Tourism leaders in Orkney are urging local businesses to sign up to a top customer service training scheme in a bid to secure special WorldHost status for the islands.

The WorldHost programme is regarded as the gold standard for training businesses that rely on day-to-day interaction with customers. The scheme, which has seen over 1 million people trained worldwide, was used to prepare volunteers for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Directors and staff of the Orkney Tourism Group (OTG) recently achieved their WorldHost customer excellence qualifications after taking part in a day’s training course in Kirkwall.

Now the OTG wants to see the programme rolled out across Orkney, with a view to securing prestigious WorldHost Regional Destination Zone classification for the islands. The County is one of 11 pilot regions working towards this status, along with Aberdeen City and Shire, Caithness and Sutherland, Dundee, East Renfrewshire, Fife, Inverness and Loch Ness, Moray Speyside, Perth and West Lothian.

Sam Berston, business manager for the OTG, is also chair of the local WorldHost steering group, which is driving the initiative forward in Orkney.

She said: “Orkney is already renowned the world over for the warm welcome our visitors receive, but there’s always more we can do to ensure the level of service people enjoy in the islands is consistently of the highest possible standard. The WorldHost qualification is now recognised as the global benchmark for customer service, so it makes sense for a community like ours, which has an international reputation for quality, to embrace this hugely important programme.”

Sam said the steering group had identified 400 local businesses operating in the service and hospitality sectors and was now urging as many as possible to sign up to the training.

“If 100 of those businesses complete the WorldHost training, Orkney will be awarded WorldHost Regional Destination Zone status,” she said. “Achieving this much sought after classification would send a clear message to the rest of the world that Orkney is a place where visitors are guaranteed a professional, considerate and customer orientated welcome.”

Training for the WorldHost qualification is being delivered locally by Orkney College’s Anne Hill and independent tutor Ann Marwick. Designed to be flexible enough to support the needs of any individual or business, sessions can take place in the college, work place or completely off-site. In addition, training can be timed for weekends, evenings, or be split over a couple of sessions.

“As a pilot region we benefit from subsidised places, which brings a £40.00 per head reduction off the training costs,” explained Sam. “However, there are only 4500 subsidised places available across all the regions, so it’s first come, first served.  This is a one-off offer – once gone, it’s gone – so Orkney needs to act fast to benefit!”

According to Sam, the OTG directors and staff who had undertaken the training had been very impressed by the programme and quality of tuition.

“The training course is intensive, interactive, informative and also a lot of fun,” she said. “It covers all the basics of customer service and hospitality, but it’s presented in a fresh and highly engaging way. Participation is absolutely vital though if people want to pass the final exam on the day. This isn’t a qualification that’s just handed out after completing the training.”

She added: “We felt it was important for the OTG directors and staff to undergo this training to demonstrate our commitment to achieving WorldHost status for Orkney, and we hope our members and the wider industry will also recognise the value of the initiative and become enthusiastic participants in what could be a fantastic marketing tool for the islands. We were surprised at just how demanding the day was, but it was also enormously enjoyable and we were all delighted to emerge with our qualifications.”

For further information on how your business can become involved in the WorldHost programme, contact Sam Berston at OTG on 01856 230300, or on e-mail at samantha@discover-orkney.com.

ENDS

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