Traits of successful tourism operatorsWe asked some of our contributors to come up with common personality traits of a successful tourism operator, have look at what you think you achieve and others that you can try to do better.  Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses so know your personal strengths, and find others to assist develop those things you aren’t skilled at.

Thanks to Robyn Bolton, Daniel Bridges, Geoff Button, Simon McManus, Gareth Pearce, Jan Willoughby and Jeremy Zinzan for their contributions to this article.

Well Organised

Organized, with active systems & processes and looks after staff and suppliers – when tourism operators have appropriate systems and processes in place then the best possible experience is passed on to the customer. Without these systems and processes the customer can often be impacted through unprofessional service levels, lower revenues and no opportunity to reinvest. Having a good systems and processes plan will allow tourism operators to grow their businesses rather then be stagnant or head in a backwards direction.

Looks & Plans for Opportunities

Those tourism operators who plan or look for and respond to every opportunity are the ones who do really well. These people are also more likely to be the ones who have taken the time to prepare a marketing plan and to update this annually.
There is a so much information available now online and in other formats from research to newsletters and valuable articles. These might be in the form of updates on visitor numbers, information on target markets or RTO newsletters presenting an opportunity to put together a package or become involved with media etc. It may sound too simple however it’s astounding how few people actually make use of these opportunities. Many operators are too busy working in their businesses, and any thought of taking an hour or two out to plan of consider a response is all too often pushed to one side and forgotten.

Great Networker

Operators who are well networked seem to do better than those who ‘go it alone’. There’s much to be learned from others – operators who experience problems can often find the answer in talking to other tourism operators. Also those people that have strong connections to their local RTO are generally more successful.

A Friendly Local

A successful tourism operator needs to be a friendly local. Make a concerted effort to say hello to your local businesses, stay in contact, build healthy relationships and learn about their businesses i.e. local activities if you’re an accommodation, and vice versa. In particular what do these businesses offer that has a wow factor for your own target market? This will fuel a reciprocal word of mouth, which in turn will help to promote what’s great about your region, encouraging visitors to experience the best of what’s available – it will pay dividends when those visitors return home with well rounded experiences to share.

Ability to Grasp New Technologies

Many tourism operators fail to embrace new technologies when they become available, and this is when in most cases the statistics speak for themselves. Keeping up to date with new technologies allows for lower costs, improved sales, leading to better profits. In most cases, embracing new technologies allows tourism operators greater market exposure for little time & cost investment.

Asks for Help

Ask for help, don’t be shy. New Zealand is dotted with small to medium tourism operators spread throughout the country, which has created the need for consultants who are specialised in the many facets of making a tourism business succeed, so don’t be shy! There are now tourism consultants throughout NZ who’ll help your business with management, training, marketing, websites…Ideally you won’t rush in, you’ll do your homework, check their website for results and referrals, get a recommendation, test them on a small project first. A good consultant can make all the difference and relieve a lot of stress!


Successful tourism operators are open-minded to changing ways consumers source information, are flexible to online ways of doing business e.g. embracing social media and seeking new opportunities to reach audiences.  They are also open minded to other cultures and interested in other places being respectful of their customs.

Commitment to Customer Service

There’s a lot on this lovely blog site about this but that’s because it’s true. A successful tourism operator will truly care about making the experience as good as it can be for their customers/guests.  This goes beyond a smile at the front desk. It starts with the tone of marketing material and online listings, continues with making enquiring/booking/paying as easy as possible, really hits its straps when the guest arrives and carries on all the way through to post-stay communications and following up on suggestions/problems.  Too often a tourism operator will focus on the stay itself and undo all their good work in that area by neglecting everything else.  Be attentive, responsive, even proactive to customer needs.

Friendly, Enthusiastic, Welcoming Personality

This is very much a customer focused trait and you will be rewarded in so many ways.  Time and time again we see the most popular tourism operators in terms of travel reviews being those that have created a welcoming and friendly environment for their customers.


