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Why use 'guest' instead of 'customer' or 'visitor'?

The Be My Guest program is a call to action for all tourism professionals from different sectors of the tourism industry to incorporate the guest mindset and refer to the person who chooses their destination for a holiday as a 'guest'.

Click on the slide below or this YouTube link to hear and see why.


Words are extremely powerful because they affect the way we think and subconsciously affect our reactions, interactions and communications with other people.

Within the tourism industry, we refer to the same person travelling to our destination in different ways.

At the airport or in a taxi, they may be referred to as a 'passenger', at the information desk as a 'tourist', a 'customer' at a restaurant and a 'visitor' at a theme park.

Each of these terms has different meanings by various definitions. Generally:

  • Passenger: A traveller who is carried along in a private/public conveyance; not driver, pilot, crew
  • Visitor: One who visits a place or person, socially/as a tourist; is not permanent, does not belong to the area; a passer-by; not local
  • Customer: A person who has need, want and the means to buy a product or service in a transaction
  • Tourist: One who chooses to travel for leisure away from their usual place of residence

From these definitions, people will be treated with varying degrees of personal care, according to the way they are viewed. Their experience will also vary as a result of this.

As a tourism destination, our aim is to provide a consistent level of service quality for our guests' every touch point. So it makes sense for us as hosts to start with a common language and reference that allows for a common point of reference.

When a person chooses our destination to spend their hard earned money and emotionally invests in a holiday with us they deserve the best experience we can give them.

Remember how words can affect our actions, interactions and communications? If we can all use the same term of reference for this person who is investing in our destination, imagine the difference in service quality!

Hence, be my GUEST.

A guest is treated as someone special, someone invited to be hosted, given VIP treatment and made to feel important. We would all go to special lengths to welcome this person.

This is the power of using the term 'guest' - creating an impression that is warm, welcoming and delivering a quality service worthy of our beautiful destination! We invite you to join us with this guest mindset.

Why? Because magic happens when you use 'guest' instead of passenger, visitor, tourist or customer!

Tourism professional's perspective on the use of guest

Watch and listen to a seasoned and passionate tourism professional's view on what the difference is between treating someone as a guest rather than a customer.

Thomas McIntyre, Concierge Services Manager Pacific Fair


Thomas McIntyre on using term 'guest' vs 'customer'

Customer service vs guest experience - is there a difference?

So is there a difference? For the more logically minded, let's return to definitions by meaning to see if there is a difference.

Definition of customer service

The definition of 'customer' is a 'person who has need want and the means to buy a product or service in a transaction.' Transaction implies money or equivalent form of payment is involved. The definition of 'service' is the action of helping or doing work for someone.

Customer service is therefore the 'assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services'.

Definition of guest experience

The definition of 'guest' is 'a person who is invited to visit someone's home or attend a particular social occasion'. The definition of 'experience' is 'an event or occurrence which leaves an impression on someone'.

So a guest experience is 'inviting someone into your home or special event to provide them with a memory or impression'. So back to the question: what is the difference between customer service and guest experience? Let's hear the answer from a tourism professional.

Tourism professional's perspective on customer service vs guest experience

Thomas heads up the Concierge Services Team at Pacific Fair, which is all about experiences. He talks about what happens when you move your team's mindset from 'customer' to 'guest'.



Thomas McIntyre on changing a team mindset from customer to guest.

Think about how you can treat your guests to ensure they have an exceptional experience.