The ambitious WorldHost programme aims to reach enough people to raise the country’s overall customer service standards.
According to Brian Wisdom, CEO of People 1st, improving the nation’s hospitality welcome is crucial to ensuring that the sector achieves its potential during the Olympics and other world-class sporting events being hosted in the UK, including the 2014 Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games, and the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
“There is a lot of focus on developing the infrastructure for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games but not enough on ensuring we have the softer skills needed to welcome the world to Britain. It’s anticipated that up to half a million visitors will arrive for the Games and we need to ensure their experience of Britain is a very positive one.
“We plan to do something about what everyone recognises is a real need. The hospitality, leisure, tourism and travel (HLTT) sector is one of the UK’s largest employers and the ‘visitor economy’ contributes over 8 per cent of GDP. If we reach our target of 200,000 it will make a real difference to the experience people have as well as the revenue generated.”
The WorldHost training programme aims to improve overall customer service skills, and includes additional learning modules on serving customers with disabilities. It also includes modules on service across cultures and the ambassador workshop, aimed at volunteers assisting visitors.
WorldHost has already been successfully used at the Vancouver Winter Olympics to train 39,000 staff and volunteers earlier this year. People 1st developed the programme for the UK market, with the support of VisitEngland and the backing of the Institute of Directors.
“Hosting these major sporting events over the next five years provides a supreme business opportunity to show the world what a great country we are,” said Miles Templeman, director general of the Institute of Directors.
“To make sure Britain is at its best, the standard of our customer service needs attention. It is imperative for businesses to invest in the people who will be on the front line, hosting our visitors and acting as ambassadors for the rest of the country.”
According to a recent report by Oxford Economics for Visit London/VisitBritain, the UK’s hospitality, leisure, tourism and travel industry could stand to generate £2bn from visitors around the Olympics.