Need to tempt visitors to stay

Visitors spend $250 million here each year

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 13:02 07/01/2014
Jana Neilson
Emma Allen

Service with a smile: Ritual Cafe barista Jana Neilson provides good service for customers in Blenheim. District councillor Brian Dawson says service is generally good in Marlborough but we need to work harder to keep visitors in the region one more day.

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Customer service is generally good in Marlborough but frontline staff might need more help to sell the benefits of the region, district councillor Brian Dawson says.

Mr Dawson, a former chamber of commerce chief executive who runs customer service courses, said if visitors to Marlborough spent one more day here than planned, the region would be booming.

Destination Marlborough figures show visitors to the region spent about $250 million here each year.

Feedback on a Marlborough Express story about a council initiative to develop a "Marlborough Story" and new brand for the region had people saying that attracting people to Marlborough was one thing, but keeping them here was another.

One commenter said visitors needed to know what they could do cheaply or free as well what there was to keep them here longer and keep them coming back.

Another said Marlborough needed to be realistic. "OK folks . . . let's all deal with the facts shall we . . . the pros . . . the cons . . . etc; wouldn't it be devastating if the video bought them in, reality sent them home . . ."

Mr Dawson said customer service was generally good in Marlborough, but we could always improve. "The variability of service makes me anxious. It needs to be good all the time."

Occasionally, frontline staff who had grown up in the region ran the risk of having visitors not fully appreciating what Marlborough had to offer, Mr Dawson said.

"A frontline worker in a garage, when asked by tourists what there is to do here, may well shrug his shoulders and say 'not a lot'. We haven't grabbed them to make them fully familiar with what's available."

The pivotal role in encouraging visitors to stay longer was that of people working in accommodation, Mr Dawson said. "Accommodation providers have the real opportunity to try and keep people in Marlborough. They have an opportunity . . . to help themselves to extend people's stays and benefit the whole region."

When visitors were checking out was a vital time, he said.

"Sometimes it's as simple as asking nice warm, open questions about what they have been doing during their travels . . . It's about understanding what people have done, what they might want to do, and the opportunity to cross-sell and up-sell to them."

It was an opportunity for "Team Marlborough", he said, not just an opportunity for the retailer or accommodation provider. Marlborough needed to ensure all key frontline people were up to speed on "what were the cool things to do in Marlborough, .what were the best things to do in our region".

"If people stayed one more day in the region, we'd be there. That's what we need to achieve."

On the whole, Mr Dawson said Marlborough was doing a good job, but there was always the opportunity to do more.

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- The Marlborough Express

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