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CORNWALL - Standards

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Do the standards created by the tourism industry really mean anything? In our experience usually the answer is 'not a lot'. One man's three star hotel can be another's five star and in almost every case it is going to be inflated! Most often, accreditations are linked to subscriptions and the subscription increase with each extra star, crown, palm tree, flower... so the more you are willing to pay, the higher your classification. A sad truth, but a global phenomenon.

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So at best, from a guest's point of view these ratings can only be viewed as a general indication rather than a firm promise of what's to come. Standards inspections are often based on tick tests - if you have a car park you get a tick, the fact that it is a rutted mud pile is by-the-by. In this situation the best (and honest) answer is for the hotelier to add to their brochure/web site "maintained car parking facilities for 35 vehicles on site", or "maintained car parking facilities for 35 vehicles on site and immediate access to public transport offering a park & ride option for guests".

Comparison sites suffer in a similar way. The likes of Tripadvisor, whilst offering a valuable service can be abused. Hotel owners are quick to create scores of email addresses in order to give themselves top ratings AND their competitors rubbish ratings. In all so many cases this is obvious, as the ratings all contain the same spelling mistakes and grammatical errors!

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When it comes to marketing, web sites currently offer the best all round tool to describe and in so doing 'sell' your location. You can never put too much onto your site, as after all the reader does not have to look at every page if he/she doesn't want to.

Brochures, on the other hand, are by definition short, sharp - brief introductions to a product or service. It offers a 'taste' of what is on offer rather than the full 'meal'. Brochures are also a lot more expensive to produce and have a much shorter shelf-life.

Sphinx is currently preparing training packs to assist providers of goods and services within the realm of tourism. We are looking at these being simple and effective. Also, we are looking at bringing in the experts in specific sectors to give current and meaningful input.

The Sphinx take on: CUSTOMER CARE, ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS, LOCAL PRODUCE, MARKETING, TRAINING, VALUE FOR MONEY.