INVERNESS and Loch Ness has been officially recognised for its warm welcome to visitors.
The Highlands tourism hotspot has been officially named as a WorldHost Recognised Destination in honour of its exceptional customer service.
The award was presented today to Graeme Ambrose, chief executive of VisitInvernessLochNess by David Allen, director of Scotland for People 1st which manages the WorldHost Regional Destination Initiative in Scotland.
Looking out from the new viewing platform at Inverness Castle, local hospitality and tourism businesses celebrated the honour.
Some 53 businesses in the area, ranging from distilleries and visitor attractions to transport and activity businesses, underwent the specialist customer service training to become WorldHost recognised.
Gillian Lacey-Solymar, owner of Achnagairn Castle and Luxury Lodges, said: “The WorldHost training has been simply inspirational.
“It has provided the platform for us to ensure every client has an ‘escape the ordinary’ experience during their time with us.
“Everyone in our team is proud of our WorldHost Recognised Business status and we try to live up to that title every day.”
VisitInvernessLochNess (VILN) was instrumental in supporting the roll-out of the WorldHost customer service training programme over the past two years.
So far, over 23,000 staff in Scotland have been trained using WorldHost, resulting in over 640 recognised businesses.
Graeme Ambrose said: “By 2020 customer service is expected to overtake price and product as a brand differentiator.
“We are very grateful to those businesses who helped the area achieve this accolade and take advantage of this great opportunity to raise their game and be better placed to compete”.
Freda Newton, managing director of Loch Ness by Jacobite, has been supporting the national initiative since its inception in 2013.
Ms Newton said: “Jacobite was the first visitor attraction in the Highlands to go for WorldHost Business Recognition status.
“Our team gained a great deal and the recognition status keeps them motivated and inspired to keep up the momentum of great service and to go the extra mile for all our guests.
“The staff know and understand how to deal positively with difficult situations which is a bonus.”
WorldHost Recognised Destination status is awarded to areas where at least 25% of businesses achieve WorldHost Business Recognition status - meaning they have trained at least half of their front-line staff using customer service training.
David Allen, director of Scotland for People 1st, said: “I am delighted that we are celebrating Inverness and Loch Ness becoming the second region in Scotland to achieve WorldHost Destination Status.
“It’s fantastic to see the commitment that so many local businesses across the region have now made to providing excellent service for the region’s visitors. “While the immediate benefits of great customer service are clear, it is also vital for the long-term, future success of tourism in Scotland, too.
“Employers see it as the most important skill needed in their business in the next five years.”
For more information on WorldHost and how the training can benefit your business, visit www.scotland.worldhost.co.uk
Four cities, over 70 towns and two sets of islands across 12 regions in Scotland are using the world-renowned WorldHost customer service programmes to train local tourism, hospitality, retail and passenger transport businesses.