Transforming Tourism: Unlocking business potential
July 21, 2023
Strange enough, I had never visited the captivating little village on the coast called Hamallaj—a newly discovered heaven for beach lovers and a hub of blooming tourism opportunities. Albania's tourism industry is witnessing a rapid increase in visitors, and Hamallaj holds immense potential with its pristine beaches and dramatically blue waters.
Curiosity led me to explore Hamallaj, and amidst the breath-taking pine trees, I stumbled upon Starmar resort, an interesting architectural design standing tall against the backdrop of the mesmerizing azure sea.
The sight was truly enchanting.
What stands before me is an attractive establishment offering comfortable accommodation, a fine dining restaurant and a lively beach bar.
What thrilled me even more was discovering that this business was cooperating with my own organization – UNDP – to bring growth to micro and small local enterprises, part of its value chain.
However, the road leading to this picturesque destination was not without its fair share of bumps.
Let me take you through STARMAR’s journey and bring to you a story of commitment, will and support.
The governments of UK and the Netherlands supported a programme aimed at revitalizing micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises in Albania, enhancing their competitiveness. UNDP, drawing from its successful implementation in Latin America and the Caribbean, utilized two methodologies: the Supplier's Development Methodology and In Motion.
The Supplier's Development Methodology focuses on strengthening local value chains, promoting exports, and reducing imports through the support of domestic suppliers. Trained and certified business consultants provide technical assistance to selected value chains, including client companies and their strategic local suppliers.
STARMAR, being the value chain lead, is a prominent beneficiary of this transformative support.
Intrigued by the remarkable transformation that unfolded, I was eager to hear the story from Xhelil Kryeziu, one of the senior managers at STARMAR and the project lead within the company. Xhelil graciously shared his experience with me, starting with how they first learned about the project through UNDP's social media.
As a prominent player in the tourism sector, STARMAR demonstrated a steadfast commitment to delivering top-notch tourism services while also contributing to the development of the local community. Their dedication extended to sourcing from local suppliers, with a special focus on employing workers from the Hamallaj region, particularly women.
Recognizing the vital role played by their local suppliers in providing high-quality tourism services, STARMAR was determined to collaborate closely with them, aiming to enhance their capabilities and product offerings. These objectives perfectly aligned with the project's overall goals.
STARMAR's mission was to ensure an exceptional guest experience through a diverse range of services, including comfortable hotel accommodations, vibrant beach bars, exquisite restaurants, and convenient tent facilities. In pursuit of this vision, they emphasized the importance of nurturing strong partnerships with their local suppliers to maintain the delivery of high-quality products and services.
Jona Dundo, the Project Manager, emphasized how STARMAR's commitment to local sourcing, community development, and enhancing the capabilities of local suppliers made them an ideal candidate for this remarkable journey.
With the guidance of the Supplier Development Programme (SDP) consultants, STARMAR embarked on a comprehensive 360-degree diagnosis of the STARMAR business and its value chain, revealing a multitude of challenges.
As Xhelil expressed, "We recognized the need for internal improvements, which in turn improved also our relationships with our suppliers”.
Through the guidance of the Supplier Development Programme (SDP) consultants, STARMAR underwent a transformative journey towards a more efficient internal structure and decision-making processes, fostering growth and development within the company and, at the same time, positively impacting its value chain.
"The consultants helped us identify our strengths, weaknesses, and the problems we faced in our relationships with suppliers," he shared. The programme facilitated the implementation of improvement plans and enabled the establishment of transparent, win-win business relationships with suppliers, with the support by expert consultants.
"The long-term nature of this programme has been a blessing", Xhelil emphasized. The focus on technical consultancy, provided by UNDP's consultants, allowed STARMAR to develop a Supplier’s Evaluation and Certification System, a key component of the SDP intervention. This system measures and evaluates each supplier’s performance through time, based on predefined indicators including product quality, delivery time, price, service quality, and technical assistance.
It created a win-win environment, promoting suppliers’ growth and development, based on a technical, transparent and objective measurement of their performance. As a result, Starmar witnessed real improvement in its suppliers’ performance, increasing from a level of 30%-50% - as measured by the system at the beginning of the intervention - to 90%-100%.
Aside from this system, SDP supported the Starmar value chain to formalize relationships through contracts, improve payment terms, manage business relationships more transparently through a procurement manual and the organization of mutual promotional activities with its suppliers. As a result of the improved relationship and the more solid communication links established, one year after the start of the intervention, supplier’s sales volumes to Starmar have seen an increase of up to 59%, serving as a solid testimony of the very tangible impact of the programme on suppliers’ growth.
Xhelil, however, acknowledged the challenges faced by businesses in adopting a consultancy mindset.
This mindset shift was one of the crucial aspects of the programme. By embracing formalization and a win-win approach in the client-supplier relationship, through the knowledge gained from UNDP, businesses could unlock their true potential and reap the benefits.
One of the UNDP consultants Dorian Kamberi was quick to emphasise SDP’s potential for replication. "What is being implemented at STARMAR can serve as a model to be replicated with other businesses" he assured, pointing to one of the key principles on the SDP methodology – building capacities within beneficiary businesses to replicate it with other players in their respective value chains. By setting standards and fostering a ripple effect, the SDP aimed to create a dynamic environment where businesses and suppliers would continue to thrive.
The conversation focused into the internal improvements STARMAR had achieved through the programme.
Starmar, together with its suppliers, has undergone comprehensive training and received invaluable technical assistance in various crucial areas. The team has been equipped with extensive knowledge in leadership and management, marketing and customer service, social media management, sustainable business practices, the principles of circular economy, and the 5S methodology for fostering a highly productive work environment.
Notably, Starmar places a strong emphasis on the safety of its clients and takes pride in its commitment to adhere to the highest food safety standards. To achieve this, all kitchen staff members at Starmar have undergone rigorous training and certification in the food safety standard known as HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points).
This certification ensures that the Starmar restaurant operates in full compliance with the most stringent food safety regulations, guaranteeing a safe and enjoyable dining experience for all customers.
One year after numbers speak for themselves: The support has yielded remarkable results, including a significant boost in the chain's sales volumes by 23%. Moreover, there has been a notable increase in employment, with a 16% growth resulting in the creation of 26 new jobs within the chain.
Additionally, the number of customers has seen a remarkable surge of 43%.” It is important to note that the true impact of the programme on sales levels and workforce will become even more apparent after the peak summer season, allowing for a comprehensive evaluation of its effectiveness” says Dorian Kamberi- a project consultant.
After my conversation with Xhelil, I found myself genuinely appreciating the transformation that STARMAR and its local suppliers had undergone with the support of UNDP. It made me ponder the immense potential one can achieve with the right assistance, coaching, and, most importantly, the determination to succeed—an attribute that Xhelil undoubtedly possessed. It played a significant role, contributing to their success.
As I departed, Xhelil's words resonated in my mind. "The Supplier Development Programme has not only made a profound impact on our business but has also transformed us as individuals," he had shared. "I often refer to it as a master’s programme in business management, unparalleled in its excellence."
When I am frequently asked for holiday recommendations, I confidently suggest STARMAR—a heaven nestled amidst nature and the sea, guided by visionary leadership committed to driving meaningful change and delivering first-class services to their cherished clients.
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