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Mar 15, 2024

TIABC Voice of Tourism Newsletter – March 15, 2024

TIABC

In a previous role, I worked with consultant Duane Knapp to help our organization reshape its brand. Duane is considered to be one of the world’s foremost brand experts and has authored several books related to a strategy he developed called brand science. As part of his work, he frequently speaks to corporations and at conferences (including the BC Tourism Industry Conference) on the notion of a brand promise, specifically in the context of customer service.

Whenever Duane travelled north from his home in Palm Springs to meet with me, we’d have dinner at a downtown restaurant. The first thing he would do before we ordered so much as a glass of water was pull out a $100 US bill and tip the server. Because neither of us typically ate or drank enough to warrant that size of gratuity (based on a percentage of the final bill), it was a very generous gesture that virtually guaranteed top-notch service.

Whether I’m out for a meal, getting my hair cut, or finding my way home in a taxi, I try to emulate Duane and leave a good size tip, partly out of empathy for young people trying to eke out a living in a very expensive part of the world. However, unlike my American friend, I find it hard to offer a gratuity for services not yet rendered.

Recently I took a pair of pants in for alterations where payment was required up front, including a suggested tip of between 10% and 30%. Wait, what? How was I to determine how much to give before the tailor actually fixed my trousers? Ironically, it took two more adjustments before the pants fit right. The same goes for other services like ridesharing where the base fare and tip are already processed by the time the vehicle arrives. There is no recourse (other than a bad review) if the driver sucks, gets lost or makes everyone car sick.

As I was relaying my experience with the tailor to some friends recently, I learned that some of them believe we’ve reached the so-called tipping point on tipping and have resorted to a maximum percentage or not tipping at all for basic (i.e. not exceptional) services they believe are a core function of someone’s job.

The subject of tips and tipping point reminded me of another conversation I had the other day with a couple of operators who fear that we’ve reached the tipping point on the cost of travel to and within Canada. Taking into consider the combination of a higher base price for most services or experiences, compounded by myriad fees, taxes and/or a minimum 20% tip, they wonder whether Canada is no longer considered reasonable or affordable for the average middle-income earner.

Moreover, operators are nervous that booking pace in some regions is down noticeably compared to 2023, with the cost of travel assumed to be one of the contributing factors. Although visitors begrudgingly accept that travel is generally more expensive everywhere these days, is there such a thing as a tipping point that dissuades people from visiting Canada (& BC)?

Some of my highly regarded professional colleagues tell me that although the cost of travel influences where vacationers might go, what they buy, what they experience during their trip, and length of stay, tourists are still willing to spend good money to visit reputable destinations (including BC) that offer exciting and memorable experiences, as well as deliver outstanding service and value.

As we approach what’s commonly referred to as ‘peak season’, I expect to hear from media asking about consumer perceptions on the price of a BC vacation especially when it comes to certain sectors that are often unfairly singled out and criticized for high rates despite the reality of soaring operating expenses, supply constraints, high demand, and other circumstances. At the risk of sounding insensitive to the consumer, I typically err on the side of operators who both need to stay the course on price but also focus on value and not deep discounting…which generally doesn’t attract significantly more visitors and becomes a race to the bottom.

As for tipping…in the days before credit card terminals offered tip percentage choices, I inadvertently miscalculated and left a woefully inadequate gratuity for a business breakfast that I discovered as I was submitting my receipt to the finance department. Sheepishly, I went back to the restaurant, apologized to the server, and squared up with a more generous tip than what I should have left in the first place. Again I thought of my friend Duane who, as a brand and customer service guru, has never been embarrassed like that given he always tips upfront. Perhaps there’s something to his tipping practice for future consideration.

Walt Judas,

CEO, TIABC

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Pictured left to right:
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- Ceri Chong - Tourism Richmond
- Chris Lewis - Tourism Kelowna
- Nicole Ford - Rocky Mountaineer
- J.J. Belanger - Crystal Cove Beach Resort
- Jamie Cox - St. Andrews by the Lake
- Walt Judas - TIABC
- Mike Retasket - CCCT
- Joanne Burns-Millar - Pacific Destinations