Carlton Gajadhar Brings CX Competencies to the Attraction Industry (CXPA Blog)
Updated: Apr 23, 2021
“Let me tell you my love story,” begins Carlton Gajadhar.
It’s a story of passion for customer experience--one that begins in an unlikely place. “I used to clean toilets at a museum,” he says, and this custodial work gave him a birds-eye view of both the customer and employee experience, even if he wouldn’t have used those terms at the time. Carlton served as a tour guide and events supervisor at that same museum before he moved onto a variety of management roles in the tourist attractions and foreign study industry.
Now he’s taken his 20 years of experience full circle by working as a freelance consultant, recently in Kuwait, opening high-profile attractions for the country--Al Salam Palace Museum and Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre. He's also served as a Visiting Lecturer teaching customer experience, staff engagement, and core skills at the University of Westminster in London, and is a co-founder of the Visitor Experience Forum.
His ultimate goal is to educate those in the attraction industry about the core competencies of CX. “A lot of people in my sector would say they don't do customer experience, they do visitor experience--but really, it's the same thing with a twist,” he says.
Carlton is relentless in his quest to make those connections – be it as a member of CXPA, as a lecturer and speaker, and with clients he serves. “I’m on a mission to try and marry the two together,” he says. “My approach is to implement and engage the customer experience framework and strategies in the guest experience world.”
Carlton’s passion for CX developed when he was working on his master’s degree in International Tourism Management at the University of Lincoln. Although he had worked in experienced roles in Merlin Entertainment; The Coca-Cola London Eye and the Royal Albert Hall in London - he wanted to know more about CX and its influence in the visitor attraction industry.
When it came time to do his dissertation, Carlton decided to research the impacts and benefits of what happens between the time when a visitor buys their ticket in advance for an attraction and when they arrive on site. “What I found out was if you communicate with your visitors between buying and the experience, you build that rapport with them and they actually spend more money when they get to your site, but attractions at the time weren’t doing this, nor did they understand this concept,” he says.
Then he came across a CX document during his research and that changed everything. “I had no awareness of CX in its formal form, but from that point on, I was seriously invested. And that’s where my CX career was born,” he explains. “I kept learning and learning from that point on.”
Now Carlton is using his knowledge to understand the needs of small to medium-sized companies that do not have large budgets or CX expertise. “I love this part of the business when I’m learning new techniques to understand the ever-changing consumer behavior and how I can integrate this in a business to create unforgettable positive visitor experiences,” he says.
COLLABORATION AMIDST CRISIS
For Carlton and others in the attraction space, the COVID-19 pandemic presents obvious challenges and opportunities for stronger industry collaboration.
“I like to say that we’re all in the same storm,” he says. The challenge is that we’re all in different boats and we’re doing different things, but organizations need to find a way to work collaboratively and put their differences aside.”
Carlton was recently in a meeting with representatives from a wide range of UK visitor attractions to discuss ways to reduce confusion and promote health and safety among their guests. “It’s important that everyone works together, even though we’re all competitors, because it’s for the common good,” he says.
Even before COVID-19 hit, some of that was taking place, but more needs to happen, according to Carlton. “At times, I think we’re getting closer within the tourist attractions industry of the importance of CX, but we’re not there yet,” he said, “In order to get there, it’s about educating and supporting each other.”
The ending of Carlton’s CX love story has not yet been written.
“When I’m teaching or speaking, CX is always there. I plant that seed for the next generation who have no concept of CX or, like me, are coming to it later in their career,” he says. “CX is relevant, we just need to make sure we all understand the concepts and competencies and apply them to the visitor attractions industry.”