We Finally Got a Piece of the Pie
Hospitality is a staple of the South. It’s what we’re known for. As part of Laurel Main Street’s mission to promote economic development in the downtown area, we’ve implemented signage to help visitors find their way around town, the Laurel Welcome Center, multiple beautification projects, welcoming banners, and, most recently, lights above our streets.
This year, our beloved city stands to see more growth and tourism than ever before and it’s important that we all put our most friendly faces forward. Tourism in the United States is a TRILLION dollar industry. If we can become known as a place that provides excellent customer service to its tourists, our city will thrive, and continue to attract more people who will fall in love with “The City Beautiful.” We’ve finally got a piece of that trillion dollar pie and it’s time to serve it up with a smile!
Laurel — We’re At Your Service
I’m sure the readers of this blog don’t need a lesson on the importance of first impressions, but you might know someone who does. The fact is, each person, each point of contact, can add so much to the ‘welcoming’ experience for guests! Each business in Laurel is a stakeholder in the tourism industry, and it’s up to you — business owners and employees — to make the most of your investment in our community. In a recent conversation with Mayor Magee, we discussed the hospitality industry and our desire for Laurel to be known as a place that is literally “at your service.” After all… company’s comin’!
Welcoming Beyond Words
A welcoming feeling is easy to create. In fact, the smallest gestures can make the biggest impact. Offer a warm welcome — Direct eye contact, a smile and sincere words. Introduce yourself and check on your guests often. In short, be the best version of yourself.
Unfortunately, an unwelcoming feeling is just as easy to create. Looking down while speaking, no introduction or use of names, rushing customers out the door, or being discourteous can all contribute to the feeling of being unwelcome. When someone feels unwelcome, it makes them uncomfortable. Guests who feel unwelcome become less inclined to spend more, come back again, or refer others. Why would they? They did not feel welcome or welcome to come back!
A warm and friendly feeling is something that definitely starts at the top and trickles down. If you are a business owner or manager, you can start by ensuring that your employees feel welcome in their own work space. Welcome them to work each morning. Post signs in break rooms and make sure that a welcoming feeling begins each day.
Another way to be helpful to those visiting Laurel is to be aware of what’s going on around town. You’re more likely to recommend something to a visitor if you’ve experienced it yourself, right? So get out and explore your city. Familiarize yourself with new businesses or points of interest. Be ready with a suggestion for places to eat and things to see. If you draw a blank, you can always refer them to the welcome center, or better yet, be of service to them and offer to find out. Remember, it’s the little things that make visitors feel welcome, and sometimes, after a long car ride, the best way to be of service to someone is to point them toward a good meal.
While we have amazing architecture, stores and restaurants, the people of Laurel are the cornerstone of our community. Residents are walking, talking advertisements for the city. You have the opportunity to give tourists a heaping serving of southern hospitality. How will you choose to be remembered, Laurel?
Bravo to business leaders who are already making this effort! Keep up the good work and feel free to share your tips for a friendly and generous reception to our guests. Creative welcomes and unwavering courtesy and congeniality will keep our guests wanting more. When you create an unforgettable welcome, you welcome referrals, repeat business, and additional income! The City of Laurel and the Laurel Main Street organization are at your service. Join us!