Walking the Welcome for Group Travel – by Stuart Render
We all like a nice welcome.
Whether we’re checking in to an hotel, or arriving at the ticket desk at a visitor attraction, a smiling face and an appropriate choice of words makes all the difference.
It doesn’t happen all the time of course. How often have you been met with that immortal phrase: “Can I help you?”
There’s a huge temptation to respond by saying: “No thanks, I’m standing here just for the fun of it.”
Of course, that would be churlish, and in the case of hotel reception staff, a firm guarantee that your allocated room will have a spectacular view of the bins.
But with tourism suppliers working harder than ever to attract and retain business, delivering a first class meet and greet has never been more important.
Over the last few years I’ve travelled on a fair few coach tours. Arriving at a hotel or attraction I always aim to be one of the last in the group to leave the coach.
While the courier, driver or guide at the front of the group is likely to receive a warm welcome, I’m keen to see how that welcome is maintained, right through to me, at the back.
Each and every member of a group is a customer of course, and each deserves the same, warm welcome. Sadly, it doesn’t always happen.
Hotels will often give the room keys to the courier or coach driver who then returns to the coach to hand them out. This makes sense, as it eliminates the need for the passengers to queue at the reception desk. But what happens when you make your way into the hotel? Is the hotel team there to say hello, and to meet and greet you as a valued customer?
More often than not the answer is no. The room keys have been issued, and the team have now moved on to other tasks.
There are exceptions. On the return leg of a recent coach tour to Italy I stayed in a Novotel in north east France. The welcome couldn’t have been better. Three members of the hotel team, all smartly dressed, and proffering a welcome drink, made sure that each member of our group received the same attention.
Visitor attractions can be just as guilty when it comes to recognising that each member of a group should be treated as an individual customer. One attraction that gets it right is Woburn Abbey and Gardens. The dedicated groups team there not only delivers a meet and greet, but also a ‘wave away’ at the end of the visit.
None of this is rocket science, and it doesn’t require too much additional effort to get it right. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, those hotels, attractions and suppliers that step up to the plate will be noticed. Those that don’t will also be noticed!
If you’re responsible for the meet and greet where you work, take a moment to walk the welcome. And do watch out for the last person in the group. It might be me!
Stuart Render FCIPR MTS
Stuart runs Stuart Render Tourism, an independent consultancy supporting the coach tourism industry with a mix of bespoke consultancy, writing, PR and media relations services. Formerly editor of coach tourism trade magazine Coach Monthly, chairman of judges at the National Coach Tourism Awards, and a Board member of the Coach Tourism Council , Stuart is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and a Member of The Tourism Society. His early career saw him in senior public relations roles working for travel and transport organisations including FirstGroup and National Express.