Friday, April 28, 2023

Kate Hawkesby: We must value those in the tourism sector more

One of the things I like about London is the infrastructure works. The buses, the trains, the tube, the taxis all work. It’s a systems place, it’s got the population to support it, and it works, so people use it.

The other thing I’ve found on our travels both here and in the States, is that service culture is huge. It’s a career.

At home it feels a bit more of a transient option for school leavers or students or those who want to dabble in something for a while. Waiting tables or working in a hotel is an in between gig on the way to or from something else.

In the States at the hotel we stayed in in New York for nine days, same staff every day. We had the same people working the same shifts – breakfast, lunch, dinner, reception, concierge, housekeeping, doormen, bell hops.

All the same people all the time. All older people, it’s a career, they love it, they’re stayers. We spoke to them, most of them have been there for years. In fact, one of them was telling us he got Covid and left for a while, because he lived two hours commute out of New York, so thought he’d try working closer to home for a while, but he missed the hotel and the city so much that he returned.. And has never looked back. Even though it takes him two hours to get to work!

They take pride in the jobs, they love it. Yes, I get they have a tipping system and that’s enticing in America, but London IS the same thing. Service culture jobs carry some sort of kudos.  I’ve talked to the hotel receptionist here, and some restaurant staff, they said they’re all long term. They wouldn’t consider doing anything else. It’s a career for them.

The cabbies too know how important their job is. They fill you in on what’s going on, why, how, have all the updates about the place, they seek to make your experience in their city as informed as it can be. They’ve been enormously helpful in terms of explaining what’s going on at any given time. They’re tapped into the heartbeat of the place. And there’s this natural inclination it seems, to want to help tourists and give you as many tips as they can for you to enjoy your stay.

Which all got me thinking about New Zealand, and how vital those who interface with our tourists are. We maybe don’t give enough kudos or credit to the person working the front desk at the local hotel or motel – that’s often the first person a tourist will interact with in our country, (bar airport staff or an Uber driver).

The wait staff working hospo serving tourists are crucial ambassadors for our country, and can sometimes make the difference to how their experience is going. The bus drivers, the cafe owners, the restaurant staff, all the people who are not necessarily in the tourism sector per se, but whose interaction with tourists can help form their view of our country. Even those in retail.

Anyone who interacts with a visitor, is in a small way playing an ambassador role for New Zealand. So full credit to the ones who do that job with pride and professionalism, we should value it more.

There should be more kudos placed on those jobs given how important they really are. And to all those thanklessly already doing it, we’re very grateful to you. Any public interfacing job can make or break someone else’s day, so it’s actually a really important one, and I think we should value it more than we currently do.

Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.

No comments: