Olympics customer services scheme aims to train 200,000

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The Independent Online

A campaign to train 200,000 hospitality and tourism staff and tackle poor customer service ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games was launched today.

Twickenham Stadium and the London Eye are among the sport and leisure venues which have already signed up as the hospitality, leisure, tourism and travel (HLTT) industries aims to raise service standards, according to organisers People 1st.

Brian Wisdom, chief executive of People 1st, the skills council for HLTT industries, said: "There is a lot of focus on developing the infrastructure for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games but not enough on ensuring we have 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."

Almost two million people are employed in the HLTT sector, the central London launch was told.

The 200,000 target for the WorldHost training programme hopes to raise standards of customer service, both in training and in practice.

Tourism chiefs estimate that £2 billion could be generated from visitors around the Olympics.

The aim is to get the industry in shape as Britain is set to host a range of world events including London 2012, the 2014 Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games plus the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The WorldHost customer service training scheme includes learning modules on serving customers with disabilities, service across cultures and an ambassador workshop, particularly aimed at volunteers helping visitors to Britain.

A similar scheme was set up for this year's Vancouver Winter Olympics where it was used to train 39,000 volunteers and tourism staff.

The Institute of Directors and McDonald's say they will include it in their employee development programmes.

Flybe is also supporting the programme which has been developed by People 1st and the VisitEngland tourism agency.

The London Eye, Warwick Castle, Twickenham Stadium, Epsom Downs racecourse, the Ricoh Arena, Royal Ascot and the British Open will all be using the WorldHost customer service training for their teams, People 1st said.

They have also agreed to work with four other sector skills councils on the project.

This is to cover industries in the retail, sport and fitness, passenger transport and creative and cultural skills sectors.

Mr Wisdom said: "We plan to do something about what everyone recognises is a real need. 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."

Miles Templeman, the director general of the Institute of Directors, said: "Hosting these major sporting events over the next five years provides a supreme business opportunity to show the world what a great country we are.

"To make sure Britain is at its best, the standard of our customer service needs attention. It is imperative for businesses to invest in the people who will be on the front line, hosting our visitors and acting as ambassadors for the rest of the country."