ON January 18, at about 2:00 p.m., officers, male and female, of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) were in action on the strip of highway between the Rubis Gas Station and the bridge across the Castries river closest to SLASPA. I say the RSLPF because there were members of different branches including the fearsome looking, rifle toting, camouflage wearing SSU personnel, not just your regular traffic cops. It was hot and the traffic snarled to a crawl. St. Lucian drivers were irate. Tourists, out on a drive to experience Saint Lucia, were unceremoniously caught in that scene too.
The tourists’ experience included being pulled over by the RSLPF for driving rental cars whose stickers expired in 2016. Driving a vehicle with an expired sticker is a prima facie violation of the traffic laws of Saint Lucia and worthy for a pullover by the RSLPF. It is also a non- compliance with the National Standard for Tourism Ground Transportation SLNS 74: 2006 3.1, 10.7.1. It also speaks to the lack of service and business excellence on the part of the car rental company. How likely would those tourists be to recommend that car rental company, or Saint Lucia for that matter, to a friend or co-worker?
Enter the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to specifically address the above scenario with a framework for service and business excellence called the Hospitality Assured certification programme which promotes a culture of service and business excellence and was developed specifically for tourism and tourism-related businesses. It was developed and owned by the Hospitality Institute of the UK and is based on the European Foundation for Quality Management (EQFM) Excellence Model.
The HA certification provides a framework for companies to look at their own operation from three perspectives: Customer, Employee and Organizational
It is a service quality certification specifically for tourism & hospitality businesses. It provides a framework for companies to look at their own operation from the customer’s perspective, to see where improvements should be made to enhance the customer experience and to strengthen overall business performance. It is the EFQM Excellence Model with a Customer Service focus and simpler language. It is a tool to help organizations look at themselves in detail. It’s a way to change an organization’s culture. It is flexible and versatile.
Who can benefit? Any hospitality, leisure, tourism or service-oriented organization is eligible for Hospitality Assured certification, be they large or small, single or multi-operational, as long as they have a desire to improve their service to customers and to achieve operational and business excellence.
Who has benefitted? Three thousand five hundred companies in Europe and 63 companies in the Caribbean (33 certified) have benefitted.
There are eight key benefits for participating successfully in the programme:
1. Tells customers that service excellence is guaranteed by your company
2. Builds reputation that generates repeat and new business
3. Provides a framework to improve overall business performance competitiveness
4. Provides opportunity to benchmark against other organizations
5. Identifies you as a quality employer
6. Motivates employees
7. Measures continuous improvement
8. Proves you are one of the best in the industry
In addition, participants in this programme are eligible for financial and technical assistance from CDB.
How is it different from other quality standards?
It was developed specifically for the Tourism & Hospitality Sector
Provides an opportunity to benchmark with other organisations and compare performance
Incorporates internal and external assessment – provides detailed feedback
Specially trained HA Business Advisors
In line with the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM)
Puts in place a service quality management system and promotes continuous improvement
The goal of Hospitality Assured is to inculcate a culture of service and business excellence in tourism businesses in the Caribbean, so that the region can be recognized as delivering the highest levels of service to their customers.
The Ministry of Tourism, the Saint Lucia Tourist Board, the St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association and the Ministry of Commerce support the introduction of the programme to Saint Lucia as another tool to improve the competitiveness of Saint Lucia.
St. Lucia has two certified business advisors for this programme, Miss Julia Mitille and Mr. Peter Lorde. Feel free to contact them or the Ministry of Tourism for more information on the programme. The Ministry of Commerce will be promoting the programme in Soufriere, at 4:00 p.m tomorrow at the Soufriere Primary School and in Castries, at 10:00 a.m. next Tuesday at the Ministry of Commerce’s conference room. The Ministry of Tourism will be promoting the programme at its conference room on Thursday and Friday this week from 9:00 a.m. -10:30 a.m. and 1:30.p.m. – 3:00.p.m. respectively.
So, if you were one of those tourists, how likely would you recommend that car rental company to a friend or co-worker? Now, allow yourself to imagine 40 percent of the government service and 40 percent the private sector being Hospitality Assured..