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Letter to the Editor: Tourism needs immediate attention

Dear Sir,

I read your article on tourism with great interest ["Indifference and double pricing: Slovak tourism needs new ideas," Vol. 5 no. 18, May 9-15]. I myself have been working in a small tourist office in the south-east of Slovakia for one year, and also have been a tourist here over weekends and some holidays.

Slovakia as a country has a lot to offer - marvellous countryside, good seasons, caves, lakes, mountains and far more. Unfortunately, customer service is not on the list of priorities of the Tourist Bureau, and I have found myself in situations where I thought why should I spend or leave any money here? Customer service needs to be far more developed. A returned guest is cheaper then investing in new marketing campaigns. Also, management of staff within this industry is a key. Happy and satisfied staff attract tourists and develop a good image. Owners should try and keep their staff, train them and invest in them - once you have to start re-training new people all the time you will not get continious and consistent service.

Encouraging this is not just up to the individual owner of a tourism service, but it should be part of the government's strategy to encourage tourism, to enable people to establish new places. This means to cut interest rates at banks and have some schemes in place to encourage the opening of private businesses. To encourage town municipalitlies to believe in tourism and not to see it as an unwlecome expense. Sure, investments have to be made at the beginning and the returns might not show straight away, but in the long term tourists will leave money in the region. Even with EU projects running to develop tourism, in the long term these projects will end and the country will have to stand on its own feet.

Also, the animosity between the different regions needs to erased. An exchange of information should be at the top of the list. Major areas where tourists congregate like bus stations, train stations, travel agencies and tourist information centers, should offer service in other languages. An increase in independent travel agencies offering Slovak tours would be an enormous help in promoting the country's tourism assets

My idea is not just to turn Slovakia into another Tunisia, into country with wonderful nature resorts, tradtions and crafts! This country can also be turned into a well tuned machine which can operate to accumulate profit and make the tourist want to return.

Stefanie Wagner

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