This kind of goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway – be knowledgeable about your tourism product, show this is your area of expertise and you’re a professional.  Sharing your knowledge of not just what you offer but also about your local area and region provides added value to your customers.

Willingness to Try Something New

Dont’ be afraid of change.  A trap for tourism operators is to get stuck in the old school models of wholesale rates, listing directories, etc. This just isn’t an option for any operator that wants to succeed now. You need to open your eyes wide, look at all opportunities, be receptive to trying new stuff and seeing if it works.  None of this means you have to stick with it if it doesn’t work, but innovation and iteration are vital.  If you’re afraid of change it can really hamstring your business.

Good Communicator

This is absolutely necessary – you must be able to engage with your customers for a more meaningful experience and is needed for good interpretation.  It’s also vital for directing and managing your employees so they too can provide the kind of experience to your customers that you desire.


Do something different that will create a different outcome, don’t try to be ‘prescriptive’ but allow creativity in business planning process, it can deliver innovation and new ideas to lead them in a positive direction.

Have Core Values But Seek Improvement

Stay true to core values but seek constant feedback from your customers (invaluable for refining your tourism product offer and service experiences).

Conscious of the environment

Be aware of the effect your tourism product has on the environment and locals, seek ways to reduce any negative impact, this will be rewarded with a positive reputation and brand.

Never Give Up

Never give up when it gets difficult, seek knowledge or ask someone else you respect in tourism for business advice and listen.

Have you got any more you’d like to add to the list? Leave comment to share it with us all.

5 thoughts on “16 Traits of a Successful Tourism Operator

  1. This is a great checklist that all tourism operators should try their best to adhere to. I’d also like to add a couple of other points from my own experiences of travelling around the country, some are a bit basic but it’s amazing the difference they make 🙂

    Things important to me…

    1. Speaking well of other local businesses and ‘unmissable’ areas away from your business – It injects positivity in to someone’s memory of you and your business and reinforces the feeling that NZ is a country of friendly, helpful people

    2. Eye contact and a genuine smile – It feels so good when someone focusses their attention on you, and so bad when they act like you’re just a number

    3. Realistic travel times – If the only way it could take 30 minutes to reach your location is when everyone else is asleep, make sure you tell people this. If someone is on a schedule, inaccurate travel times can create a lot of stress

    4. Maintain your professional appearance – Bringing personal issues in to the work environment isn’t a good look, especially if it’s to do with people you work with. Also being drunk upon a guest’s arrival is definitely not a good look

    5. Don’t talk trash about your competition – You never really know who you’re talking to, so talking trash about your competition is never a good idea. It only makes you look unprofessional and it definitely doesn’t help with the marketing of your region

    As I said above, some of them are quite basic, but for someone looking to enjoy a New Zealand adventure of a lifetime they can make such a difference to the overall experience. Every individual plays a part in making sure people leave New Zealand with great memories, so that they will then spread the news to everyone they know!

  2. The traits of successful motel operators that I have identified in my voyeuristic motel career ENJOY what they do, work HARD and have FUN.

    The “successful” operators that tend to stick around are difficult to identify as they often do not put their hands up and participate in a collective industry environment.

    They tend to STFU, put their heads down and “just do it” without getting involved in the politics of the industry(something I struggle to do;-)).

    They have a great attitude, always positive and never moan. They are passionate about what they do and enjoy the challenge.

    They take pride in their appearance. They are always quiet achievers. They don’t swear, don’t bitch, stand up for others, compliment people sincerely, are cheerful AND say please and thank you.

    They will always look cool and relaxed, but they work hard and plan behind the scenes so that they are always one step ahead.

  3. Good points you have here. It is important for a good tourism operator to provide great customer service at the same time knowledgeable.

  4. I agree, a positive outlook and fresh look will always make people feel good. Without sounding too contrite Kiwis are generally good in these areas + exceptionally friendly.

  5. Cool article and some real food for thought here for new tourism operators. In particular, I think the ‘conscious of the environment’ trait is going to play a big part in the coming years with ‘sustainability’ being at the forefront of most successful tourism operators’ thinking.

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