CityWatch, June 1, 2012
Vol 10 Issue 44
RETHINKING LA - To live in Hollywood is to assume the role of tour
guide. On a daily basis I am reminded that I live in a great city, one
that attracts tourists from around the world who come here to experience
the stories that Los Angeles tells, some true and some fiction, but all
of them compelling.
I frequently meet strangers who have that lost look on their face
and it’s my habit to make eye contact and give them the nod, indicating
that it’s okay to ask for directions. That brief moment of wayfinding
costs me nothing and yet it has such an impact. All it takes is a moment
to point them to the best place to photograph the Hollywood sign or
visit the Griffith Observatory or find the Hollyhock House or travel on
the Walk of Fame.
I rarely speak the correct language but it
never matters, even when they’re on the wrong train, headed to North
Hollywood in search of the Kodak, or on Santa Monica Boulevard looking
for the sandy beaches. A bit of pantomime, directions to a map, a quick
sketch on a scrap of paper, even a brochure from one of the many racks,
and my work as an ambassador is complete.
Tourism is the number
one jobs generator in Los Angeles so it makes sense to take care of our
tourists and it certainly reminds me on a daily basis that I live in the
center of the universe when it comes to culture, the arts, history, the
entertainment industry, education, and all of the things that attract
people from all over the world.
Local businesses capitalize on
the opportunity by reaching out with information, some by passively
hosting brochure racks and others who fill the sidewalks with flyer
patrols who compete with hawkers and buskers.
Through it all, they communicate loudly and clearly, “Welcome to LA, we’ve been waiting for you!”
Disney wrote the book on hospitality and central to his philosophy was
the simple rule that your number one responsibility was to care for the
guests, no matter what your position. The people who sweep the streets
of Disneyland are typically the first person a lost child will encounter
so their training starts with learning the names of the Seven Dwarfs,
not with principles of sanitation.
This focus on “corporate
culture” means that everybody in the Disney organization is trained to
understand that their professional competence can be evaluated by their
ability to communicate successfully with a lost child.
that commitment to guest satisfaction were part of LA’s “civic culture”
and an expression of City Hall’s core purpose and core values.
to City Hall, whether local or tourist, would be able to wander through
City Hall and be greeted by friendly and helpful hosts who are ready to
offer directions, tell a story, comfort a lost child, and steer the
public through the City Hall experience.
Dave Meslin of Toronto
has taken to acting like a tourist in City Hall, asking the first person
at the first counter for directions to the brochure rack, to the
information kiosk, the tour guide. He typically gets a blank stare but
he is determined to remove barriers to civic engagement.
Hall is serious about conducting the business of the people in a
transparent and inclusive manner, it will start by treating locals the
way Walt Disney treats tourists, like honored guests.