Efate tour operators learn business skills

Participants with their certificates at the closing of the training

By Jonas Cullwick

A seven-day training for business owners from West to North and around Southeast Efate, that operate tourism tours, was held successfully last week at the Korean church facility opposite Vila East School in Port Vila.

Twenty-one participants, representing 21 tour operator businesses, among them Takara Hot Pool, Roimata Tours, Vanuatu War Relics Museum, Valeva Cave and Eton Natural Pool.

The training was organized by Vanuatu Discovery Trails Project and financed by the New Zealand government. The Department of Tourism and Shefa Provincial Council assisted with the training.

Training facilitator Arthur Edgell of Community Development Exchange Consulting says the training covered three key business processes which the project identified that these business owners needed to develop their skills to improve or to establish their individual businesses — business management, marketing and customer service.

“The training covered basic business processes covering resources, processes and outputs from the participants’ business sales such as from services or tours they sold and products that supported these tours.

“For example, one snorkeling tour would need to consider things that are important for customers such as safety, life jackets, things that enhance a visitor’s experience.

“Now many of them organize tours, but they never thought that the safety of visitors was important. So, things like having lifejackets — some do not have lifejackets, but these are important.

“So, inputs and resources that produce an output complete.”

Better management of finance was the next item identified as one of the major issues affecting the participants’ businesses.

“Better organization of financial resources, for example we covered how to put together a simple budget to operate their business – how they organize their incomes and expenditure items,” Edgell said

“We also look at costing of product or service costing of different items that their prices should cover so that these cover their expenses and return a fair profit at the end. They also learned how to manage their total cash operation with a basic cash flow showing cash in, cash out and balances and how to use these to make decisions about generating more income for the business.”

Thirdly they learned how to promote and market their businesses using the basic tools of marketing for example they produces a profile for each of the participant’s business. And how they identified target customers, where to find this target customer and then to develop a marketing strategy of what method of promotion or what tool to use to reach this customer.

“We have war relic museum operators who say that one of their major groups of visitors is students. Where do you find students? — schools and universities.

“So the training showed them that the best way to market their service is to go directly to the schools and universities instead of going out there for the public generally,” facilitator Edgell continued.

“What method to use? We find that many of the target groups use Facebook because they find that it’s the best way for them to get information using targeted marketing to put their brochures.”

“Fourth is customer service covering management of customer service – before service such as information, brochures, quotations, prices – during service such as being on time and greeting visitors and making them feel happy and interested, and After Service – if any complaint consider a refund such as maybe a 20% refund,” Edgell added.

Lastly they covered tourism business habits such as communicating properly, understanding personalities of visitors, and applying personalized service.

“Creating good first impression and lasting impression using photographs, key holders, and other such things that will always remind them of the visit, giving them a lasting impression.

And then they ended with setting some goals, aims, and priorities for the participants to start working on when they returned to their places, which should see improvements in their businesses.

At the end of the training a certificate presentation was held attended by Geoff Hyde – Project Team Leader for the Vanuatu Discovery Trails Project, Amos Ronnie – Manager of the project, Ricky Lee representing the New Zealand High Commission and Sakaria Daniel representing the Shefa Provincial Council Secretary General.

Jonas Cullwick, a former General Manager of VBTC is now a Senior Journalist with the Daily Post. Contact: jonas@dailypost.vu. Cell # 678 5460922

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