Over the course of 2020, Vinnytsia has been the site of a successful project, “Vinnytsia Standard of Hospitality,” which is improving the competitiveness of the local travel industry and taking the quality of tourist services to a whole new level. The initiative was brought to life by the Union of Entrepreneurs – The Wall with the support of Vinnytsia City Hall and the Partnership for Local Economic Development and Democratic Governance (PLEDDG) project, which is funded by the Government of Canada and implemented by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The Standard of Hospitality project included the training of Vinnytsia-based guides, the launch of the KhlibSil [Bread-Salt] Business Association that has brought together local HoReCa business owners, and the creation of a crucial vision document: Vinnytsia Standard of Hospitality.
“In recent years, the local community in Vinnytsia began creating and improving interesting tourist destinations. However, one problem persists: when planning a trip, tourists most commonly perceive Vinnytsia as a ‘city for one day’. That’s how we came up with the idea of creating the kind of environment in which guests will want to stay here longer. Another obstacle on the path towards tourist industry development was the lack of effective collaboration among local guides, hotel proprietors, and restaurant owners. While bringing the project to life, we managed to unite players in the HoReCa market and the event industry. From now on, our task is to put in place effective collaboration chains in the tourist industry and come up with co-branded tourist products,” says Oleksandr Pechalin, head of the Union of Entrepreneurs – The Wall and project director.
This past summer, HoReCa business owners in Vinnytsia united and formed the KhlibSil [Bread-Salt] hospitality association. The members of the newly-formed organization completed a 6-module training course, drafted the union mission and vision, and outlined the key points of the membership policy with the assistance of the Union of Entrepreneurs – The Wall and PLEDDG. The association has formulated its ambitious goal: by 2030, Vinnytsia will have become a recognizable gastronomic brand on the maps of Ukraine and Europe. By joining forces and creating new effective partnerships, association members will work on increasing the tourist flow to Vinnytsia Region, specifically by promoting the culture of fine dining and gastronomic tourism.
“The project launch coincided with the start of the quarantine, which led to lengthy debates about whether or not the timing of this initiative was good and how well it is aligned with the current needs of business owners and the community. With hindsight, the decision to establish a sectoral business association proved extremely smart as it was created right when the HoReCa industry in Vinnytsia needed it the most in the face of quarantine restrictions. PLEDDG provided all of the essential tools for building institutional capacity, and with PLEDDG support we formulated the mission, vision, and operational priorities of the organization, particularly in terms of advocacy and proper communications with local. Owing to the activities of the association, local government bodies that found themselves in a crisis situation managed to hear the consolidated voice of industry representatives and establish an effective dialog that was hardly possible through sporadic communication of individual representatives of the HoReCa business. From the very outset, the KhlibSil association has made a good reputation for itself in the business community,” says Oleksandr Vesheleni, Director of the City Marketing and Tourism Department at Vinnytsia City Hall.
To lay the foundation for continued development of the tourist industry, local business owners began drafting the Vinnytsia Standard of Hospitality. As part of a three-day workshop in late September 2020, 20 local hotel and restaurant proprietors diligently worked on it under the mentorship of business coach Oksana Marusych. Training participants explored modern HoReCa industry trends, studied examples of international standards of hospitality establishments, and collectively analyzed the historical, cultural, and mental context of the Vinnytsia-specific manner of interacting with guests.
“I believe that the tourist industry of Vinnytsia has a vast potential and a big future. Even though we don’t have ancient architecture that would make it easier to attract tourists, the local community is actively accumulating resources around the existing advantages and making effective strategic decisions. The newly-formulated hospitality standard gives us — hotel and restaurant proprietors — a clear vision of the common goal and sets us on the right path, which will definitely stimulate the growth of the tourist industry as a whole,” says Eva Malanchak, owner of the Churchill Inn hotel and restaurant complex in Vinnytsia.
The Vinnytsia Standard of Hospitality concisely presents the code of conduct and the pyramid of values of its representatives and also defines 8 successive steps “to the heart of a guest”. Owing to effective cooperation of standard development efforts, the true essence of Vinnytsia hospitality was successfully elaborated and conveyed. Local hotel and restaurant proprietors detect a vast resource potential associated with the implementation of this standard and, despite the crisis provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic, will use it as a guide to enhancing their image and pursuing lasting relationships with patrons.
“The Vinnytsia Standard of Hospitality is actually very versatile. It can be used by any business owner or industry worker who interacts and communicates with guests, offers guided tours, serves food, provides accommodation, or rents out premises. This standard can be incorporated into activities of both the event industry and tourist businesses. This is exactly what its ‘added value’ is about: it transcends beyond the hotel and restaurant business. We will subsequently collaborate with the KhlibSil association and the Union of Entrepreneurs – The Wall on fostering cooperation among key players in the tourism industry and assist them with cross-selling, promotion, and marketing of co-branded products. We will sign a memorandum soon, which will become a public declaration of the readiness of business owners and the local authorities to embrace the Vinnytsia Standard of Hospitality. The signatories will act as the first ambassadors of Vinnytsia hospitality. We are already trying to come up with some symbolic elements that will send a message to guests that ‘you will get a special treatment here,” Oleksandr Vesheleni says.
In 2021, representatives of the local authorities jointly with business owners are determined to come up with numerous tools for implementation of the Vinnytsia Standard of Hospitality. To this end, a cycle of training activities will be developed, covering the aspects of work of various HoReCa professionals. Subsequently, every establishment will release its own “welcome book” that will help it embrace the standards in a more personalized way: the establishments will choose those scenarios and styles of communication with guests that best suit their format.
“Once clearly defined rules are in place, we will proceed to verification of standards andwe plan to conduct specialist audits of establishments for compliance with the Vinnytsia Standard of Hospitality. Those establishments that manage to prove their commitment to embracing the standards will receive symbolic ‘Guest Friendly’ plaques. We will recommend the most hospitable venues in our promotional materials, on tourist websites, in travel guides, at expos, on social media, etc. Observance of the Vinnytsia Standard of Hospitality will become a ‘quality mark’ of sorts and an image component essential to unlocking the tourist potential of the city,” Oleksandr Vesheleni says.
It won’t be the first year that Vinnytsia City Hall worked with select NGOs and PLEDDG to implement integrated initiatives aimed at stimulating economic growth in the city. The “Vinnytsia Standard of Hospitality” project is an element of the recently approved Tourism Development Strategy up to 2030, which was also created under PLEDDG auspices. It represents yet another milestone of successful growth of Ukraine’s most welcoming city.