Thursday, 6 March 2014

Details that matter: small ideas for hotel room design

I had given some thought to it earlier, but recent experiences refreshed the idea of hotel room design not being an easy discipline. It has to obey functionality and desperately follow trends bearing in mind that the use of hotel spaces is for a wide array of people by age, motivation of travel, professions and lifestyle.

Bringing the bathroom into the room, revolutionized the hotel room design in the early 20th century, and there was not too much happening since then, if we are not interested in the capsule room design segment of the 21st century no frill hotels.

The ancient  rules of creating a satisfactory hotel product hardware (service is obviously the software) talk about the 3B: bed, bathroom, and breakfast. Two of these are in the room. Let's highlight some ideas for the room that are often ignored even by the most recently built hotels. These are based on my own user experience, and some operational and  maintenance considerations:

//Discrete coffee shop - It is much more functional if the coffee/tea making station with the cattle and/or coffee machine is placed in a more discreet but accessible storage (shelf or drawer). The purpose built drawer in the picture works very well. Leaving these out on a desk or a dresser creates the impression of a messy room especially after they have been used.

//Elevate the mini bar - There is not need to place the mini mar under the TV stool any more. The mini bar is already an operational challenge, why make it hardly accessible for both guest and staff. Keeping it in a cupboard mount at eye sight, makes the content more appealing, easier to access and more likely to generate revenue.

//D day for Doors  - apart of the main door, conventional doors are for the past. If the bathroom is well ventilated and the toilette and the shower space has a glass door, we can even forget the bathroom  door which better connects the room space with the often used bathroom. Another solution is a sliding door which on one side closes the shower space on the other the toilette bowl. (you would not use both at the same time)

//Step up not in - The time of the shower in the bath tub is just over. If a tray or stone tiled shower box is not enough then find a separate space for a tub. But a larger more comfortable shower is by far more appropriate for a hotel room than a step in tub/shower combo which kills both. And if you are in desperate need of your evening bath, than upgrade or take a walk to the hotel spa.

//Tidy desk - Flyers, marketing materials, newspapers, menu, phone user manual, house rule etc. etc. never ending pile of paper on your hotel room desk. A lot of time for housekeepers to always tidy it up in a brand standard arrangement, and just one second for the guest to through them off creating usable work space on the desk. Dear hoteliers, let's continue learning from the airline industry. We have already learnt the revenue management from them, let's adapt the way they arrange and display in flight written material. It's simply tidied up in a functional holder, no need for a book stand. If you need something you will get it fast and easy.

//Show TV - TV cabinets are the past, unless it opens electrically creating a 6-star wow effect. There is no argument to hide the TV any more. Instead integrate it into a nice wall design, creating  stylish frame or flexible holder that allows for a minimal rotation. This frees up the space of a heavy TV stand and it allows for a creative use of a wall mounted high resolution display.

//Arty touch - Hotel rooms tend to lack personality or a personal touch. One easy and affordable way of solving this is placing some locally hand crafted small souvenirs in the room. A nice story can be built around them and if there is a series of such items the guest can even buy more from the hotel shop. A good example I saw in an African city hotel is small hand crafted statues of the big 5 mammals of the continent.   You got 2 in your room and your could purchase the rest in the shop.

Some of these can be useful for exiting hotels as well, who are looking to refresh a bit the room experience without major capital expenditures. Enjoy!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Sea Soul Water Park Muscat

