Tourism Buildings – Tricks of the Trade: Creating Brand Ambassadors

We’ve all had that disappointing experience in a cellar door, visitor centre or at a reception desk. That classic scenario where you’re trying to buy but they are making no effort to sell – the one where the guy behind the desk is glued to facebook; where the greeting is more ‘whadda ya want’ than ‘how can I help you’; and where no matter how hard you press, there is no information forthcoming.

We’ve all been that staff member too. The one who is just not at their best today. I can sympathise with that condition, but the way our people interact with our customers is essential to our reputation, our visitor experience and our bottom line sales. We can’t overlook poor customer service for even one day.

Customer service is huge part of the visitor experience, a significant part of what people can articulate when they recall a place. That’s why scrutiny falls relentlessly on customer service in tourism, and there are plently of excellent consultants out there who can guide and train your staff to be brilliant brand representatives. But what happens on those days where no amount of training and guidance can change the fact that your staff member is having a really bad day?

What if you could make your visitors curious, have them ask great questions, and feel connected to your brand? What if they could walk away with a story of their own and a rich memory of your place? What if that could be done through your buildings and spaces, not just your people.

We discovered one outstanding example of this in action on a recent visit to Halls Gap.

Down in a valley on the outskirts of the town is the Aboriginal Cultural Centre. I’d read about it briefly but had no interest in visiting, until I saw it hiding there amongst the trees. It’s a curious group of buildings whose roofs form waves across the landscape. It doesn’t look like a particularly big centre, but we found the entrance easily and discovered that the shop and café were quite large and offered all kinds of bush inspired foods and aboriginal artworks. Exiting the rear of the building we were greeted with a sculpted bushwalk across to the Aboriginal Heritage Centre, which stands in the clearing. It is a spiral shaped building – you walk up the centre on a ramp around the enormous fireplace that reminded me of a hollowed-out tree. It’s a bit of a journey of discovery, lots of stories, pictures, relics and examples. It isn’t a difficult path, but the whole experience of moving through that space filled both the adults and children in our group with curiosity and interest, and we actually took interest in the displays that may have been overlooked in a different space.

In the hour or so that we spent in the centre, we only came across 2 or 3 staff members, although the complex turned out to be quite large. I didn’t need them to tell me a story – the place was memorable because it created a curiosity in us. We had the opportunity to engage with the people, but didn’t have to. They were there to answer our questions and discuss our thoughts, of which we had many, but they were not relied upon to tell whole story themselves. And what we came out with was a strong memory of both the place and the story behind it because we were immersed and connected by physically engaging with it.

What if you place told your story? Staff and customers alike could become ultimate brand ambassadors.

When designing your space, stop to consider

  • What you can do to create curiosity?
  • How you can immerse people in your brand and make it memorable?
  • How you can support your staff to more naturally engage with your customers in the style that right for your brand?

Engaging your visitors so that they are filled with curiosity and enthusiasm gives staff a massive head start to providing great service. Using your space to communicate your brand and story engages visitors in a more intensive way, and takes the pressure off your staff to remember the processes so that they become more natural in their story telling. Which all ends in a great reputation, a memorable experience and growth in sales!

Now that I am a brand ambassador for the Halls Gap Aboriginal Centre, I’m off to write a spectacular review on TripAdvisor. Will your visitors do the same for you?


For most tourism businesses, working on your buildings and grounds is a big deal. There is a lot of money and time at stake and can be difficult to know where to start. So let’s just start with a coffee.