Top 3 Winner of the 2011 ‘Inspiring Stories from Destinations’ Competition
In 2008 The Travel Foundation (UK) started working with ‘beach boys’ in Sri Lanka along the Bentota and Beruwela coastline. The Foundation exists to protect and enhance the environment and improve the well-being of destination communities, as well as the holiday experience for visitors.
They initiated the work in Sri Lanka because hotels were receiving a high volume of complaints from tourists about the ‘hassle’ from vendors on the beach, known locally as ‘beach boys’. ‘Beach boys’ earn a living for themselves and their families by selling products and services to tourists. Due to complaints, hotels began to erect fences so that the vendors were separated from holidaymakers.
The aim of the project was to minimise hassle for tourists and create opportunities for local communities to make a living from tourism, by providing quality services to tourists.
To do so, dynamic training was provided to the ‘beach boys’ so that they can provide a high level of customer service. Vendors benefited from learning about community tourism opportunities, service standards, cultural differences, know your customer, guiding techniques, team work, health and safety.
The Travel Foundation encouraged the engagement between local hotels in order to develop a good working relationship with the beach operators. On completion of the training course, participants graduate as ‘Beach Operators’, clearly identifiable by their t-shirts.
The results of the project have been fantastic and complaints from tourists have decreased significantly. One of the Travel Foundation’s biggest goals was to create sustainable livelihoods for ‘beach boys’ and it is positive to report that beach operators experienced an increase in income. To date more than 250 beach operators have been trained.
Most importantly, following the training, beach operators now see themselves as professionals and they feel respected by their family and community. Beach operators say they feel proud and take pride in their work
Of the participants who have benefited from training in customer service skills, they are no longer seen as ‘hassle’ by tourists…securing a brighter future for themselves and their families, as well as offering holidaymakers a fantastic service.