Closed hotels, lost opportunities and a failure to embrace You-Tube. (It’s free! It works! Why aren’t we running to use it?)
When a senior executive of a major American based travel oriented advertising agency recently told me that more people now log onto YouTube daily, than view the entire combined United States television networks, it got me thinking whether ‘we’ as a destination are maximising the use of the social networks. In fact, according to their own website, ‘people are watching 2 billion videos a day on YouTube and uploading hundreds of thousands’ of them.
With such a powerful marketing tool, which is currently free to use, it frankly surprised me that either collectively or as individual tourism entities we do not appear to fully capitalise on this amazing opportunity. Log-on to YouTube, then type in ‘Barbados’ and the first three pages or 66 videos, mostly comprise of amateur films of various qualities. Despite this, some of them have attracted over 200,000 viewings. Only about three or four are professionally produced and perhaps portray Barbados as a destination in a competitive environment that could tempt a first time visitor.
It doesn’t get much better if you add another search word to Barbados, like weddings, romance, fine dining, small hotels etc. Some of the videos on Barbados Weddings for instance, actually depict St. Lucia and Grenada. Without guessing where to find them, exceptions to the rule include Treasure Beach, Cobblers Cove and Sea U Guest House through Definitive Caribbean and the recently posted high definition videos produced for the new Atlantis Hotel and Little Good Harbour.
From a marketing perspective, two other videos caught my attention. ‘Atlantis Rising’ made locally by Jane Shattuck, uses a clever mix of still and moving high quality photography enhanced by the subtle use of Nina Simone for its soundtrack. Another was the new Barbados destination guide recently launched by Virgin Holidays.
Perhaps, what is most puzzling is the seeming absence on YouTube of the beautiful videos made for the national tourism website, unless the search words to find them are so obscure. Personally, I feel there is enormous untapped potential for developing sub brands of our tourism product through quality imaging. A classic example could be our Boutique hotels. If the film production cost was spread across eight or ten properties, then I doubt it would cost each property more than US$2,000. In reality, that probably relates to filling one unsold room for ten nights as a result of airing the video and I cannot imagine that this is not achievable. The film could also be used at travel trade and consumer events, road shows and even given out as a DVD to replace traditional brochures.
And it doesn’t have to end there. Weddings and honeymoons, meetings and incentives, our still enviable choice of restaurants and villa options are just a few other market segments. Sadly, to end up on a negative note, Silver Sands Resort has announced that will be closing on 30th September. No re-opening date has been indicated. Another 130 rooms lost and taking the tally to 31 hotels that have closed over the last 15 years.
I believe that it is now an imperative that we develop a Tourism Master Plan to have some idea in which direction the industry is going.
Editor’s note: Titles and subtitles and photos are provided by BFP. We may have changed some paragraph breaks, but otherwise not a word has been changed from Adrian’s original writings.