Don’t get too excited, there is no park in the city by this name. Let alone water park. It's just a working title for some thoughts around the idea of a water park concept for Muscat. Let’s give it a run.
The bigger picture
A Water Park is an obvious leisure attraction for a city with subtropical climate like Muscat. They are highly capital intensive, with operational costs that leave little room for decent returns for an owner. Given their ability to attract high volume of visitors they tend to enhance land value around them. Often they can be catalysts of urban regeneration projects along with a number of other sports and leisure facilities. In this region they are either part of resorts or are placed in an accessible but green-field context to create the desired land upside.
The water parks are part of the wider amusement/theme park industry which is one of the fastest growing within the leisure industries. On a global comparison Asia (with South Korea, Australia, Malaysia, China, Japan, UAE) is set to a double digit annual growth in their water park visitation, swiftly catching up with the Americas, yet market leader in this segment (with US and Brazil).
In terms of visitation, the largest water park in the world (Typhoon Lagoonin Disney World Orlando, FL) has just over 2 million visitors annually (2.1 million in 2012). The second largest is in China (Chimelong Waterpark) with 2 million visitors albeit recording 6% growth year on year, while Orlando is growing at a much lower rate.
Closer to us, The Aquaventure at the Atlantis The Palm Dubai is the 7th largest in the world with 1.3 million annual visitors growing at 8% while the Wild Wadi WaterPark Dubai is the 17th with 850,000 annual visitors in 2012. The Wild Wadi has lost market share to Aquaventure in the recent years. To put this in context, the top 25 water parks in the world attract a combined annual attendance of over 25 million visitors.
Context for Muscat
The largest water parks are located in areas with high population density (Brazil, Japan, Korea) and/or destinations with very strong year round tourism demand (Orlando, Dubai).
Muscat cannot really stand out on any of the above and this should determine the fundamentals of any water park concept planned to be sustainable and viable.
Most mega parks are focused on the thrill with all the same scary and wet rides. The answer of Muscat to the water park question should obviously be something better suited for a local market of 6-800,000 population and total annual tourist arrivals of 2.5 million. Affordability, uniqueness, a local touch through creative originality would be key in my view, as opposed to the conventional wow factor.
In terms of the style of the attraction mix, a balanced combination of thrill, skill and chill, is what would give an optimal mix as opposed to a thrill only focus.
  • Thrill – the classic wet slide rides built on speed, gravity, freefall, and a wet and safe landing. These are often combined with some themed context (Posseidon’s castle, marine world etc.). You will find these on all water parks, as being at the very heart of the concept.

  • Skill  - Rides, tracks and skill based challenges that puts all age groups at various tests. Flash flooded rope tracks, floating islets, balancing bridges, spinning logs, slippery steps etc. (an easier verios of the Wipe-Out like giant pool toys). All designed to safely put at test your concentrations and physical abilities. The worst it can happen that you plunge in the water and start over again. There are few water parks that feature such attractions. They are more labour intensive to supervise and they cater more for those looking to challenges themselves, which is not always the case with holidaymakers.
  • Chill – this is the part which is missing the most from all these mega parks. By definition they are land of adventure and adrenaline, chilling out is not their strong suit. However I think there is a strong need, especially on the mid-eastern markets, to offer an alternative for those who are happy to be there with the family but nor really looking for the action. They prefer more to have a coffee with a cupcake and wind down over a book or their ipad. Terraces with outdoors bar tables, small gardens with shaded and sunny decks, lots of greenery some sandy areas and water views around. More importantly away from the screams and splashing sounds of the thrill and the skill. Not a big deal but can make a big difference.

A third and loosely related element would be the educative one (edutainment). Including it strictly in the core concept of the park would probably not be ideal, however to create an interactive marine life museum and visitor center next door, would definitely be a good combination. The marine life museum at the Bandar Rowda marina are well outdated and quite tired.
This also give the main character of the park which is my view should be the sea and the marine environment.
Ideas
Now let’s see what would be some ideas worth considering or discarding for a potential park. In no particular order or alignment to target segments I thought of:

