Complaints for tourism businesses can be good

9th July 2018

Tourism is primarily a service industry which lives or dies on the quality of customer service and on consumer (visitor) feedback. This feedback, together with the learning from complaints, could be used to drive service innovation, customer loyalty and competitive advantage in the tourism sector.

There is academic expertise available in complaint handling, mediation, dispute resolution, customer experience and communication at Queen Margaret University’s Consumer Dispute Resolution CentreThe Centre provides continuing professional development (CPD), research, and consultancy services to business, government, and third sector organisations in the UK and across the world. The Centre’s particular expertise concerns dispute resolution between individuals and organisations, for example, between consumers and businesses and between citizens and the government. Our unique focus is on understanding consumer perspectives on dispute resolution and developing the idea that users should be at the heart of dispute resolution systems and processes. During the last ten years we have worked effectively with the Ombudsman/Alternative Dispute Resolution(ADR) sector and have provided high quality CPD for over 2,700 complaint investigators in the UK and internationally. We conduct research and consultancy for organisations and run the world’s first MSc Dispute Resolution.

You may be interested to know that there is no Ombudsman service in the UK dedicated to the tourism sector. There are various ADR bodies with potential to help consumers with complaints, where organisations have memberships, but there will be significant gaps in these systems where consumers lack protection. ADR bodies provide independent review and decision making, fair and reasonable decision making, effective remedies and seek systemic change. So where should consumers take their complaints when they are dissatisfied?

We would welcome the opportunity to share our expertise and work with colleagues in the tourism sector in Scotland. Possible areas of interest include the following:

  • Using complaints to drive innovation in tourism. We would like to encourage tourism businesses to consider how they might drive service innovation from an understanding of handling visitor gripes, grumbles and grievances, so leading to competitive advantage.
  • Improve complaint handling using a new Complaints Guide developed by the Centre. This could result in increased customer loyalty and an improved online presence through better reviews.
  • Recent academic research calls for more insight into the way in which hotels could use social media to successfully manage the customer decision journey and the hotel decision-making process. The research considers hotels generally. With Scotland’s infrastructure, it might be interesting to know how small, privately run hotels in Scotland can make best use of social media. This could include managing social media effectively in relation to consumer reviews.

For further information please contact Carol Brennan at