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21.05.2005 Travel & Tourism

Change Management For The Tourism Business

By Debrah, Richard Kwame

Ghana's tourism industry did not feel anything positive under positive change part one. Part two has already raised doubts, if the 2005 budget statement is really what government wants to do for Ghana. If the contents of the 2005 budget statement is not enough evidence that Ghana government is not serious about tourism, then l challenge both the minister of tourism and bla bla bla, and the minister of finance to come out and tell all Ghanaians what agenda they have for Ghana's tourism. Now that it is clear to those of us in the industry that government has zero tolerance for tourism business development, it is we in the industry who need to learn the art of standing up in it, and making it work for our businesses. Some of us have come to the criss cross roads as complex as the one next to HIPC junction and wondering if we are in the right kind of business, the vampire and mind boggling increase in petroleum products prices, has done a lot of damage, even before then, Ghana Tourist Board (GTB) had threatened to increase certificate renewal fees, and new business registration fees amid uncountable number of taxes and taxes and taxes from every agency that collects tax in Ghana. If we have to be honest to ourselves, then all of us in the tourism industry should rename the industry as the 'wahala' industry and then do the, is it the 'wahalans' or the 'wahalanese' route march number 4'. In our case we will neither insult anybody nor do any wild 'patapaalistic and stinking comparisons. Smiling is our trade mark.

So the fact remains that, may be as one big boy is alleged to have said at a press conference, 'both government and Jake do not understand the industry'. But l am reliably informed that, the man went back to apologize for saying the truth in public. Friends, wahala or no wahala, our business is our business, and so it remains our business to keep it going, whether government beliefs in our industry or not, after all Ghana Tourist Board (GTB) is still in business, even though, it is alleged that the ministry of tourism and bla bla bla has clearly taken over GTB's mandate of marketing Ghana tourism. I emphasize that it is alleged ooo. But if that is not true, then how come that it is the ministry that is marketing the hang-gliding festival that is coming up on 25th March. Since we have to survive, and live decent lives, it is we the business owners that have to adopt some changes especially in our attitudes to see our businesses go through these wahala days. I am pinpointing six ways in which we the entrepreneurs in Ghana's tourism industry must change our attitudes in order to adapt successfully to what is going on around us and also within us.

1. Turn from working out of the blue, to compass. I saw through the best 100 businesses in Ghana list, and sadly only two direct tourism businesses are listed among the top one hundred businesses in Ghana. I don't want to play any blame games but l know from my own research that over 80% of travel & tour businesses do not have a business plan. Do you have one? The interpretation is that they don't have any focus or shall I say direction. What makes this situation worse is that people do not believe they need it, others do not know what a business plan really is, so my people, it is road map, it is a set of rules where you put your head down and follow the road. lt is a compass mindset, a document, that finds a direction, negotiates the turns etc. It depends on near accurate judgment and needs leaders more than managers. A static business plan in this day and age is suicidal so your business plan must be dynamic. You do need a north star, a vision, a mission, but only one. Point your compass at it, let all that work with you there know it by heart and understand it. Print the vision and hang it everywhere, to inspire everybody, but don't expect an easy ride, there will be turbulence. We are already in turbulent times.

How do you translate the 'compass' idea to your relationship with your employees?. True entrepreneurs view the employees' personal visions as more important than the company vision. With a vision, a person has a sense of direction, which leads to faster decision making and leadership. You need to be a great individual today to be a team player. Companies, therefore, need to encourage their people to be more individualistic and self-motivating. You will have to identify your target markets. When we talk about our target markets, let's forget the old thinking of the past, that only foreigners can be tourists and also target the local market. We will take a dive into business writing later.

2. Move from 'what for' to 'what if' We must stop putting all the blame on the government, and take matters into our own hands. l remember, during the inauguration of Ghana Chefs Association at Aviation Social Centre, the president of Ghana Chefs Association, in his speech, lamented that Ghanaians do not patronize Ghanaian cuisine, quickly, the then minister, for agriculture who was there replied that 'the day you chefs would stop preparing what is now served and concentrate on Ghanaian dishes, Ghanaians would patronize it'. The message is clear, what we do determines what we get, not what we want.