  • The Tide – “wet lounge” part of the chill mix. It would be a lounge with a shallow pool as the floor area, where water level can be set from dry to ankle high of knee high. Some short distance wooden piers facilitate access to various areas.
  • The Robinson Crusoe Island – only the best survive the challenges of this island. A series of water based and areal tracks, rides, cable slides, floating bridges, spinning logs and flash flooded tunnels. Every age group can test its skills and stamina at various levels.
  • The Tsunami – a surf pool with a variety of wave surfing, body surfing or paddle boarding activities. If space allows a shorter wakeboard cable track would add a unique and popular feature.
  • The Kids Beach Club – an indoor and outdoor kids only area with animated activities and programs, linked with the neighboring Marine World visitor centre.
  • The Swamp – this would be a combination of mazes, rides and water attractions that are more on the exciting and mysterious end of the spectrum than on the fast and furious type rides.  A number of animated challenge  games could also be included (the Fort Boyard syle or Pirates themes games)
  • The Cave – a major indoor facility that can run year round and offer a selection of slides (perhaps in an octopus design) and other smaller scale attractions.
  • The Bay – who said it’s all about adrenaline? Away from the noise of the thrill rides, this hideaway offers the piece and the chill you need between two sessions of fun or can be your wind down escape while the rest of the family plunges into action.
  • The Reef – a marine life encounter area, perhaps part of the Marine World visitor centre or separate. It offers the chance to see live marine life and learn about the marine habitat of the Arabian Sea.
These are few concepts that could be fresh and unique in the world of aqua parks. However coming up with the a right and sustainable concept for water park for Muscat is not an easy tasks and will require thorough work and hundreds of hours of research and creative work. The aim for me would be a delicate balance between the optimal size of creating the critical mass without overspending and/or planning with an excessive operating costs. The balance between the indoor and outdoor functions will also be key.
I am really excited to see how this is going to evolve.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

So...what next?


I am sure most readers of this blog have much better things to do, but in case they are kept at bay by the chilly weather of Oman, and were to skim through my posts of the last two years they'd see quite a few small ideas on how to improve tourism related things over here.  Some more policy related, others very practical. Some posts were on urban development thoughts focused on increasing the appeal of the city and the quality of life.

I was presently surprised that some of these have been slowly happening, quietly in the backyard. Obviously this is a mere coincidence and has nothing to do with me muttering over here.  It is  good to see however new things like a 4 wheel drive park by Suhail Bahwan Group, a larger scale initiative by Bank muscat to support public spaces for sports, the somewhat sporadic programs of Royal Opera House Muscat promoting music for Omani youth, a proper go cart race course back in use, initiatives for a decent  home for cricket, etc.  Is there still a long way to go? Most certainly, but we should also celebrate the quick wins and encourage "governtrepreneurs" to further improve the happiness index of the population. Oman currently ranks the 23rd (just behind UK) in terms of happiness out of the over 150 countries in the review by UN.

With your kind support, I will just read these achievements of Oman as a motivating factor for me to carry on scratching my head for some new ideas, although my time for this is becoming increasingly scarcer.

On the same note: since it has now finally been announced for Muscat, my the next post will be on water parks, Inshallah.

Until then wish all of you a humorous and memorable 2014!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

World's young sailing elite in Oman

It is now over a year that OmanSail has won the right to organize the Laser World Championship in three categories: Standard, Masters and Radial Youth. The Radial Youth Championship started on the 27th December 2013 and will last until Friday the 3rd of January 2014.  I have been covering the news of winning the bid to host the event back in the summer of 2012.  At the time I  was quite exited about the great work they have done in securing these world class events. I have also came up with some ideas how to make the event more appealing to the local audience.

Well since the venue is only a 45 minute drive from Muscat it did make sense to start the year with a trip
down to Mussanah to see for myself the world's elite under 18 sailing squad in action. Approximately 80 sailors from over 25 countries.

Al Mussanah Sport City and the Millenium Resort, hosting the championship is just optimal for such  events. Apart of the fact that it is a bit secluded (which I found ideal for corporate away days and outings, but that is a different post) the sport base is very spacey, clean and well maintained. The event and race management was smooth and professional. Proper signage, spares shop, media center, gym, event tent, etc. It seems that with will and skill things do fall in place properly.

To be fair there is still a lot that could be done to enhance the visitor experience, bringing the action and the frill of sailing closer to new fans, creating a bit more buzz around the sport base, but let's not be inpatient, those will also come in he future. It was great to see however that Oman is making steady steps towards promoting sailing as a national sport, and hopefully soon the world elite will have Omani kids in the fleet as well.  It already took a lot of work and resources to place the country on the international sailing map, which not doubt has happened. It will take more time to create the sustainability for this. Patience from officials is key, as such initiatives yield fundamental results only on the long run. So keep up OmanSail and hope to see these guys back in a few years as Olympians.

