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I frequently think that we try and make tourism far too complicated when the recipe for success largely boils down to the way we treat our customers, or in our case, visitors. I recently spent a week in Costa Rica – five nights in a small property called Oxygen Jungle Villas and two nights in a Marriott just outside the capital San Jose – and an overnight in each direction at the Sofitel Miami. What impressed me especially at the two brand-name hotels was the standard of service across every level and all departments If I had to describe it in a single word, it would be faultless. Room rates were probably a little higher than I would have ordinarily paid, but when you equated it with the value for money received, the cost became almost irrelevant. I had visited Costa Rico thirty-something years ago, so you can imagine the changes. The American Airlines flights to and from San Jose and Miami were virtually full with clearly a predominance of visitors even during this, an off-peak period. Contrast this with the Miami/Barbados flight, which barely had a 50 per cent load factor. The first impression at SJO airport, while standing in the immigration line, were the LED flat screens, although silent, showing attractions, activities, local products and restaurant choices – already giving arriving tourists options and choices on how to spend holiday monies during their stay. This is such an obvious opportunity for our airport, and you wonder why monitors haven’t been installed so far. And as a destination, knowing that we cannot compete with lower-price, mass-market alternatives, surely a commitment to the delivery of service excellence is the direction we should be aiming for at all grades of accommodation – everyone on the same page with a common purpose. At first it may seem an illogical leap from the topic, but are there lessons we can learn from other sectors? Next time you take a bite out of a Mars bar, for instance, as two billion people annually do, take a few minutes to study the five principles behind one of the world’s largest privately owned corporations. A 14-minute video on YouTube – The Five Principles Of Mars – takes you around the globe giving examples of how the company puts quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency and freedom to practical (and profitable) use. To me, at least, it graphically demonstrates that we all must keep our minds open to new ways our product or service can be improved. Paraphrasing the objectives of their 6 500 “associates”, as they are called, who are employed by the company, the stated goal is to “create lasting, mutual benefits for all those involved in our business success”. Perhaps it has never been as important as in these economic circumstances to help those who are helping you achieve your goals and aspirations. We talk about closer cooperation between the various sectors but seem rather reluctant to implement the conversation, or walk the talk. Have we really become too willing to accept mediocre as the “norm” and incapable of forging smart partnerships?