The following editorial by Airways Chief Executive Ed Sims was published in a recent issue of New Zealand’s Inside Tourism publication.
We do a great job in the tourism industry of celebrating some of our more prominent figures.
The leaders of our major attractions, associations and airlines become household names and are rightly celebrated for the role they play in driving demand, building New Zealand’s economy and creating employment.
That employment number is equally one worth celebrating. More than 110,000 people are directly employed in tourism services, welcoming international and domestic customers like friends, providing the longest-lasting memories of our great country. But how often do we - and think personally here about yourself - really give thought to all of those employed indirectly in tourism?
The industry likes to include all of the 61,000 “indirect” jobs for obvious reasons of scale and political mana. What about their recognition? What about the celebration of their achievements that contribute every bit as much to the safe, efficient and happy flow of our travellers and tourists 365 days of the year, 24 hours of the day?
I have a long-held belief that if any of us want to be successful in the service industry we have to be a great customer ourselves. We have to receive service well if we want to be great at giving it. We can’t authentically lecture the world about our great service standards if we treat our “supply chain” with disdain.
If you don’t really see the young trainee serving you a cup of coffee, if you never thank the lady from hotel housekeeping, if you never think of the guy loading your bag on to your next flight on the 4am shift, you are only partially involved in our service industry.
I’ll let you into a personal secret here. Over the course of many interviews with some superbly qualified and uber-confident candidates over the years I have often asked a colleague to drop in to offer a tea or coffee. Good Kiwi hospitality of course. But it’s more designed to see if that candidate - who has been busily telling me how perfect a fit they are for the service role on offer - actually says “thank you” . It’s a long way back to recovery for those who don’t.
I have been lucky enough to work in direct and indirect tourism services within New Zealand. Spending marketing dollars, launching routes and attracting big events gets the profile and the headlines. But none of this would be worth anything if our country had a poor aviation safety record. The best hotel would struggle if all its guests routinely arrived hours late. Our major sporting events would not thank the aviation industry if spectators missed the whistle.
My work now on the indirect side of the supply chain in air traffic control reminds me of the importance of the “hidden hand” that makes our industry possible.
Whether it was enabling hundreds of unscheduled flights to reopen Christchurch after the earthquake, moving more than 500 extra services on day one of the 2011 Rugby World Cup or preventing 200 Queenstown flights a year from having to divert elsewhere, every little bit helped.
At times, working on the unseen supply side of our glamorous industry can feel as rewarding as parenting teenage children. So next time you are thinking of service enhancements for your great business, start by thinking about your relationship with your supply chain. ‘Hidden hands’ appreciate recognition too.
- Ed Sims