Enough of words now, let the images tell the story.


Event tent at the marina


Race office
Sunrise over the boat park

British team to start rigging first

Others to follow

Around the committee boat

More than 50 boats at the startline

Jury watching for jump starters

Everything seems in order

...until wind starts to play around and race is canceled. 

...good time for a nap.

or some tactical discussions

...a chat with the team mates.

Sailing is serious business.
Coaches at work

Downwind action after the new start



The fleet though the leeward gate

The Hungarian sailing in a dominant lead

Some action at the leeward bouy

It is not chaos, they all know what they are doing
German-UAE battle...


...or rather friendship.
...all sorted.
The Finish girl in the lead

...rounding the bouy

Norwegian to follow...

...in style.

Japaneses and Qatari girls in action.

The Hungarian crossing the finish line first in the boys fleet.

And the Norwegian in the girls fleet.

it takes fitness to sit like this for hours

Winner's smile



Monday, 28 October 2013

2013 Challenge Tour at Almouj: The challenge remains

The National Bank of Oman Classic golf tournament, part of European Tours’ Challenge Tour was a great debut for Muscat on the international golfing scene.
While the organization of the tournament itself seemed very smooth and professional, there was a whole lot that could have been done for the crowd.
People of Oman are not used to golfing events and their relative charm, so this was a great opportunity to showcase some of it and attract more and more people to the game.
Having visited the event on Saturday I had the impression that the organizers fell very short on this front.

The so called Public Village set up for some sort of “golfing” entertainment was an empty square battered by the sun most of the day with very few people around. I don’t blame them, trying out a worn mini golf putting green or hitting a few irons shots in a net, is not exactly something you bare the afternoon sun for more than few minutes.  The kids area was practically two inflatable slides and air castles in dark in color and got so hot by mid day that you could easily prepare your morning omelets on it. Needless to say the kids preferred to stay away. Somewhat disappointed by the public village, we headed back to the clubhouse to have a drink and collect some strength to watch another hole with one of the favorites (Im). Well, the plan remained a plan, the clubhouse restaurant was reserved for VIPs and players, and two smiley gatekeepers sent us back to the public village furnace.

I think some more attention to detail and a focus on the visitors could have made the event a true success not just on the sporting and tournament but also on the entertainment and public event side. Since NBO was generous enough to sponsor it as a free access event, assumable with the intention to promote the game locally, it was a great chance that in all fairness this time was missed.

Perhaps next time, among much more there will be:
  • A proper covered space for the non-VIP visitors as well. The Wicked tents sponsored a huge VIP tent in front of the 18th hole which was 80% empty most of the time. Perhaps they will consider seeing up one for the participants with families who came out curiously to experience this thing apparently so popular with Europeans and South Africans.
  • Facilitated visits to a number of easily accessible holes, with a dynamic and engaging “guide” explaining what’s going one, the rules, the goals of the game etc.
  • Animated activities in the Public Village with stuff like: “Fix one thing” - golf clinic, “Your first 15 minutes of golf” – for newcomers, “Why we love golf” - for kids etc. all done by people who are good with people
  • Competitions: Hole in one mini golf competition – to engage, waffle draw – to keep people around, Small food court – to keep stomach happy etc.

Again none of these require more fancy equipment or much higher costs, just a bit more creativity and engagement.  Organizers need to acknowledge that this climate is different and if you want to popularize this game you need to adapt to it.


Congrats for the organizers of the tournament and all payers, especially for Roope Kakko for winning the event. Hope the local touch and more engagement of a future golfing crowd will be achieved next time.
(picture source: European Tour site)

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Evening entertainment for motor sports enthusiasts

People in the region find it easy to relate to cars and motor sports. They often get carried away by the spirit on public roads as opposed to dedicated venues. Well they aren't too many the argument would be.  Most certainly there is one at the Oman Automobile Association (AOO) headquarter opposite the airport in Seeb.

