Skills key at top Fylde tourism summit

Skills and customer service were the key topics of a tourism summit
Skills and customer service were the key topics of a tourism summit
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Fylde tourism businesses need to improve the customer experience, boost staff skills and get their message out to attract more visitors, according to a leisure summit.

Businesses from across Lancashire met to discuss a range of issues at the fourth annual Lancashire Leisure and Tourism Roundtable, organised by Blackpool accountancy and business advisory firm Moore and Smalley.

Sector bosses said that improving the skills and knowledge of those working in the sector was key to improving customer service.

They believe the county also has to show its tourism offering is about more than just the seaside and that tapping into growing markets like cycling could also bring more people to the county, in a similar way to how the Tour de France has boosted Yorkshire.

Speaking at the event, Jane Kelly, marketing and business development manager at Sandcastle 
Waterpark in Blackpool, said: “Customer service is at the heart of the tourism industry. We have introduced ‘World Host’, a training scheme to improve guest services which came over from Canada following the Olympic Games. It is the best customer service course we’ve ever run. A quarter of our trade is repeat business that we attribute purely to good customer service.”

Claire Smith, president of StayBlackpool, said: “We sometimes struggle with staff having a lack of skills. The qualifications some of them have mean very little, they just don’t know what we need them to know. Maths and English skills of staff are poor and some can’t respond to an e-mail enquiry properly. We’re training them and this gives them confidence but more has to be done.”

The event heard how Marketing Lancashire, the county’s destination marketing organisation, is working together with the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership which has made tourism a priority sector.

Anna Izza, of Marketing Lancashire, said: “Many overseas visitors coming to England stick to London and the south. The new Northern Futures fund aims to bring more visitors in through the northern gateways like Manchester Airport or the port of Hull and to encourage them to stay in the north. Canada, northern Europe and the US are potentially lucrative markets and we need to ensure we pull together itineraries with ‘standout’ that appeal to their specific tastes and meet their individual needs.”

Other issues discussed at the event included funding for investment and upgrades, cutting through red tape, and how the county’s accommodation providers can improve their IT and online marketing skills.

Judith Dugdale, head of the leisure and tourism team at Moore and Smalley, said: “This was another opportunity for some of the region’s leading leisure and tourism businesses to air their views with tourism bosses. The findings of this debate will certainly inform our thinking in our work advising the region’s hospitality operators.”