Black Immigrant Daily News
Hanif Walcott would like to see customer service in the tourism sector grow beyond the current offerings.
Walcott, who is the operations manager of airport services at St James Travel and Tours, was awarded Employee of the Year at the 70th Anniversary Awards Gala of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) this December.
Boasting of over 40 years in the tourism and travel industry, Walcott told Loop News that Barbados’ main attraction as a destination is its people, and their hospitality.
“[Barbados’ tourism product] is dated without a doubt. The stuff to do in Barbados is very limited but we have what a lot of cultures don’t have, which is the human level of it.
“I would like to see our service levels improve throughout this country. I would honestly like to see Bajans speak a lot slower when they are speaking to guests….I have seen customs [and] security guards speak to guests at the airport and the people are dumbfounded, they don’t understand what we are saying because we speak very fast – Slow it down,” he emphasised.
While admitting that it has been a challenging period for the sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Walcott insisted that tourism employees put the Barbados brand first. This was exhibited by the exceptional service given to visitors and locals who quarantined at hotels.
“We had a bit of a challenging time with COVID. We had guests that were not so happy especially when they came down here, spent X amount of dollars and then their PCR [tests] weren’t valid. Some of them were abusive so we had to manage that but at the end of the day, it is always team Barbados, the Barbados brand.”
Reflecting on his decades in the industry, the operations manager recalled when his younger years working at American Airlines. Even then, he was willing to go the extra mile to make sure that best visitor experience in the 246.
“When I first started at American Airlines, we used to pay $25 departure tax and they would put it on the ticket so every time the guest come and you check them in you take the $25 once they need help. I have spent almost $1,200 of my money paying departure tax for guests and never got back a cent but you know what it all comes back,” he shared.
The father of two expressed that he hoped the youth in the hospitality sector could continue to exhibit the pride and commitment to service that Barbados was known for.
“Make sure it is what you love. in this industry, in whatever you go into, – the industry is very diverse so which every area you go into – make sure that every morning at four o’clock or five o’clock, you want to bounce out of bed and get to work.
“If the rain is falling you want to stay out and help whoever needs help…It is that part that drives people to come back to this 166 square miles,” he told Loop.