The recently renovated go cart track and racing center is well endowed and relatively well managed. The track is roughly a kilometer long with 10-12 versatile turns involving hairpins and long fast right handers as well. The carts are not new but in decent shape, perhaps they would need a bit more care here and there.

The Mini GP package that I participated in, replicates the exiting ambiance of a car race, with qualifying sessions followed by 2 races of 11 laps. If you don't have enough buddies to convince to join you for a race (between 8 and 12 is ideal), you can just show up and do some practice laps with whoever else is on the track at that time.  The full package of RO. 250 involves renting the track and the carts for one hour for up to 12-15 people (RO. 20-30 per person). If you show up individually it would be slightly less.

Strict safety rules are in place and the course marshals make sure they are followed, which is somewhat reassuring.

I personally think there is still a lot of unexplored potential in this facility, and many things can be improved to maximize its potential, but overall its a great attraction that is perhaps currently underrated. It is also a great venue for team building or similar corporate events.
So I suggest every interested motorist  put its  skills at test there instead of the roads. You can book on the OAA website.

Well done OAA, looking forward seeing similar facilities in the area, like I mentioned some time ago

Thursday, 1 August 2013

A very good investment for Oman

A bit of an unusual post for this blog, but these thoughts were chasing me for some time.

There is a lot of talk and some actions as well on strengthening the employment in the private sector, enhancing the SMEs, creating an Omani labour force that will play a major role in the sustainability of a non-oil economy. This is all good and encouraging. There is one aspect thought, that - in my view - will have a massive impact on the future of the country and that is parenting.  Education and pedagogy as an activity carries a major paradox that of trying to prepare kids for the future, a future that is unknown for the educators themselves.  Parenting is somewhat similar.  We are all trying to educate our kids for their 20s, 30s 40s and beyond; not really knowing what will be challenges they will face in 10, 20 or 30 years time.

One thing for sure, we as parents have a window of 10 to 14 years when we can set the grounds for the development of their personalities.  After that the high school friends, the sports club buddies, coaches, often the boarding school teachers abroad, or the street ‘gangs’ themselves are the educators with most of the influence. All we can do is follow the events and give an opinion eventually try to intervene when things go off track, or we think they do.  In some cases we are very vocal in expressing our opinion in some others we try to be more persuasive given explanations and examples, but no matter what we think, our teenage kids will still consider it just an opinion. The last time I remember really taking away my parents advice I was around 10-12.  But is not just our communication with the kids, and the pieces of wisdom we want them to remember, it’s the whole experience of home, spending time with Mummy or Daddy. Seeing how they relate to each other, how they solve a conflict (do they solve it of just swipe it under the carpet), how they encourage their child. The patience they show and the trust they put in their development. The determination to curb things that are seen as wrong and the creativity of enforcing the good. There is a whole range of situational and contextual information that shapes their personalities and values.


Now this might seem all boring parenting textbook, but here’s the thing.  Most families are heavily relying on nannies, or even worst, maids that are asked to work as nannies. Now think of all these aspects above in the context of being raised by a nanny that unfortunately more often than not is just doing a job.  An underpaid, under motivating, often frustrating job. She cannot behave as a parent for obvious reasons, she is not a mere baby sitter as a full time nanny, and often times she has her own child back home.  Therefore a whole generation could grow up under a very loose and particular parenting environment. A generation the country will have to rely on.


I don’t really know what is the solution to this, but parenting in Oman  - and everywhere else for that matter - definitely needs more investment.  Investment from the scarcest resource 21st century people have: time.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Small ideas to boost the urban appeal of Muscat

The perception of a city is influenced by many factors such and transport and traffic, cleanness, architecture, green areas.  One of the most important factors is a general visual appeal of public areas and their suitability for leisure use. This stands for shopping streets, walking areas, parks, squares/piazzas and terraces.

