Quality peeps

I’d suggest that the key to success for tourism on our beloved Costa del Sol is not the quality of the people coming in but rather the quality of the people here to greet them

NEIL HESKETH

Among the hear-all-you-can buffet of politicians’ speeches at last week’s World Travel Market in London - this year a welcome sound after a two-year absence - was a pleasing new holiday refrain of “we need quality”. The Costa del Sol has fortunately woken up, just in time, to realise that packing the beaches and streets with ever-greater numbers of visitors - the so-called mass tourism - isn’t very sustainable and just plain unpleasant for most. It’s a worldwide problem and the penny has dropped with Malaga city authorities especially that the future is quality above quantity.

Yet nobody seems to be able to (or want to openly) define what a ‘quality person’ visiting really looks like. The best I can guess from a read of the speeches is ‘people who spend more money in hotels and restaurants’. Is this quality? Are we to filter out only those carrying Louis Vuitton luggage at the airport?

I’d suggest, before this convenient chorus of ‘quality people please’ goes much further on its journey, that the key to success for tourism on our beloved Costa del Sol is not the quality of the people coming in but rather the quality of the people here to greet them.

Malaga has one amazing, quality resource that gets overlooked in the rush to concrete over protected clifftops or corners of favourite beaches under the mantra of ‘quality experience’. The quality we seek lies within the local people, not a cement mixer. And you know what? We don’t need to wait for EU money to make them. That job’s been done for us. And what’s more, there’s 149,071 - according to last week’s local unemployment figure - just sitting there waiting to be supported, trained and involved. Waiting to be quality people. It’s scandalous, as they say.

Quality visitors are attracted by Quality service… no really, I mean quality with a capital Q. Internationally, world-beating, knock-me-over-with-a-feather good service. And this is where we need to get to work; to turn this wonderful resource - the people of Malaga - into world leaders in international customer service.

It doesn’t cost much either. We need to train ‘til we drop in languages and understanding how foreign visitors think and feel and how they see Spain. We need to be creating constant anxiety to improve how we serve people and to monitor ourselves on service against the best destinations in the world… and really want to beat them.

So, as we start to pack the word ‘quality’ into every second speech, dear politicians, let me dare you. As well as tirelessly quoting the numbers flying into Malaga Airport, for example, can we publish data of what these ‘quality tourists’ actually feel about their experience going through the airport? Are we brave enough? Are we ready?