Tourism! According to some, it’s the ultimate service practice. An industry where we scrape and bow to visitors and bend the knee to the golden calf. Others, of course, think we are doing rather well and praise the industry for its welcoming culture. Whatever the truth, I can’t help feeling just a bit uptight about the involvement of government and its bureaucratic strategies.

Let’s be absolutely honest the regulatory approach of government is not exactly harmonic with the easy going nature of tourism and you can see the government’s footprint over every part of the tourism experience.

Whatever your business one thing is paramount, you succeed only when you develop a culture that is conducive to the consumer’s need. No customers – no business! Simpulls! As they say in the ads.

Governments just aren’t equipped to run tourism. They think they can develop a service culture by method, by rules and regulations, what I call the ‘Sargent Major’ approach. Just visit any government influenced, (that’s just about all of them) tourist bureau in Western Australia and see what we serve up. Sure, they’ll answer your questions, you’ll get information and it will all be delivered with a smile but don’t be fooled, all that is mechanical. It’s trained, performed and it comes from behind a big counter. Even the ergonomics are guided by the ‘take a number’ crowd.

Ever wondered why it’s full of souvenirs, blow up dolphins and tea towels? Answer? You have to help pay for its existence. We can’t get it right, because government just doesn’t get it. I’ll keep on saying it till I’m blue in the face. “You can get everything you want in business, if you just help the consumer get what they want.”

Sure the objective of the tourism industry is about making money, but its purpose has to be different. Tourism’s purpose has to be making guests happy by helping them achieve the greatest satisfaction from their visit. It’s not about the mechanics of making people smile. It’s about creating fantastic moments, living the dream and leaving them with a memory that says “Wow!”

It’s not, ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’ It’s about “Where the bloody hell we are?”

Mediocrity is easy and in Australia we are Masters of Mediocrity when it comes to delivering a good time. Only once in my lifetime have I seen a tourism centric event achieve the dizzy heights of ‘The Supreme’. It was at Expo 88 in Brisbane, where I had the honour of serving as a consultant to the WA Pavilion.

It cast off the mantle of government, it became real, it transcended politics, deserted straight line thinking, borrowed ideas from successful business and just knocked the socks of the GUESTS!

It threw everything at the visitor and for a short six months forgot the bureaucratic crap, it gave and it received. In its effort to please it was so successful that it made money, when the previous expo in South Korea had been a financial disaster.

If you really want some answers to taking the mediocrity out of tourism read, ‘Moments of Truth’ by Jan Carlzon, it maybe an old book (It was written in 1987) but it is still fresh in its foundations. In my well thumbed version there is one sentence highlighted with a yellow marker pen. It reads “You have fifteen seconds to create yourself in the mind of the consumer”. If its true, and in my experience it is, we can’t allow government to hijack the tourism industry because it takes years not seconds to do anything.

Times running out and I don’t need to tell you if tourism goes the same way as the mining industry we’ll have plenty of time to contemplate our navel and enjoy our wonderful beaches, because we’ll be alone.

Have a nice day!