t have answers?

Say Happy New Year with Hongbao

Happy New Year! It’s Not the Same in Every Culture

Many people may think of January 1 as the day to say Happy New Year. This is not true in every culture. The Chinese use a lunar calendar to mark the date, so the day to celebrate will vary. This year on January 28 Chinese will welcome the year of rooster.

Hongbao History

How people will celebrate will also vary. The Chinese distribute red envelopes with cash (hongbao) at New Years and on other days of celebration.


Why red? The story goes way back. Essentially it is based on warding off evil spirits. Also, the color red is associated with energy, happiness and good luck. While learning the reason for a custom is always interesting, it is vital to know the etiquette that is associated with a holiday.

Hongbao Etiquette

The rules for giving hongboa include only using clean crisp bills and making sure the amount is appropriate for the relationship.

Also, remember the symbolism of numbers is important in Chinese culture. Odd amounts are bad, even are good and an amount that starts or ends with the number eight is even better!

When receiving hongbao always use two hands. Don’t open the envelope in front of the giver. Remember to say thanks. Technology now makes the process easier as a virtual hongbao can be sent over WeChat!

Hongbao and Tourism

Why should someone working in tourism be aware of this custom? First, holidays important to employees should be acknowledged.

Second events that fall on cultural holidays should be themed.

Most importantly, any hotel guest should feel that the hotel understands the significance of the day.

Just as an American might feel welcomed in China when on Thanksgiving they see decorations with turkeys, guests from China would feel welcome in the US when they see red decorations on New Years.

Question: How much do we know about the holidays of our international visitors?

Why Go Local?

How Local Do You Go?

With the success of Airbnb every hotelier has been considering how to incorporate the go local experience into their hotel. However, the issue of consistency of experience should not be forgotten. After all, it is the reason that hotel chains were started.

Need for Consistent Experience

The first Holiday Inn hotel in the US was opened in 1952. Within 12 years there were 500 more opened.


Why the success? People had the automobiles and the money to travel (airfares were still far too expensive for the average family). Most existing motels were mom and pop enterprises and there were limited means to research motel quality such as comfort and safety. Unwelcome surprises were not uncommon.

Desire for Local Experience

The hotel chain was preferred because it could provide a consistent quality experience by maintaining uniform standards for all participating hotels. For the traveler, no surprises were good!

Today quality is assumed. It can be quickly determined by looking at reviews. Any hotel that doesn’t have good reviews will have to change or it will not be booked. Now the traveler is looking for more and what they want is the local experience. This trend is affecting hotels at all levels.

Even Five Star Hotels are Going Local

When even the Ritz Carlton has local food trucks you know that going local, which may have started at the farmer’s market, is now mainstream. 

But it is not just local food but local retail. The Roger Smith New York Hotel has contracted for retail pop up shops. People still want a souvenir, but go local is best!

Question: How do balance the need for consistency with the desire for unique experiences?

Click here to access tourism marketing plan worksheets!

Single Traveler vs. Solo Traveler: Do You Know the Difference?

The Single Traveler 

The travel industry use to think single travelers were sad, lonely, and looking for love. They traveled alone because they had no one with whom to travel – a situation they hoped to fix while on the trip! This may have been true in the past but it is not an accurate description of today’s solo traveler.

The New Solo Traveler

According to a Euromonitor International report, in 2015 a review of the holiday industry discovered that one out of three trips taken by British travelers was solo. Why? First, 25 per cent of British adults are unmarried, divorced, or widowed. Second, this group has money to spend and, rather than looking for love, are seeking life-changing experiences. While they want to socialize, this is not the main reason for their trip.

Who are Yuccies?

Many are of these travelers are Yuccies, urban creatives in their 20’s and 30’s. They indulge themselves with premium products, and that includes travel. They enjoy a way of life that blends cultural adventures with the consumption of luxury. 

Rooms and Services for Solos

The tourism industry is responding. Cruise lines use to shun single travelers as a waste of cabin space. Now the major cruise lines, such as Norwegian and polar specialist Quark Expeditions, are introducing single occupancy cabins along with shared spaces for solo travelers to socialize.

In addition, hotels are developing specialty ‘lifestyle’ brands targeted at solo leisure travelers. Marriott’s Moxy and Hyatt’s Centric have a style that is authentic to the local area rather than a corporate feel.

Question: The solo travel is independent but wants connection to the places they visit how are you responding?

Click here to access tourism marketing plan worksheets!

Millennials and Technology always online

Yes, Millennials and Technology Are Inseperable

Looking for a Millennial that is not online daily? According to a global survey on Millennials and technology you will need to look long and hard. Less than one percent do not go online daily either on their phone, tablet or computer.

If Millennials are not using technology to do daily tasks it is probably because the app or site is either unavailable or poorly designed. 

Who is on Their Phones the Most?

Germans have a daily Smartphone use percentage 93.3. This is followed with the British at 92.2 percent, Brazilians at 90.6 and Americans at 89.1 percent. What was surprising was that of all the technology use surveyed, including smartphones, tablets, computers and smartwatches, Japanese Millennials had the smallest percentage of daily use for each.

Hotels and Technology

What are Millennials using this connectivity to do when staying at hotels? Forty six percent book online while less, 20 percent, check in online. Only 12 percent order room service online. The low percentage does not mean that they are not interested in doing so. In fact, online room service menus were the highest ranked request when the survey asked how else hotels could use technology.