We must, as a matter of fact defy the economic turbulence and what we perceive as counter development attitude of our leaders and concentrate on what can help us grow our own businesses. South African tourism businesses are defying the high crime rate and giving excellent services that is translating into high arrival digits. We must celebrate the turbulence, and change fear from a virus into adrenalin, so that we can feel the energy and passion. We must feel the thrill of doing business in a society where everyone can make a difference. Let us capitalize on our political stability which is making our environment more business conducive and loosening more opportunities for even the average person.

Many people today suffer from FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). Realize that you have to pass the torture test every day, but that the same factors are intimidating your competitors too. Fear is not necessarily a negative feeling. Some companies use the FQ (fear quotient) as a barometer of their health (that is, the higher the FQ, the healthier they are). If people are in the comfort zone, they won't feel the fear, but they won't be around much longer either.

Success differs from effectiveness. Success is a result, and its methods may belong to the past. Effectiveness has to do with doing the right things, doing things better. .

3. Change 'inside out' 'outside in'.

Ghanaian tourism entrepreneurs need double vision; we need to see things from our consumers' point of view. We must be able to move comfortably from the third world to first and back again. 'Third world', however, does not mean 'third rate'.

There is a high level of ignorance in Ghana of the worlds we live in. Don't shout the odds: listen to and charm your potential customers. The basic question in our dealings with them should be “What do you think?” We must learn to understand the other person at every opportunity.

Leaders today must ask questions. We can no longer force people to do things, but must get them to want to do them.

In the capturing of new customers, start from what they need and aspire, to, not what suits our companies. In the world that lies ahead, the employee will come first, and then the customer. Keep the employees motivated; they will treat the customers as we treat them. If our employees believe in the company, the company will grow from strength to strength. 4. Change from 'top down' to 'bottom up' You can't win this war from behind a desk, but have to get involved in it. I know a hotel where the employees were given low interest loans to start farms; the farms sell groceries to the hotel and other facilities around. This employee owned supply system works like clockwork. There is never shortage of groceries, during very dry seasons, groceries were as fresh as ever and was being delivered. I am told Golden Tulip Hotel has a scholarship scheme for employee's children. Another hotel in Kumasi also pays hospital bills for employees. When employees are motivated, they work really hard and give fewer problems, they are also, motivated to solve problems even before they get to you. Because, it is the employees who are on ground, most of the time, it is they who have answers to problems that arise from the ground. Never impose solutions, but hold discussions with them and let them see their solutions at work. This would rather earn you respect and would not mean you do not know anything. Let them feel they are competent. They solve bigger problems in your absence with out telling you if you care to know.

5. Change from commerce to community.

Business must be seen as community friendly, to be building bridges; the concerns of the community must become the concerns of the company. Issues of development and HIV / AIDS are vital.

Nando's in South Africa started the game of street ball in the townships. The company is seen as being involved in the community in a very friendly way. All it cost was a donation of a ball and a net on a pole; with the rules being made by those playing at the time, it fits in with the desire for independence among the youth. A holiday resort in the Western Region built just KVIPs to be accepted by the community. We call it corporate citizenship. Be of help to the community in which you live. Market yourself to the community through generosity, because it is their word of mouth advertising that is driving your business. The community is also your customer, and bringing it closer to you is your first step towards relationship marketing.

In marketing today, you can't go ahead by looking in the rear-view mirror. Be more efficient, and act more like a hunter than a farmer, while keeping the wisdom of the farmer. Like a hunter:

o treat each customer (animal) as someone different

o look constantly for new markets (territories)

o Watch out for predators (the same word!)

Don't despair if first you don't succeed; remember that the cheetah can race 110 km per hour but misses his prey nine out of 10 times. Use your ingenuity, innovation, resilience and stamina, and treat every experience as a learning experience.

6. Adapt to international standards

Thanks to the internet, now the door has opened, and the chill wind of international competition is swirling in.

Although we have missed out on the developments of the 80s because of our economic situation, sick governance, and natural disasters, we can have an advantage when it comes to home markets, if we have adapted to the changes and hunt and farm imaginatively.

The problem in Ghana, contrary to general belief, is not entirely government, and an economics, serious entrepreneurial skill is also larking everywhere. In deed human beings change, situations change, the world is changing and must we change the way we do business. It is said that 'it is only change that is inevitable'. ' emere da ne a, na won so, adane wo ho bi' 'Crisis is change trying to take place' Brian Tracy Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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