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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Caldwell

Nailing the Visitor Experience

Those who have worked with me, and for me are probably sick of hearing me talk about nailing 'The Visitor Experience'. It's almost too obvious when I say that this is probably THE single most important aspect of running a tourism operation..

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As the Maori proverb goes:

He aha te mea nui o te ao

What is the most important thing in the world? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata It is the people, it is the people, it is the people

And given we are in the visitor industry, of course it makes sense that the visitor, and their experience with your business, is the most important facet. Over the years, I have had some sensational experiences, and some really disappointing ones. The interesting thing to note is that some of the disappointing ones have come from businesses that, on paper, should have been excellent. They had big, bold marketing campaigns, flash offices and the operation was 'slick'. But there was no magic, nothing that really wowed me to make them memorable and a highlight of the holiday.

So what are the tricks to getting it right? I'm going to try and define what I think goes into creating a world-class visitor experience, and would love to hear your thoughts if you have anything to add, or disagree with anything I say.

1. Know your 'Elevator Pitch'

If you have 15 seconds in an elevator with someone who asks you what your business is about, what would you say? Do you know? Can you summarise in only 15 seconds? ​ It's really important here, not to try and be everything to everyone. Be honest about what it is you do for your customers, and how it makes them feel, why they choose you over your competitors, and what makes you unique and the best. If you aren't able to answer this right away, go away and talk to your team, read your TripAdvisor reviews, and listen to your customers when they are standing in your business.

2. Ensure your team know and understand what your Elevator Pitch is

Great, so you've figured out what your business is all about. Have you shared this with your team? More often than not, it is someone else who will be the first point of contact, and that first impression of your business. It might be a bus driver when they collect your visitors from their accommodation, or a customer services team member on the telephone when the visitors call to make a reservation. These can make or break the visitor experience before it even begins.

3. See to it that your marketing message matches

This is not always easy to get right. To me, this isn't just the brochure you put in the visitor centre or the website you create - this is the entire look and feel of the delivery of your product. Brochures, websites, signage, pricing, visitor information, the way your customers are welcomed, facilities on-site, the thank you for visiting and the follow up.

I have seen some very interesting examples over the years eg. the rustic farm experience that showed everything to be shiny and almost modern in their brochure, so imagine the surprise when I arrived! There was actually nothing at all wrong with the experience itself, but my expectations hadn't been at all what the experience delivered. Now some say that it's better to under promise than over deliver and there is argument to this, however, I believe the next point may be counter to that argument.

4. Talk constantly with your visitors

When I mentioned under-promising and over-delivering above, you need to be careful that you're putting effort into the things that your visitors want. Don't waste your time trying to impress them with things that don't matter to them. Talk to your customers constantly, don't be afraid to ask them for suggestions. The things that matter to them may be so simple that you hadn't considered them, or thought them too basic. To really nail the visitor experience, it's has to be about the visitor!

5. Empower your team

Your team need to be an extension of you - they need to embody what your business is about and be prepared to go beyond the call for each and every customer. We are blessed in New Zealand - the tourism industry tends to attract bright people who were made for a service role, and they love to get out and have fun while they are doing their jobs. Let's face it, it's why we're all still in the industry right? Empower your team to listen to visitors and come to you with suggestions for improvement, let them lead on product development ideas or projects for improvement. They are at the coal face so will often hear and think of ideas first.

6. Be authentic

Don't try to be something you're not. You don't need to photoshop imperfections - they are what make you, and your business unique. Visitors will see through fakeness. Know your business, understand your market and target them accordingly.

Destinate NZ can help you with any of the above, by facilitating team brain-storming days to helping define your Elevator Pitch. Contact us at

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