It’s a little bit carrot, and a little more stick — and the aim is to try and bring more professionalism to this province’s tourism operators.
Tourism operators across the province are being nudged towards the province’s new Tourism Assurance Program (TAP), with webinars explaining the minimum standards that they’ll have to live up to — and that, frankly, most tourists already have a right to expect.
It’s being explained like this: “TAP involves five common minimum standards that are aimed at promoting tourism organizations that provide quality travel experiences and assist tourism services and attractions improve the way they operate.”
The carrot? Happier tourists mean more visits and more money.
The stick? Those who don’t live up to the new standards may find themselves disappearing from sight, at least as far as marketing is concerned.
“Beginning in 2014, these standards must be met in order for tourism attractions and services to participate in provincial marketing and development initiatives (including listing your festival/series in the province's tourism guide and on its tourism website, and participating in provincially organized familiarization tours) and to participate in marketing/membership activities with your regional destination management organization,” TAP webinar organizers warn.
The five requirements seem straightforward enough.
• The ability to communicate and receive messages from customers by telephone, email and an online presence; and, at a minimum, accept credit and/or debit card payment and respond to inquiries on a daily basis.
• Possess and maintain valid licences, permits and all other regulatory requirements to operate.
• Maintain current and sufficient levels of liability insurance. Proof of insurance to be provided upon request.
• Must deliver actual experiences or services being promoted and/or offered to the consumer.
• Must be in good standing with Tourism Assurance Plan’s complaints procedure.
Getting tourists to this province is half the battle, and one that the province’s award-winning tourism advertising is delivering on.
The other half of the battle is getting those same tourists to come back or, at a bare minimum, tell their friends and colleagues about the wonderful times they’ve had here. Guests expect minimum standards to be met; they have legitimate expectations about receiving value for their money. The TAP standards sound like basic common business sense — the fact that they are having to be forced on tourism operators with something close to a threat indicates we have problems that have yet to be solved.
We have a broad range of tourism operators in this province, operating at a broad range of levels of experience and sophistication — basically, ranging from top-level professionals down to something close to hobbyists. The bottom end of the spectrum has to improve, if for no other reason than to keep from poisoning the well for everyone else.
When one of the five minimum standards is that you actually deliver the services you’re offering, you have to admit the bar is set pretty low. But it’s a start.