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TOURISM MATTERS: Moldova model impressive

Adrian Loveridge

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I HAVE JUST RETURNED from spending ten days in the United States, eight of which were spent in the state of New Hampshire at a two-property resort hotel in the White Mountains.
The standard of accommodation was very high and what stood out were the number of nationalities involved in service delivery – in fact, management and staff from 13 different countries, excluding the host; 14 of those employees came from Moldova, and I would not blame you for a second if you are scratching your head and thinking, where on earth is that?
Before you leap to Goggle, it’s a small land-locked state in Eastern Europe, formerly part of and now bordering Romania with the Ukraine and for part of its history, a Soviet satellite.
Shortly it will be celebrating two decades of independence.
Nearly a quarter of their entire population (4.5 million) earn a living abroad and one third of the country’s GAD consists of remittances.
Moldova is often described as the poorest country in Europe, but offers tremendous tourism potential in years to come, with over 140 cultural heritage sites, outstanding natural attractions, an important health and beauty niche together with a thriving wine industry, which ranks it as the 22nd largest producer in the world.
And this is why it is so critical that emerging nations inspire visionary leaders who fully comprehend the realities of modern-day tourism – those who speedily draft and implement medium to long-term master plans that all the players can follow and use as a benchmark for achieving excellence.
Long before substantive overseas investors or locals build world-class hotels, the government of Moldova is ensuring that their workforce receives all the necessary training to ensure their nationals meet the service standards expected in a global marketplace.
Yes, I know some will say that Barbados has a programme that allows some of its citizens to gain work experience in North American hotels, but are we really doing enough?
Varying service levels are often the subject of negative comment on travel reference websites like Trepidation.
I have said many times in the past that it is totally unreasonable to expect our tourism workers to deliver a level of service that they have never been exposed to.
Within hours of returning to Barbados, both hotels where we stayed had contacted me personally, inviting comments to gauge the quality and satisfaction of our lodging experience. It is difficult not to be impressed and would surely influence most people returning to the same locations or another hotel in the same chain.
This is the level of customer service we are competing with worldwide.
Not surprisingly, this is standard practice for most of the more successful individual or chain properties for the simple reason that if you keep the guests happy, they will come back.
Frequent user programmes are also increasingly used to maintain that loyalty and are getting more creative year after year – in our case, tea or coffee delivered to your room, a late check-out, room upgrade and even free nights, once you have met the minimum requirements.  
Sadly, while the authorities have not yet informed all of the private sector tourism partners, I understand we are about to lose further airlift after Philadelphia, then Atlanta and now Dallas/Fort Worth.
Questions must be asked and reasons given for not being able to sustain a single tiny B737 per week out of one of the world’s busiest airports.