From Peru to Vail, friendly service makes a difference
Vail, CO, Colorado
My wife and I just returned from Peru ” an extraordinary destination, especially for someone whose high school Spanish has been pushed about as far as it will go in just asking, “Where are the bathrooms?”
But, remarkably, with the help of some well-trained, kind and extremely knowledgeable guides from Peru’s Condor Travel (yes, a personal plug) we made it comfortably and securely through two large in-country airports, two train stations, three hotels and three guided tours without a hitch and with a maximum of courtesy and efficiency. Cars, drivers and guides showed up early with the appropriate and correct itineraries, transfers, tickets, etc., and the personal attention we received made us feel like dignitaries at every step along the way.
In decades of travel, we have never used an operator for private travel before but our tight schedule and the incredible scale of the tourism options in Lima, Cuzco and Machu Picchu over a 10-day period demanded precision and it was delightfully delivered. I may never set foot out of the country again without this wonderful assistance.
But, this column is more than a commercial for tour operators. It’s a testimony to the effect individual people who go the extra mile can have on strangers in a strange land.
It’s not so much that visiting the Vail Valley is the overwhelming and outworldly experience that visiting foreign lands can be, it’s more about the reality that visiting anywhere really different from your home turf can be somewhat intimidating.
Just as in Peru, there are printed guides, travel books, on-line maps, destination signage, etc., but none of that can substitute for a knowledgeable, smiling, friendly local who asks oft-befuddled visitors if they need a little assistance.
We’ve all heard the stories of people being judgmental about this town or that saying, “too snobby” or “they ignore you there,” or “we felt like intruders.” The truth is, bad behavior toward guests is unusual here, and because of sound customer service practices throughout the valley and programs like Destination Experience ” the Platinum Service Program at the Vail Valley Partnership ” it’s becoming exceedingly rare.
Still, we all need to remember that the best path to endearing the brand, the destination and valley-wide activities to our guests is to treat them the way you’d want to be treated if you were feeling lost or a bit disoriented and needed a little “local” insight.
Small acts of graciousness can go a long way in changing the feeling of being out of place to a feeling of being welcome, fitting in and belonging. Although it can sometimes be inconvenient or awkward to approach a guest on the street or on the bus, if you go the extra mile to help it will be appreciated, remembered and talked-up for a long time to come.
Those of us involved in economic development throughout the valley continue to work hard on the macro issues that will eventually bring us to 365-day sustainable economy, but it really is something this simple that on a micro front produces results that benefit us all every day.
Michael Kurz is president and chief executive officer of the Vail Valley Partnership.
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