Treating tourists right
Owners of an award-winning business talk about how they have found ways to succeed in the tourism sector
Most of us have been on the receiving end of tourism at one time or another, and we know the difference that exceptional service can make. Being able to offer it, however, can be a challenge. Shawn Cook and his wife, Young Seon Cook, have refined the art of good hospitality. Their business, the Courthouse Inn, is the 2011 winner of Revelstoke’s business excellence award in this area. So what is it they’ve learned about keeping visitors happy?
Attention to detail seems to be a major aspect of the Cooks' hospitality philosophy. They were quick to emphasize the small points they consider. This may mean 600-count Egyptian cotton sheets, or it could mean making dinner reservations for their guests. The Courthouse Inn has invested in a boot-and-glove-drying machine—they realized this would be an important feature for their winter guests. They understand that people on holiday want to avoid as much stress as possible.
Another point that guests seem to appreciate is getting personal recommendations. Shawn pointed out that visitors generally like to find out the inside knowledge of the town and good places to go and eat. A visit to the Courthouse Inn website offers more than just info about the B&B—it also has a comprehensive section on Revelstoke itself.
The Internet, in fact, is playing an ever-increasing role for small businesses, and this is true for the Courthouse Inn, which receives the vast majority of its reservations online. Encouraging positive reviews should also be a major consideration, said the Cooks, whether this be online or through word of mouth.
For those contemplating a new business in the tourism sector, the Cooks' first recommendation was to make sure you actually enjoy the work you’re considering.
“If you’re thinking of getting into the tourism industry, if it’s dealing with customers, you’d better make sure you like dealing with people,” Shawn said. “Ultimately, you have to be ready, willing and flexible. There are all sorts of things you have to come up with to help people figure things out.”
Also look for a need in the market, and then fill it. The Cooks said they strive to deliver a very quality experience for their guests, which is the niche they decided to fill in Revelstoke from the beginning. The key is to establish something that visitors are not finding and then figure out a way to provide it.
Ultimately, tourism is about discovering what people want and then helping provide it.
“I think it’s just total service that people are looking for,” said Shawn. “That seems to be the magic thing that we do.”