Entering the Victorian Tourism Awards: Helpful for my business? Too right!
Why should I enter the Victorian Tourism Awards? How is it really going to improve my business? How can my business compete against the really big operators? How can I pull a 30 page submission together when I work seven days a week?
Every year, many Victorian tourism enterprises contemplate these questions, and every year, the hard-working team in the awards office field the same questions and more from businesses who are intrigued….but not convinced about entering.
While there may well be many questions to be asked as to ‘why?’, real value starts to be realised when a business asks ‘why not?’
Yes, the big tourism attractions/operators/businesses can put together damned fine submissions, and often win an award. History tells us this, and it’s because award winners are overwhelmingly quality operations that are very well run. That’s why they’re good! That’s why visitors love them. It also explains why they have thousands of Facebook friends, tons of Twitter followers and a 4.5 to 5 star TripAdvisor rating. Winners! Also, they are respected for their leadership contribution they make to the industry through initiatives like the awards.
Notwithstanding, history also tells us that, from time to time, the little guy can get up and win, head to head. It does happen!
To the submission process. Yes, pulling together a 30 page document is hard yakka. This is a significant and deliberate barrier to entry that weeds out dreamers from the committed, organised and well planned entrants…but more on this later. The disappointing reality is that relatively few businesses will progress their thinking from ‘I might enter’ to ‘I will enter’. If you fall into the latter category, you are already a winner. It’s stating the obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs to be stated: those that don’t enter can’t win.
The questions on the submission have been debated annually by people far smarter than me, from all over Australia, for many years now. There is a great deal of intellectual horsepower that sits behind each question, and each question is considered to be fundamental in some way for the effective operation of a successful tourism business. If a business can respond to the questions with concise answers full of relevant content, demonstrate their passion for the business and their thinking and effort that go into the business, it makes impressive reading. It also makes it easy for a judge to comprehend the business. Big tick! Top answer!
Whatever you do, don’t fabricate an answer. If you don’t use a business plan, a marketing plan or risk mitigation plan, please don’t invent one to insert into the awards submission. Anyone can spot these from a thousand paces. It’s embarrassing for all concerned and taking our industry nowhere. As you plan to write a submission, carefully ascertain what material you bring to the table – perform a gap analysis. Hey, if you haven’t quite got around to writing that marketing plan, do it now and implement it ASAP. Then, hold off on writing your submission until next year, after all, what’s the rush? If you’re going to go to all that effort, you may as well do it well instead of half-baked.
Getting back to the submission design…yep, they’re tough to complete. The five themes covered: business overview, business planning, marketing, customer service and sustainability, are aligned to the TQUAL accreditation structure. These are fundamental principles any self respecting tourism operation ought to have in place. This design also facilitates the submission for tourism accreditation via the Australian Tourism Accreditation Programme, where the layout is similar. Kill two birds with the one submission!
I know from experience that many first time entrants, upon reflection, see the immense value the discipline of submission writing brings. Are those outcomes in that business plan fully quantified? Do the risk mitigations actually work? Are those markets actually determined by hard facts or gut feel? Are my customer service procedures as robust as I think? Are my innovations really innovative or just business improvements? Is the professional development of my staff actually aligned to the direction of the business? These are great questions we owe it ourselves to ask of our businesses periodically. Robust self analysis leads to business improvement and quality benchmarking.
So getting back to the original question – why should I enter the Victorian Tourism Awards? The answer is up to you and what you want to get out of it. If it’s a straight up boost in industry profile, recognition amongst peers, media exposure, the prospect of enhanced sales, the Awards provide this in spades. These benefits are clearly stated for all to see. If you care to continually improve and foster a reputation for doing so, if you care for the legacy your business leaves, if you’re keen on forging new directions and exploring new opportunities via your business, I put to you that entering the VTA can assist you achieve these benefits and more, at whatever stage of development or maturity your business is. The continual improvement of your business – which is what this is all about – is limited only by your imagination!
The real question is: how much are you willing to put in?
I’m already looking forward to reading your submission!
Authors: Anthony McIntosh
Chair of Judges, Victorian Tourism Awards