Learning from Sicilians about pride and passion
Last week I went on a ‘Learning Journey’ trip to Sicily. Together with around 25 representatives of other tourism and food businesses from the UK, we were given an incredible opportunity to get an insight into food heritage and tourism on this surprisingly lush island.
We visited food producers, restaurants, hotels and had some really interesting discussions among ourselves. The idea of these Erasmus+ funded trips is that tourism professionals have an opportunity to gain new ideas and consider different approaches and ways of doing things. A large part of my job involves helping small tourism and hospitality businesses to flourish so it’s always good to be able to pass on expertise or fresh ideas.
What I learnt in Sicily
Taken at face value, some of the experiences were very simple: a picnic lunch among the trees in a lemon grove; listening to a third-generation coffee roaster as we tasted different coffees; and staying in some ‘interesting’ houses in a hilltop village that had been abandoned for years.
It was a true privilege to meet these very hospitable Sicilians and learn about their businesses, and then to discuss the experience with our group members. Everywhere we went one thing shone through: it was also the lesson that everyone said they’d take home with them.
Passion and pride
During our trip we looked at examples of entrepreneurship and innovation, and considered different approaches, but one thing stood out more than anything else.
The people we met were driven by their passion for what they did. They were so proud of their local area, the food they produced and the businesses they ran. Sometimes the pride was entirely justified. Sometimes it was slightly surprising because their business wasn’t 100%. Yet that didn’t matter because the passion and pride were so infectious. It was intriguing and made us want to know more, to be part of it.
There are many differences between Sicily and the Yorkshire Dales were I live. Weather, landscape, architecture… I think there's something else that really marks us out.
The Sicilians we met were all confident and ready to shout excitedly about what they do.
We just shyly mumble.
I’ve often said to tourism businesses here in the UK that they should be really proud of what they do, be more confident, shout louder about how good it is. I usually get one of these responses:
I just do what I do, it’s not that special
I don’t want to be big-headed or sound pushy
I’m afraid of being more ‘shouty’ because people might not like it, or they might think I’m bragging about something that’s not really that good
I don’t want to raise expectations too much. I’d rather just give people a pleasant surprise.
My response to these comments:
If you don’t shout and confidently tell people about your business, how will they know about it?
You won’t get the chance to pleasantly surprise them because they won’t know about you or visit.
People like to have expectations. Anticipation is a major part of tourism and hospitality. How often would you really disappoint?
Confidently telling someone about your business or being proud of what you do isn’t pushy. It isn’t bragging. It’s being honest. It’s giving people an insight and helping them understand who you are and what you do.
Enthusiasm is infectious. Some of the businesses we visited weren’t fantastic. Some had raw edges and we could see some missed opportunities. But the character of those business owners shone through. We looked beyond some of the weaker aspects of their businesses and remembered their passion instead. We felt uplifted by it.
Passion and pride make the biggest difference to a business. It costs nothing, but reaps huge rewards.
For many tourism and hospitality businesses, your ‘about’ page is as important as the one on pricing.
If you show your pride and explain why you do what you do, some visitors will even be ready to pay more.
Be confident. Show passion for what you do. It benefits the business and helps visitors feel upbeat and enthusiastic too. They’ll love having stories to take home and tell others.
Passion is infectious. Is it time to re-write your ‘about’ page, or to take a deep breath and be more confident about your business?