Keeping up appearances

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If you build it, they will come, goes the old bromide from the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams.” But, truth be told, simply building it just isn’t good enough.

And that’s brings us to this province’s tourism industry.

Newfoundland and Labrador is blessed with beautifully rugged scenery and open-hearted people. When you live here, you sometimes forget the wonderment of seeing a majestic sea stack for the first time or watching whales breach in the sparkling blue Atlantic; hearing the sad lament of a fog horn or watching an iceberg suddenly flip with a thunderous crash, rending itself into a million pieces.

We have all of this and plenty more besides. It’s what draws people here and makes them return again and again.

Still, we have to offer them more than sounds and scenery.

People want a nice place to stay and decent food to eat and good service. Quite simply, they want quality.

And on the tourism front, we aren’t always consistent.

Yes, we have warm hospitality, great restaurants, world-class hotels and B&Bs. Yet there are times when we let our end down; when the service we provide is not what was promised, and those sorts of negative experiences tend to stick with tourists.

Make no mistake about it, our award-winning provincial government tourism ads are bringing folks here.

As one example, establishments in Trinity were booked full to the brim last week, with people from all over the planet enjoying the heritage houses, refreshing salt air, creative crafts and locally inspired cuisine.

But trigger mitts and fish cakes are not sufficient. When people spend their money to book a place to stay, they expect it to be in top condition. Peeling paint, dented walls and creaking floors just don’t cut it.

Nor do eateries where there simply aren’t enough staff to serve meals in a timely fashion or who are not well-informed about the food and drink they are offering.

And this is not a reference to Trinity — which has many excellent places to stay and to dine — but is a gentle reminder to tourism operators in general.

We are competing with the world for tourism dollars, and first impressions matter.

There is no excuse for a thriving establishment to look down-at-heel when demand is as high as it is has been this summer.

It’s great to see so many businesses booming, especially since our tourism season is all too often cut short by bad weather. And, as we know from calls and emails and letters to the editor, tourist feedback is often quite positive.

Still, every now and again you need to invest money back into what you are offering, and replace those threadbare carpets, stained sinks and outdated curtains.

Those things get noticed, just as surely as the spectacular sunsets over the sea, the scent of the salty breeze and the tangy delight of a bakeapple tart.

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Skeptical Cynic
    August 15, 2012 - 06:58

    However, as per usual, with his grim, pessimistic cynical assessments David has again hit the nail right on the head - outside the St. John's urban areas the quality service deteriorates from generally good/fair to poor/downright appalling with scattered pockets of fair/good. Remember Patrick O'Flaherty's visitors guide to NL "Come Near At Your Peril"? The title was most appropriate.

  • David
    August 14, 2012 - 09:23

    The campaign brings people here, and then they're on their own. It is more a credit to the mood and good-natured spirit of many tourists that they enjoy their experience in rural Newfoundland. Very few Newfoundlanders have the first clue about travelling, tourism, people's expectations, or customer service. We do not have a 'world-class' anything....that word has been beaten into just a vaccous provincial tagline. Skating by on our fabled 'hospitality' is a very tired old crutch. All people expect service, they expect quality, they expect value for money. And someday soon, at least one travel writer is going to write a piece that reveals that the emperor has very little to wear. And when that happens, it will be too late to fix.

    • David the depressant
      August 14, 2012 - 12:06

      Wait, David is about to say something. Probably something insightful, maybe inspiring or wise. No, just some more of our local Newfie Negative Nancy.