(November 1, 2011)
The Caribbean Tourism Organization’s pilot programme in the Caribbean, HOSPITALITY ASSURED, has been deemed a resounding success by participating tourism businesses and plans are to spread the benefits across the wider Caribbean.
The pilot phase of the programme saw 48 tourism businesses from 7 countries: Barbados, Bahamas, Dominica, Grenada, Tobago, Jamaica and Antigua, take advantage of the funding available from the European Union/PRO€INVEST project and the Organisation of American States and become involved in Hospitality Assured, which helped them improve their business systems and processes, making them more competitive in the regional and international business arena. On September 27, key stakeholders involved in the programme met in Barbados to discuss its value and impact. Attendees at the meeting included representatives from each of the participating countries’ Hotel Associations, Ministries of Tourism or Tourist Boards, as well as assessors and business advisors. There were also a number of tourism business operators who gave presentations on how the programme had positively impacted their business’ operations.
At the meeting Roseanne Myers, General Manager at Atlantis Submarines (Barbados) Inc., spoke emphatically on how the process of becoming Hospitality Assured had a positive effect on staff morale across the board. The company chose to get involved with Hospitality Assured because the certification supported their business mission and offered a structured process for evaluating service excellence, from customer research, to service delivery, and it created a road map for identifying and addressing service gaps. Myers stated “at this time, in the midst of a recession, it provided a focus on service excellence that engaged and excited the staff and focused and motivated the team on a positive set of outcomes”. With the complete buy-in from front line staff to senior management, Atlantis Submarines have impressively accelerated its assessment in just two months.
Also at the review session was Patrick Dankou, General Manager at YES Tourism Ltd, Tobago. YES Tourism Ltd. is one of two tourism organisations currently involved in Hospitality Assured in Tobago, and it was quite clear that the services of the Business Advisor that had been utilised during this pilot phase were invaluable. “Even though we were doing a good job with our customers, by implementing a few simple strategies and measures that we learnt from our advisor, the customer satisfaction went up in a very short time, and it helped me to open a 2nd property without repeating the mistakes of the first one, so that saved me a lot of money” said Dankou. He also emphasised that it really is not about the certificate you get at the end, but the process a business goes through to achieve it and the “benefits that I received in a very short space of time outweighed what I invested, there is no doubt about that”.
The Hospitality Assured certification programme continues to grow from strength to strength with more and more businesses becoming interested and seeking to get involved. All service-oriented businesses, not only tourism, are able to use the Hospitality Assured service quality framework as a business enhancement tool. For example, in the Bahamas, the Chamber of Commerce has been heavily involved in supporting non-tourism businesses to engage in the programme. In Barbados, the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in April has seen the National Initiative for Service Excellence (NISE) support the programme together with the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), which is leading by example and actually going through the process of becoming Hospitality Assured. Sue Springer, Executive Vice-President, BHTA, believed that it was important for the BHTA to also become certified, since it not only added value to the BHTA, but it also allowed the association to have firsthand experience of the programme that they are encouraging tourism businesses to join.
Compared with other business tools such as ISO9000 and Green Globe, the general consensus from all stakeholders was that Hospitality Assured is exactly what businesses needed to continually improve and make them more competitive. Hospitality Assured was seen as working alongside Green Globe and should not be considered a competitor.
The Hospitality Assured certification is owned by the Institute of Hospitality in the U.K. and managed by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) in the Caribbean, with support from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados and the Caricom Regional Organisation for Standards Quality (CROSQ). The standard is widely recognised in the U.K. and the Caribbean is aiming to follow suit. Ann Corrigan, Managing Director, Hospitality Assured and Deputy Chief Executive at the Institute of Hospitality U.K., applauded the CTO for the ground breaking way in which Hospitality Assured has been brought to the Caribbean and how the businesses involved are leading the way and embracing the programme in a relatively short period of time. Businesses having the ability to benchmark against each other is also a big plus for participating companies. CTO will be launching a new campaign to get more countries and businesses involved in the Hospitality Assured programme in order to continue to build a culture of excellence and service quality in tourism businesses across the region, and make Caribbean tourism businesses more competitive internationally.
Participants at the Hospitality Assured Review Session in Barbados on September 27, 2011