A boutique hotel in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has become the latest in the Caribbean to be Hospitality Assured (HA) certified, an international certification programme for service excellence.
“Hotel Alexandrina is extremely proud to be part of the Hospitality Assured family. The self-evaluation of our company to see where we are, and the steps taken to improve our operation was extremely effective,” said Ruth Stevens, managing director of Hotel Alexandrina, one of the host hotels for the upcoming Sustainable Tourism Conference scheduled for St. Vincent and the Grenadines from 26-29 August.
The HA certification is owned by the Institute of Hospitality and managed by Hospitality Limited based in the United Kingdom. It was developed specifically for the tourism sector, to promote and reward the highest levels of service and business excellence. The programme is managed in the Caribbean by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).
The programme consists of nine key areas and 44 criteria that must be addressed to gain the Hospitality Assured certification. The key areas focus on: Customer Research, The Customer Service Promise, Business Leadership & Planning, Operational Planning & Standards of Performance, Resources (people, equipment, facilities), Training and Development, Service Delivery, Service Recovery and Customer Satisfaction Improvement.
Stevens said the steps to certification helped the hotel become more focused on customer satisfaction. “The exercises set forth in the programme helped us to recognise that customer satisfaction is the best indicator of our company’s performance and that our primary focus must be on our customer service promise.”
The CTO views the project as critical in helping to strengthen the business performance and overall competitiveness of tourism enterprises in the Caribbean by promoting a culture of quality, service excellence and continuous improvement through the use of an internationally recognised business improvement tool and framework.
Stevens said there are real rewards from the programme. “Now, our business is operating at a higher level understanding of the importance of customer expectations and satisfaction and already receiving accolades and reaping the financial benefits because of our improved standards,” she said.
In recent months several businesses have become HA certified after completing a rigorous qualifying process. These include Alicia’s Inn and Baker’s Suites in St. Maarten – both of which were part of a pilot HA programme sponsored by the European Union’s Competitiveness of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises programme – and Ocean Terrace Inn in St. Kitts.
The CTO intends to grow the programme and to work with its members and its private sector partners to raise awareness about the benefits of this service quality management programme and to encourage the participation of the tourism and hospitality sector.
There are over 90 companies signed on to the programme with a service quality management system in place to strengthen their service delivery and overall business performance. Other Caribbean companies approved in recent months include Holiday Taxi Limited in Saint Lucia; Grand Coastal Inn and Old Fort Tours in Guyana; and Sunbreeze Hotel in Belize.