People 1st, the sector skills council for hospitality, leisure, tourism and travel (HLTT), has launched a campaign to train 200,000 hospitality and tourism staff ahead of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
With an estimated £2b expected to be generated from visitors to the Olympics, People 1st said the HLTT sector needs to raise its game in customer service standards if it is to reap the benefits.
The UK is ranked 14th in the international customer service rankings and 13th for its perceived ‘welcome' by the annual Nation Brand Index Survey. People 1st's State of the Nation 2010 research report highlighted that 65% of businesses reporting skills gaps stated staff lacked necessary customer service skills.
People 1st, with the support of VisitEngland, has developed a programme to train the target of 200,000 staff after it was successfully used at the Vancouver Winter Olympics to train 39,000 volunteers and tourism employees earlier this year.
The WorldHost training programme aims to raise the standard and delivery of customer service training in the UK and has the backing of the Institute of Directors and leading businesses including LOCOG sponsor McDonald's and airline Flybe.
In addition, major venues and events including the London Eye, Warwick Castle, Twickenham Stadium, Epsom Downs Racecourse, Ricoh Arena, Royal Ascot and the British Open will all be using the WorldHost customer service training for their teams.
Brian Wisdom, chief executive of People 1st, said that there is a lot of focus on developing the infrastructure for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games but not enough on ensuring the UK has the softer skills needed to welcome the world to Britain.
"It's anticipated that up to half a million visitors will arrive for the Games and we need to ensure their experience of Britain is a very positive one," he explained.
"The HLTT sector is one of the UK's largest employers and the ‘visitor economy' contributes over 8% of GDP. If we reach our target of 200,000 it will make a real difference to the experience people have as well as the revenue generated."
By Janie Stamford
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