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English Tourism Week: Hospitality employers urged to prepare staff for Jubilee celebrations and Olympics

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English Tourism Week started yesterday and People 1st, the sector skills council for hospitality, has recognised the efforts of towns and cities across the UK preparing to welcome the Olympic torch and host visitors for the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer.

Salisbury (pictured) and Worcester are both working towards becoming WorldHost Recognised Destinations, renowned for their excellent standards of customer service.

To become a WorldHost Recognised Destination, 25% of the businesses in the town or shopping centre should have trained at least 50% of their front-line teams using the WorldHost training programme.

WorldHost is a customer service training programme developed in Canada and used at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010 to train 40,000 tourism staff. It has been adapted for use in the UK by People 1st to help businesses make the most of the commercial benefits of being the host country of the 2012 Games.

The training has been awarded the London 2012 Inspire Mark as recognition of the programme's objective in supporting the skills legacy of the Olympics, and has the support of the Institute of Directors, VisitEngland and businesses including McDonald's and Merlin Entertainments.

Tony Quinn, director at Value Cars and chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Salisbury, said: "We conducted research into local customer service standards in September last year and, though the results were generally very positive, they also highlighted areas where we need to improve. We wanted a flexible training scheme that all the businesses in Salisbury could use whether a hospitality, retail or passenger transport business like us - and WorldHost is exactly that.

"With a visit from the Queen coming up in May and the Olympic torch passing through in July, businesses in Salisbury are recognising that now is our moment to invest so we stand out as a world class tourist destination representing the UK this summer.'

Erica Burlace, centre manager at Crown Gate shopping centre and vice chair of the Worcester Business Improvement District (BID), added: "Our research* tells us that out of a potential 458,000 customers in the Worcester area only 170,000 are currently using Worcester as their shopping and leisure destination of choice. However the research also showed us that Worcester fits all their criteria for the type of place they'd like to visit.

"These potential customers represent a loss in consumer spending to the tune of £1.4 billion. The WorldHost project is a Worcester BID driven project which aims to change perceptions of the city and improve our visitor experience. "This year is set to be exceptional for Worcester with the Olympic torch in May and a Royal visit, amongst other fantastic annual events which further enforce the relevance and timing of the delivery of the training. We're excited about the impact reinforcing our service standards will have on local business."

Other towns that have signed up and are working towards Recognised Destination status include Skegness, Reading, Uxbridge and Windsor (which will be hosting the Olympic rowing events).

Sharon Glancy, director of the People 1st Training Company, said: "There has been a lot of focus on London as the centre of the Olympic Games but it is also important that other areas of the UK are prepared to host international visitors and make the most of this superb business opportunity. Half a million people are expected to arrive in the UK for the Olympics and they are predicted to generate £2 billion in tourism during and after the Games. With just under six months to go, it's essential businesses across the UK prepare now to ensure they can make the most of the surge in visitors."