Tashia Burris. Photo courtesy THA
THA Secretary of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Tashia Burris says tourism stakeholders in Germany and other European markets are generally pleased with the standard of customer service in Tobago.
Burris was part of a Tobago delegation, led by Chief Secretary Farley Augustine, which attended the Internationale Tourismus-Borse (ITB) trade show in Berlin, Germany, from March 7-9.
The delegation comprised THA representatives, Tobago Tourism Agency officials and tourism stakeholders.
On the Tobago Updates morning show, Burris said while the experience was an eye-opener in several respects, one thing that stood out for her was the stakeholders’ response to the island’s customer service.
“I am heartened that I have not heard that as one of the challenges coming out. So it means that something is happening right, in terms of us getting that interaction between guests and whoever is working in these sectors, wherever that touch point is, whether it be the hotel, the airport, restaurant, bar, taxi driver,” she said.
“Generally, what Germans are saying is that Tobagonians are very friendly, warm. When they come to the island they feel welcomed, they feel safe. So I am happy to hear that.”
Burris said stakeholders from Sweden and Scandinavia had also said they had very fond memories of Tobago.
She added the island must capitalise on this feedback.
“I think that is something that we have to begin to play on more in some of our marketing. We have to remind them of why they fell in love with Tobago in the first place.”
In August 2021, former chief secretary Ancil Dennis announced a three-year THA initiative to change the service culture on the island.
The first phase of the initiative, led by world-renowned etiquette expert Ron Kaufman, of the Singaporean company Uplifting Service, targeted senior managers and those in leadership roles within the THA and other sectors.
Dennis said, “The intention is to train the entire island, tourism sector operatives and even persons across the public sector, taxi operators, all those involved in any element of service will be trained in customer service.”
Newsday was unable to verify if the initiative has been discontinued.
On the morning show, Burris also identified areas where those in the tourism sector may need to re-strategise.
She said it had been found many stakeholders did not offer breakfast as part of their daily package.
“One of the things that came out is that Germans really love their breakfasts…
“So that if you are targeting the German market, that is one of the things that they distinctly look for. They want to book properties that have breakfast included as part of the package.”
She added Germans also like to immerse themselves in the destinations where they vacation.
“So they don’t need an all-inclusive. They don’t need you to provide lunch, dinner, because they will go out and spend their money, go to restaurants.
Burris said stakeholders must also pay attention to the “nuances” of respective groups of tourists.
She said while Germans like breakfasts and indigenous culture, those from the UK are partial to nature. Swedish tourists, she added, prefer intimate accommodation as opposed to large hotels, and also enjoy beaches and hiking.
Burris said some of the discussions at the ITB were very intense.
“The intention is, post-this engagement at ITB, we have a number of actions in terms of follow-up with different persons we want to further engage to provide different services through the TTA and the THA.”