Student STARS welcome 150,000 passengers at Edinburgh Airport
Student STARS welcome 150,000 passengers at airport
A highly successful employability initiative developed by a university and Edinburgh Airport has reached a significant milestone with students having greeted over 150,000 visitors at the airport’s international arrivals area.
The Student Tourism Ambassador Role Scotland (STARS) programme, developed by Queen Margaret University (QMU), Edinburgh and Edinburgh Airport, has been designed to provide outstanding employment and training opportunities for young people. Importantly, STARS also enhances the visitor experience at the airport’s international arrivals creating positive first impressions and strengthening Scotland’s reputation as a welcoming nation.
Since the project’s inception in June 2015, the STARS have helped 150,000 travellers arriving at the airport with requests ranging from visitor transport and accommodation to restaurants and attractions. QMU students studying International Hospitality Management, Events Management, Marketing and Public Relations were quick to take up the positions knowing that the initiative would provide them with international customer relations skills. For some, the experience gained on the project, allowed them to go on to other significant tourism attractions such an international ambassador role with Disneyland in Florida.
Professor Joe Goldblatt, a world-leading authority in events management at Queen Margaret University, helped develop the new project which is providing excellent paid work experience for talented QMU students, many of whom speak several different languages. He said: “We are proud that this tourism initiative is having such a positive effect on the quality of the visitor experience at Edinburgh Airport whilst also helping QMU students develop important customer service skills, tourism experience and improved confidence levels. Students really enjoy their roles as the first people greeting and assisting arriving guests, but they are also learning to problem solve as well as dealing with difficult customers.”
Juan Garcia, Employability and Development Adviser at Queen Margaret University, said: “We are delighted that a small pilot scheme launched last summer has turned into a successful customer services initiative which is delivering real results for Edinburgh Airport. With over 150,000 interactions we can safely say that guests at international arrivals are making full use of the STARS service and that students are gaining a lot from the experience.”
21 year old Rebecca Neish is the STARS Coordinator Intern. She said: “It is very satisfying to be able to assist people with their visit to Scotland. A memorable moment was when the STARS helped Richard, an elderly American man, who was travelling alone, with his transport to the Open Golf Tournament. He was initially very distressed about a transport mix up, believing that his transfer to the tournament was part of his package. Sadly, he was mistaken, but with knowledge that the STARS had gained, we were able to quickly resolve the problem by calling on a regular pick up business service that operated transfers to St Andrews. He was utterly delighted with the STARS service and was excited to join the group of golf enthusiasts, also travelling with the pick up service, as he made his way by private transport to the tournament. It is moments like this which makes the STARS program more than just a greeting and information service.
Kay Gillespie, Passenger Experience Leader at Edinburgh Airport, said: ““We strive to deliver excellent customer service and a seamless journey to all of our passengers, and the friendly welcome and information which the STARS provide is a significant factor in this. The observations which they make and the data gathered in their daily reports is very valuable to us. From this we know that 75% of arriving passengers inquire about ground transport, 60% inquire about tour and accommodation information, and 25% ask for the nearest toilets.
“We are pleased that the collaboration between the airport and the university is offering a win-win situation helping us offer the best possible welcome to Scotland for overseas visitors and a warm welcome for passengers returning home. We would urge other organisations to work with Scottish universities to utilize the fresh talent and enthusiasm of both UK and international students.”
Plans are afoot for the STARS programme to expand in future months and years to promote a more positive experience throughout Scotland with millions of warm welcomes in the future.