While the first impression and appeal of Muscat and its mountainous backdrop is not bad, it can be significantly improved by some projects that could be considered along the current major infrastructure spending. Here are a few ideas:

Qurum beach & the “Love road” –  Qurum beach needs a general re-thinking and a revamp. Period.
I am not only thinking about replacing the corroded hay umbrellas and cleaning up the beach.  It is the most centrally located beach. The rocky bay on the right it confers a dramatic and interesting feel. Unfortunately the whole ares just does not connect organically to the city. The public which rather drives around at 5km/h on the beach road then take possession of the space and populate it for leisure activities. Would be an exciting master planning exercise to solve this disconnect and create an active beachfront along the so called “Love Road”. Some ideas would be to activate the lower level of the beach along the road for pedestrian access, creating some bays that are accessible by stairs from the road. The other would be to minimize the traffic there and create more pedestrian areas on the "bridge".  The creation of two main attractions on both ends of the road could activate the areas in between. There could be water features and/or small squares with benches, public space furniture etc. Using the marshlands behind the coffee shops as a paddling lake can also add some appeal to the area.

Shatti Al Qurum shopping area – The area between Oasis by the Sea and Jawarat al Shatti is very popular with locals and tourists alike. It is almost the place you want to be on a mild breezy evening, to have a coffee, ice cream or just a walk on the beach. There is so much additional potential in that area which could be unlocked by just moving the parking out towards the tennis courts. (Maybe a -1+2 level parking house could be considered.) The space created could be converted in a blend of green and paved areas for restaurant terraces, water features, and space for events and entertainment.

Mutrah Cornishe - is another main attractions of the city which yet has to step up from its past. Again a higher emphasis could be given to pedestrian areas (car traffic can be reduced significantly, eventually diverted trough a road at the back of the Souq). A more uniform and nicely designed retail outlet signage that is better suited to the architecture of the area could give a major boost to the appeal of this strip. In fact the signage issue could be a nice project on its own applicable for the whole city.


[On a side note I have just seen at the Muscat Hills Caddie Shack two terribly looking Ruwi like signage boards indicating ‘Coffee Shop’ above the entrance to the restaurant and Sports ‘Equipment Retailer’ over the entrance to the Pro Shop. Apparently it’s a municipal rules.  I know the Caddie Shack is all temporary but I’d like to see what Intercontinental will have to say when the hotel will be ready and they will want to put this signage on the new clubhouse.]

Seeb cornishe – another totally underutilized area, which massive catchment areas and already high traffic.

Urban master planning is a complicated discipline but there is plenty of expertise available among the engineering and design consultancies present in ME.  It’s time for the city to take this to a next level.


PS: If you can think of any similar public space, which once improved could have a massive impact on the appeal of the city, drop it in the comments. Thanks.

Pictures are sourced from: Tripadvisor, Maqwa on Fotki and Andy in Oman

Monday, 10 June 2013

How hot is the Omani hot?

Oman is clearly a highly seasonal destination. Most hoteliers would consider May, June, July and August the worst to overcome and then November, December, January and February being the months to milk for the austerity of the summer.

We are not alone with this pain; most of the region is struggling with the same problem. In fact there are very few destinations equally strong year round, at least when it comes to leisure demand.  Some mountain destinations can achieve that combining winter sports (skiing, snowboarding etc.) with summer outdoor activities (tracking, hiking, mountain biking etc.).  In terms of offering a consistently nice weather throughout the year, very few destinations have the luxury like the Caribbean has.

So what are the obvious practices for extending the hotel / tourism season in Oman?  Gradually increasing discounts, the +1 packages (nights for free or additional person for free, or kids for free).  The special targeted offers and packages like detox or diet packages, body and mind programs that place the draw card from the weather and the outdoors into the indoors and the program that is offered.

