Tourism Excellence: Speak With Good Purpose - Be Positive


By Nancy J. Reid & Lisa D. Smith

“Positive people are able to maintain a broader perspective and see the big picture which helps them identify solutions whereas negative people maintain a narrower perspective and tend to focus on problems.” Author and Professor of Psychology, Barbara Fredrickson


There are at least three main components of communication when it comes to tourism and the tourism industry. One is definitely how the guest is treated when visiting a tourism destination; two is how the traveler acts when visiting a tourism destination; third is the communication between members of a community, especially committee members, during the process of building their destination as a place guests will find value in visiting.

If you put yourself in the shoes of a guest to your destination, you can most likely guess what they will expect, based on what you yourself would expect from the visit. While most of us may think first impressions matter most, science seems to differ. Nobel-prize winning psychologist and best-selling author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, says people actually form judgements based on the most intense moments, and the end impression of an event, activity or visit. For example, if 90% of a visitor’s experience was good, but the last 10% of it was bad, the lasting impression will be mostly negative. Kahneman calls this the peak-end rule.

Oops! Did I just roll my eyes out loud?
Through his research, Dr. Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus in Psychology at UCLA, found that only 7% of a message is conveyed by words while 93% is conveyed by non-verbal communication; 55% of the 93% is through body language, and 38% is through tone of voice. Even more interesting is that body language and tone are considered more honest forms of communication than words.

When a traveler asks a server in a restaurant or a desk clerk at a hotel what there is to see and do in the area, they are often met with a sigh, shrugging or slumping of shoulders, eye rolling and eventually words like, “Nothing, really,” or “Well, (pause) you might try going to a movie…”

On the other hand, sometimes when a traveler is asked by a server or hotel clerk, “How are you enjoying your stay?” the answers are often, ”Well, this rain wasn’t in any of the brochures,” or, “The food around here is kind of different.”

Good communication skills are vital in almost every aspect of our lives and regardless of the purpose of your conversation, positive communication will always bring better results for all participants, than negative communication. This is especially true when you are trying to get important points across to others; trying to change the minds of others; or trying to collect or distribute information.

The ability to meet face-to-face to discuss something is the most effective way to communicate. All parties involved can assess non-verbal (body language, facial expressions and voice tone) with verbal (words being used) communication to discern the meaning of what is being said. You can choose to minimize distractions, ask questions for clarification, and respond to let whomever is speaking know that you are listening and receiving the message that is being conveyed. Feedback is immediate.


The written word is the next most effective way to communicate and also has verbal and non-verbal dimensions. The words you use are the verbal dimension, but how you display them is the nonverbal dimension or tone of the communication.

Carefully chosen words displayed in a pleasing way takes more time to master, but it is a valuable way to communicate with the added benefit of a way to keep a record of what is happening. The difficult part is that the feedback does not occur at the same time and the possibility of being misunderstood is greater than a face-to-face conversation.

In either case, whether communicating in person or in writing, staying positive will help further the purpose of the conversation. If your purpose is to change a person’s outlook on something, being insulting will not get you the result you want. If your purpose is to get or give information, being demanding and pushy usually leads to closed doors and minds.

Convenience vs. Clarity
Mobile phones and the internet are indeed remarkable, convenient and play huge parts in most people’s daily lives. However, the speed at which we can communicate, especially on social media, texting and shortened, often mistyped  messages, can lead to some serious communication problems. The most ineffective way to communicate is sending quick, shortened, verbal messages in written form.

Keep Your Purpose in Mind
When working to build a safe and economically sound community that adopts tourism as a way to boost and sustain revenue, it takes a lot of positive and consistent communication.

From those who actively plan and work towards building their community into a responsible tourism destination, to those directly in the tourism business, and to those who indirectly benefit from tourism dollars, positive communication is a key factor.

If you work in a tourism related business, being positive about your community and what is offered for a visitor is essential for all concerned. The visitor wants a good, friendly and fun visit, and the company employing workers wants to continue to be in business and to be profitable by helping to fulfill the visitor’s needs. The employees of companies in the tourism industry should be properly trained in customer service so that they can perform their duties with interest in the visitor, and a smile. This will not only help them keep their jobs, but it can lead to a full-fledged career in the tourism arena.

Those involved in community planning often find themselves in countless meetings and part of numerous committees. Positive communication is essential for any of this to be time well-spent.

To make a committee effective, it has to know its purpose so it can define its duties, select the right mix of members, and come up with a timeline to accomplish the purpose.

The success of the committee must be more important than the personal goals of the committee members. A good committee needs members that have the skills to communicate positively, the experience to complete tasks, and have a clear understanding of what is expected of them.

Most importantly, members must be able to communicate well enough to gather all input, opinions, and facts pertaining to the committee purpose, in order to put in plans in place or to make good decisions that will benefit the community as a whole. Good decisions, based on fact and research, can help a community benefit and enjoy responsible guests that enrich in cultural exchange in addition to revenue.

This is the fourth article in the “Putting the “I” Back in Community” tourism article series. For the first three articles and other informative articles and interviews on positive communication, see:

Article 1: Building Excellence in Tourism

Article 2: Building a Destination with a Sense of Place

Article 3: Failure Leads to Success in Tourism: It’s a Detour

Gossip is Toxic by Sarah Elliston  

Are You a Difficult Leader, by Sarah Elliston  

International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association


No Feedback Received