ServiceIQ’s on-job training programmes are a good fit for Renée Bennett-Shields, manager of Nelson Tasman’s thriving i-SITE information office. In summer, she manages up to 13 staff looking after around 1500 visitors a day, plus she’s flat-out leading the marketing, communications and retail side of the non-stop seven-day a week operation.
She’s working to achieve a financially sound business while striving to offer more than her biggest competitor can. Oh, by the way, that competitor is Google.
“It’s really challenging in this digital age where everyone does their holiday research online and pay for what they’re going to do before they arrive here,” says Renée.
“Our business model relies on visitors coming in and getting great recommendations from our expert consultants who have a deep knowledge of the region. It’s the best way to discover its secrets.
“We also give visitors a far better idea of what to do and see because our advice is tailored to each person’s interests. We just want to cover our costs so that we can provide customers with an amazing service and a great experience they’ll always remember.”
While her team help tourists go on stunning journeys, Renée’s journey to becoming manager of the i-SITE is no less exciting.
She grew up in Nelson surrounded by a family of deep-sea fishing professionals and was attracted to the ocean too. She started in the industry with an after-school job shucking mussels at Nelson’s Sealord factory, and then went full-time at age 16, mastering every role she could before steaming out into the big blue water for over two years of deep-sea fishing.
“It was incredibly challenging and character-building,” she says.
Back on shore, she continued earning and learning, becoming an expert in everything from training fish trimmers, driving forklifts, gaining a heavy vehicle driver license, quality control for apple picking, to maître d' of an upscale restaurant.
Then five years ago she fell into Nelson’s thriving tourism scene with a consultant role at the i-SITE.
“It’s been the most enjoyable time I’ve ever had in a job. I found out that I thoroughly enjoy customer service, talking with people and helping them to discover and enjoy everything our region offers. Part of me wishes I’d got into tourism ten years ago but the experiences I had in my other roles are what shaped me into the person I am today.”
Renée was promoted to manager and, training on-job, she has achieved the New Zealand Certificate in Tourism with Operations and Visitor Information Endorsements – Level 4.
The ServiceIQ programme is tailormade for people in her role and covers all the essentials of tourism knowledge, i-SITE systems, relevant legislation, administration, sales, social media, promotion, and more. ServiceIQ’s regional Training Advisor Robbie Mitchell was on hand to answer any questions.
“It was great to gain a formal qualification and I enjoyed doing it a lot more than I thought I would. Robbie was absolutely fantastic and was always there in a flash.”
The inspiring young leader, and mother of two, is a strong advocate for developing talent on the job.
“I’m a firm believer in bringing people up in the business, training and empowering them. I’m lucky enough to have a boss who can see the potential in me. Even though I can’t see it myself which sometimes makes me feel like I’m in over my head,” she laughs.
For her next challenge, Renée is completing the New Zealand Certificate in Retail Management Level 4 to help her boost the i-SITE’s shop sales. Then she’ll go on to refine her leadership and management skills with the NZ Certificate in Business (First Line Management) – Level 4 qualification.
A career in tourism is a lot of fun, says Renée.
“I absolutely recommend it! Many people in the industry are usually really passionate about what they do and that’s infectious. We’re creating some of the best memories about New Zealand for our visitors to take home. What we do and say is going to inform their impression of our country and that makes it a pretty powerful role too.”
For more information, please contact ServiceIQ on 0800 863 693 or email intel@ServiceIQ.org.nz