Business expert reveals how tourism companies could use hospitality to gain a competitive edge

A warm smile goes a long way in welcoming clients and making them feel at home in your business. Picture: Unsplash

A warm smile goes a long way in welcoming clients and making them feel at home in your business. Picture: Unsplash

Published Apr 16, 2024


According to Dr Erika Zeelie, the Deputy Head of Faculty (Commerce) at The Independent Institute of Education, the concept of hospitality is multifaceted and it is extending beyond its traditional association with the travel and tourism industry.

She said consumer expectations in terms of service levels, are at an all-time non-negotiable high so the principle of hospitality in business has become a competitive edge that can’t be ignored.

“While hospitality is a crucial aspect of the service sector, it now extends beyond travel and tourism to encompass a wide range of industries and businesses, and can be observed in various contexts, including health care, banking and finance, and beyond,” Zeelie said.

She said hospitality in the business environment refers to the practice of providing a warm and welcoming, friendly, and highly professional accommodating atmosphere and with a focus on providing high levels of service to customers, clients, employees, and other stakeholders.

“Hospitality in business encompasses creating a positive experience for individuals who interact with the business, whether as customers purchasing goods and services, employees working within the organisation, or partners and suppliers involved in business relationships,” Zeelie said.

The business expert also highlighted that business success in 2024 is often attributed not only to the quality of products or services but also to the intangible elements and levels of service that enhance customer experience.

“One such crucial factor is hospitality, which is increasingly being recognised as a vital component across various sectors, and essential for customer satisfaction and overall business success,” she said.

The deputy head of faculty said businesses today must be prepared to go the extra mile to understand and meet the unique needs and preferences of individuals.

“In our brutally competitive marketplace where customers have abundant options, hospitality helps a business go beyond the transactional exchange of goods or services.

“By treating customers with exceptional professionalism, businesses can establish strong relationships that extend beyond one-time transactions,” Zeelie said.

She said this relationship-building aspect is significant in industries where customer loyalty plays a pivotal role in long-term success.

“For the most part, EQ and soft skill training were in the past relied upon to close the gap between the transactional and the experiential. However, as customer expectations increase, hospitality training is becoming a more reliable pathway to ensuring consistency of scale,” she shared.

She added that customers today not only seek quality products but also demand a positive and memorable experience. Hospitality is a key factor in shaping these experiences.

“Satisfied customers are more likely to become repeat customers and brand advocates, driving positive word-of-mouth and contributing to business growth. In a crowded marketplace where products and services may be similar, hospitality becomes a powerful differentiator.

“A business that consistently provides excellent customer service and a welcoming atmosphere stands out from its competitors. This unique selling proposition can be a crucial factor in attracting and retaining customers, helping the business secure a competitive edge,” Zeelie explained.