Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd (TTAL) CEO Louis Lewis has said the association will embark on a major hospitality initiative early next year aimed at improving customer service on the island.
He made the announcement on Friday while addressing 55 graduates of the Heartfelt Guest Care To Welcome The World initiative at the Coco Reef Hotel, Crown Point.
The initiative, created by Virgin Holidays, was sponsored by the TTAL, Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association and Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Education Foundation.
During the one-day interactive session, participants were exposed to various components of the hospitality industry using best practices from the Caribbean and further afield.
In his address, Lewis said the extensive training exercise will include workers in all aspects of the tourism chain, including those stationed at points of entry.
"We will be bringing in the immigration officers because it has to be a country effort," he said.
"As long as that chain is broken anywhere, negatives spread much faster than positives. So, we want to ensure that the circle is complete."
Lewis said tourism is not just about guests staying in hotels.
"People have to interact throughout the economy and if we leave any point untouched, the unfortunate thing is that that is where our reputation is going to be created."
Lewis said tourism in Tobago is not a joke but the island's lifeline.
"This is what is going to bring us that foreign exchange that we are looking for. This is what is going to create the employment in areas that are untouched for the time being. This is what is going to transform the assets that we have into revenue and it does not happen unless you have proper service delivery."
To this end, Lewis regarded the initiative as timely given the agency's mandate to boost Tobago's tourist sector.
He said during the agency's first year of operation, the focus was on rebranding.
"But now we have to bring that brand to life, and bringing that brand to life is not just about graphics and images. It is about how we get the service to go, as the tag line says, Beyond Ordinary."
Lewis told the participants: "Make no mistake, and I am sure you would have learnt it in your proceedings that service is what distinguishes a destination from the competition. We are the champions of creating a memorable experience and you have this one opportunity to make that impact."
Lewis also told them while guests may never return to Tobago after an initial visit, "those guests become the ambassadors of your future and that is why we have to ensure that we stand above the rest.
"We will always have a Nylon Pool that nobody else has and we will always have the best rainforest. But how do we make that experience to create for that person who has probably spent $1,000 to get here, how do you make them work on our behalf?"
Speaking after the ceremony, participant Stephanie Gunn, an attendant at Rex Starfish Tobago Resort, Courlan Bay, told Newsday Tobago she agreed with Lewis that immigration workers must be included in the training exercise.
She said: "That is really significant due to the fact that, yes, we are at the hotels, however, the first contact for the guests when it is they do travel is the immigration officers and at the moment we have a really, really, huge problem with that in terms of the greeting."
Gunn added the training must be carried out throughout the island.
"They must show that you care for each other so that the love can be felt throughout the service."
She described the programme as excellent.
"It was really mind-blowing. We had a lot of things to actually learn, things that we, for ourselves, took for granted."
She added: "What we got to understand is what our guests actually go through for each journey – the voyage from when they start from home up until they actually get at the resort.
"What we came up with is stress, stress, stress and they are ready to de-stress when they get to the resort."
Gunn said hospitality workers must provide the guests with comfort, "a de-stress moment whereby they could just relax and enjoy their vacation."
Gunn said the participants learnt they must treat guests with love and respect.
"When you greet them, don't just do it as a service but actually extend love to them. Show them that you care for them."