But it would be too easy to say that by applying these we have done everything. In fact the one and only main negative perception that any attraction/destination in Oman has to fight is the “unbearable, unpleasant” weather.  And that is something the country promotion could support.  After having lived here for a few years, I am not saying summer is pleasant (although this year so far was quite generous), but I think the MidEast including Oman, had the misfortune of being stigmatized with an underrated weather. Probably working to soften  this stereotype will not result in people showing up in Oman in the middle of August, but could refine a bit their attitude. Just think of when you have a chat over the phone with anybody from Europe of North America, it is almost a rule that they will express some compassion for you bearing that “extraordinary heat”.  In reality many other touristy areas are almost comparably hot to Oman, but people rarely think of them as such.

Let’s have a look of a quick weather benchmark for today (June 10, 2013):
  • Muscat: 30 (feels like: 38), Clear and humid
  • India, Goa:  28 (33), Rain and mist
  • Pukhet, Thailand: 30 (36), Light Rain
  • Seychelles: 27 (31), Sunny
  • Maldives: 31, (44), Partly cloudy
  • Colombi, Sri Lanka: 31 (39), Partly sunny
  • Caribbean (the Bahamas, Georgetown): 29 (35), Sunny to partly cloudy
  • Hawai, Honolulu: 31, (31) Partly cloudy
Souce: AccuWeather

Wow, it is not as bad as I instantly thought.  If I was to priorities country marketing money, probably I would not fight frontally the perception of the country being a furnaces. What I could certainly consider though, is loading an app on the Oman tourism website which benchmarks the Omani weather (maybe the one in Muscat and the one on Jebel Ahkdar or Jebel Shams) against the usual suspects of mainstream overseas leisure (sun and sea) destinations.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Service, service, service: selecting the right ones

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” M.Gandhi

Travelers, and generally those who pay (own) money for any kind of travel related service, expect value. Value in what they see, feel and learn. It’s really down to these three things.

Landscapes, breathtaking views, stunning interiors, inspiring monuments, fascinating traditions and cultural artifacts can do a whole lot to attract tourism, but cannot do it all. They are the hardware of the destination, the preconditions of tourism, but service is what enables them to create economic value. The service is the software. And as is with software it is more prone to bugs, flaws and mistakes.  Hospitality unfortunately is more about service than anything else. It's a whole lot about  how you felt while there. There are tons of good and bad examples of how service can make or break a business in tourism.  I have included here are just a few ideas, and tips to help SELECT, TRAIN and RETAIN your best service people.

Does he really mean it?
I take the risk of stating: good service cannot be learned by anybody. Period.  There are types of personalities that would never be able to serve at quality levels. They are just not meant to make others feel good, always, under any circumstances. They don't like to care and think love of others is a weakness.  There are others who have the right personality fundamentals to serve. They are empathetic, attentive, quick, they know how to listen (and not just pretend), they have decent memory, they are creative, have good humor, they are extroverted and just love people. They get their energy from others and not from themselves.

So the better you are able to select those who have these fundamentals, even if they have never worked in a service job, the better off you are. One can save months of frustration and lost business by avoiding hiring service people who are not meant to serve by design. They typically have very high level of self-confidence and esteem, are impatient and impulsive, they often prefer conflict over compromise, they like to take the bull by the horn, they are critical and skeptical by nature etc. They can be great at many other important things but not at service. Let them strive in areas where they can excel and save them buy the misery of pretending to serve.
There is whole science (preached by expensive consultants and usually practiced with major flaws) of best selecting your employees, but at the end of the day it is an art. That of reading a personality and understanding if it fits in your team or not.  Here are some tips that might work: ask the applicant to rearrange the seating in the interview room, or to serve the coffee for themselves. Watch they way they relate to you, to details. Ask them to show you the way to the bathroom, or to explain you the shortest way out from the building, etc. etc. These are situations, where facial expression, gestures, style and approach to helping the other are reviled. It won’t tell you who is the best to hire, but if you have the right feelers, it helps you avoid disasters and save time.

I am not saying anything new by the fact that Oman does have a huge potential in the fundamentals of tourism, but it has to come a long, long way in service. Combining the genuine friendliness and helpfulness of Omanis with consistency and promptness of service will yield the desired results.

Any similar ideas to share? Some more to come on training and retention soon.