What makes a place attractive for visitors? Idyllic surroundings and good weather? The presence of visitor attractions or good accommodation? Easy itineraries? All important factors but ultimately a great visitor experience is determined by the professionalism and generosity of spirit of the hospitality fraternity. Something that has been brought into sharp focus as so many places struggle to fill vacancies post pandemic.
I have just spent a few days on the island of Capri and was struck by the friendliness of the locals, their pride in place, their cuisine and history as well as of course by the natural beauty of the island itself.
It might be easy to be cynical about their enthusiasm. Tourism after all, is the island’s economic mainstay since Gina, Sophia, Frank and all the swinging sixties stars put them on the map 70 years ago for glamour, romance and high end Italian fashion among sun kissed lemon groves and balmy Mediterranean breezes.
But on the contrary, there is a keen sense of authenticity as well as quality, professionalism and ambition. The quality comes from the training – many of the locals come through their hospitality school and the results are evidenced by exceptional standards of customer care and attention to detail. There is also a joined up seamless tourism experience, in part by necessity due to the logistics of getting luggage people and suppliers from boats to hotels and restaurants in a largely pedestrian and traffic free island. It’s also great to see a location that has stayed true to its heritage; occasionally compromising to meet the needs of all the different nationalities that visit without being compromised by big business.
I stayed at the far end of Capri town in Hotel Punta Tragara with amazing views of Falanghina rocks. The front desk staff led by Anna Manzo and Ernesto Coriolano were so accommodating and made sure we got the best out of every day there.
But a real test of this authenticity and mille grazie? On our penultimate evening, we were directed to a restaurant off the beaten track - 10 min taxi up the mountain to Piazza Vittoria in Ana Capri then a call to the restaurant to send their shuttle to collect the guests and bring them the last 2-3 km up to the top of the mountain to Da Gelsomina family restaurant. So far so good until we disembarked from the taxi in Piazza Vittoria and realised we left all forms of payment in the hotel room (relaxation mode as opposed to the pre dinner G&T!). However our driver Antonio was fine and said we could pay him next day and gave us his card. We called the hotel and they advocated on our behalf with the restaurant to make sure we didn’t end up doing the dishes. It was the dining experience and welcome exceptional in a 70 year old family kitchen. And a smooth and understanding passage back to the hotel courtesy of Ernesto to assure our taxi home that tutto va bene.
So what could have been a stressful and embarrassing end to our evening was saved by a trusting, networked and client centric community who understand the value of a good experience in building reputation and repeat business.
The blog headline was provided by the relaxed Ernesto when we rolled back into the hotel at midnight. A saying for us to remember - pay and die as late as possible.