Restaurants and Technology

What about restaurants, coffee shops and bars? Thirty nine percent are already ordering their food online for takeout. More, 46 percent, are interested in ordering their food while dining in the restaurant. In the US, 29 percent have paid for a meal online but 44 percent would like to do so. The percentages are similar for other countries with the exception of Japan where only 19 percent of Millennials want to pay online. 

Customer Service Redefined

The use of technology does not mean that Millennials are not interested in the human touch. They are simply redefining service. They want convenience and customization both. They want an app that allows them to check into a hotel, but that will also remember all of their preferences (type of pillow preferred), provide information (weather forecast), and suggest services based on their profile, (spa, workout or both).

Question: How could you personalize the customer service experience using technology for your organization?

Click here to access tourism marketing plan worksheets!

Using Food Tourism to Make Any Experience Unique

Culinary Tourism is Growing in Popularity

While everyone needs to eat while they are traveling, many people make food tourism a part of the experience. They study restaurant reviews and even know the names of famous chefs. In fact, they will travel to destinations just to experience the food. This segment of foodies can be targeted by a city that is known for its culinary scene.

Restaurants can Promote Local Specialties

Not every community has world renowned chefs or an active culinary scene. However, they can still attract foodies by promoting what is local. Food is one tourism experience that cannot be digitized so must be experienced personally and every city or town has some local food or recipe that is unique. Local restaurants should make an effort to incorporate local products and dishes into their menus. Today travelers want to understand the communities they visit and eating the local food is one way to do so.

Food is Part of the Visitor Experience in Vancouver Canada

The destination doesn’t need to be known for fine dining to use food to attract visitors. While it may not be known as a food destination, the city of Vancouver does have a great food truck scene. Food truck tours were developed that take visitors to experience the best of what food trucks offer to local residents.

In addition, any visit experience can be improved with food Other tours were developed to combine both adventure and food. A snowmobile tour is offered through the Canadian mountain wilderness.

But in case they work up an appetite, at the conclusion of the tour visitors are offered a three-course fondue meal in a warm cabin while they listen to live local music.

Questions to Consider:

How can local establishments ensure that at least some of their food and drink are local?

What method can be used to educate those working in tourism about the current interest in local food?

How can food be added to events that do not currently include food?




Click here to access tourism marketing plans!

What Do Families Want When Traveling

Families Want More Than Fun When Traveling

What do families want when traveling? Millennials might think of a missed travel connection or a too rustic hotel room as an adventure. This is not true of families. Families want the logistics taken care of along with a level of quality so the children won’t complain. 

Tourism providers and destinations can successfully target families if they understand what they want.

Marketing to Families 

Family travel is growing. Whether the traditional family of parents and children, extended family, or grandparents and grandchildren, traveling with children can be stressful.

No matter where the trip, families are looking for three factors to be included.

Cultural Awareness

Families know that their children will grow up in an increasingly global world. They want to provide their children with new cultural experiences.

They believe interactions with people from different cultures will help their children to prepare to be successful adults.

Career Inspiration

They want to expose their children to knowledge so that they will be inspired to learn more when they return home.

If they visit an animal preserve, not only may their children pay more attention in biology class, they may be inspired to become a biologist.

Family Bonding

Families have hectic lives. Each parent may have a career plus they have children, each busy with various pursuits.

When they travel they want activities that they can experience together. They want to build memories that their children will take with them into the future.

Questions to Consider

How can a destination be branded as family friendly?

Are there facilities that will need to be improved meet the quality standards of traveling families?

What type of educational activities can be provided for the entire family to enjoy

Click here to access tourism marketing plans!


Handling Tourist Complaints the Korean Way

From a Tourist Industry to Tourist Service

korea-flagIt was only in 2010 that the government of South Korea changed how it categorized tourism from an industry to a service. When tourism was categorized as an industry, the government’s focus was on regulation. When it changed to a service, the government’s role became one focused on nurturing its growth. One issue it had to address in handling tourist complaints.

Traveling in Foreign Country Can Be Confusing

korea-foodForeign tourists to Korea are often unfamiliar with the language, currency and customs of the country. Some merchants and taxi drivers took advantage of their lack of knowledge and overcharged. The visitor might not have realized until later what had happened. When they did, they used social media to let other potential visitors know of their negative experience.

The South Korean Government Acts

The South Korean government was interested in supporting the growth of tourism by addressing this problem. The government decided to act as they wanted Korea to have a reputation as a friendly and helpful country to visit. They developed a website where travelers could report such occurrences and get the issue resolved.

Tourism Service Provider Involvement

korea-businessTourism service providers have also become involved. The tourism businesses responded favorably, supporting the government efforts. In fact, merchants even staged a demonstration with placards reading “No More Rip-Offs”. They understand that if tourism is to grow, they must establish a good relationship with each visitor. Today on the official Korean tourism website, there a place where any tourist can submit a complaint on any “illegal, wrongful or unkind” experience.

Questions to Consider:

question-markIf a visitor feels they have been treated unfairly, to whom can they take their complaint?

How can it be assured that all visitors, no matter from where they have come, are treated with equal respect?

How can service providers be trained to serve visitors from other cultures?