Why doesn’t the Ministry of Tourism use a real blog for its White Paper discussion?
Adrian Loveridge submitted an article (published below) about the government’s White Paper on Tourism Development initiative where Adrian laments that – despite a fair amount of advertising, two town hall meetings and over 13,000 Bajans directly employed in the tourism industry – to date only seven people have posted comments on the Ministry of Tourism’s “White Paper Blog“ since it was established last November.
Adrian’s article is generally positive about the government’s Tourism White Paper initiative (and we agree!), but he is perplexed at the lack of public input and interest on the Government’s White Paper Blog.
Fear not Adrian, (and fear not Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy), we at Barbados Free Press know exactly what went wrong with the White Paper Blog and how to fix it – quickly, easily and on the cheap. Heck, we or any real bloggers could fix it for free on Saturday night, given a bottle a Mount Gay, some coding music and pretty girls hanging about. Truly.
The Tourism Ministry’s “White Paper Blog” is not a real blog
Last November, Tourism Minister Richard Sealy announced the “White Paper for the Development of Tourism in Barbados” and the government’s “White Paper Blog” in an attempt to encourage and collect input about where we should be heading with our tourism product.
Good idea! Only problem is, apparently Minister Sealy and his staff have no idea of the differences between a true blog and a “static website with comments” – for they established an isolated “static website with comments” and not a true blog that would be connected to the over 100 million other true blogs currently on the internet. To explain the difference…
True blogs are part of worldwide networks or communities of blogs that use special software to alert millions of other blogs about similar discussions and topics that like-minded folks might find interesting. True blog software like WordPress, TypePad, Blogger and MoveableType uses various gizmos and tools like “trackbacks”, “pingbacks”, “alerts”, “tags” and other connectivity software to publicize articles, discussions and comments to attract interested viewers from around the world.
For my article here today you don’t need to understand how these tools work together, but you do need to know that the government White Paper Blog doesn’t have them and is therefore operating in isolation from over one hundred million networked blogs – many of which are focused on tourism and on Barbados in particular.
It’s like the Ministry of Tourism stapled a discussion paper to a single tree and people don’t know about the tree or the discussion paper. They don’t even know that the discussion paper or the tree exist and even if they do, they have to ask where they are and nobody tells them when something new is posted. They have to look for themselves every day.
Compare that with putting the discussion on talk radio and alerting everyone in the world with a personal phone call that the subject of the day is one of their special interests, and something new has come up. (If you get my awkwardly delivered point because it’s 2am and I been at de rum agin’.) 🙂
I think what happened is that someone said to the Tourism Ministry’s website designers “We need a blog”, the designers said “Okay, we can do that!”, grabbed some code and created what they thought was a blog within the Ministry’s website. I don’t think whoever created that “blog” had ever run a proper blog, because what was created has zero blog functionality when it comes to connectivity to other blogs and discussion communities. And even what they have is not properly used as it could be.
That’s okay. We all have to learn, but let’s just fix it now.
Here at Barbados Free Press, we’re about to have our fifth anniversary (Ya!) and we will soon welcome our nine millionth visitor. (Ya!) The article you’re reading now is number 3,997, so we’re heading for 4,000 articles published over the last five years by almost two hundred authors and co-authors. Our readers have left over 100,000 comments on those articles and some of our stories have been picked up by major news media including BBC, CNN, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and dozens and dozens of other regular news outlets.
OH… this article will be read over forty thousand times in the next week alone.
Which is all to say that we might not be experts, but we’ve had a certain success and much of our success is because we chose proper blog software in the first place and learned to use some of the techniques and tools of true blogs. Other folks in Barbados like Ian Bourne of The Bajan Reporter and David at Barbados Underground are also familiar with proper blogging software and techniques and would be able to contribute to our recommendations to help the Ministry of Tourism immediately revise its White Paper Blog. I hope Ian and David speak up.
Truly I say unto you… If the government’s White Paper Blog took a few simple steps, tens of thousands of people around the world who love Barbados would read the Tourism White Paper and many would contribute.
Okay, here’s our recommendations to the Barbados Ministry of Tourism…
- Forget about getting your website designers to do more coding to try and re-invent the wheel – use proper blogging software. Your website designers can learn the basic layout in a day. Really. They just have to swallow their pride and learn. The world changed. They are good guys. They can learn it.
- We recommend WordPress software because we’ve used others and this one is the best in our opinion, but you could use one of the other biggies like Blogger, TypePad etc with excellent results. WordPress software is the most widely used though and there’s a reason for that. It’s stable, it works, it’s easy, it has its own huge community and it connects easily with other blogging communities. Big & easy are what you want.
- Don’t bother trying to host your own WordPress software on your own server because you want results now and the learning curve will take time. For now, just use the free hosting service at WordPress.com like we do. We could have your new blog up tonight. Really, we could. Do it at WordPress.com and if you want to develop your own server configuration later, okay. But for now… MAKE IT HAPPEN. Remember… we could have it up in an evening at WordPress.com. Ya can’t do that effectively when you host it yourself.
- You CAN integrate the free WordPress.com blog site into your existing Ministry of Tourism website. For a small charge, only US$18 a year, the Barbados Ministry of Tourism can direct their existing blog url to their new WordPress blog. For another US$30 per year WordPress will remove all advertising from the blog. Okay, that’s US$48 per year to host the new Ministry of Tourism blog at WordPress. Come on Minister Sealy… you spend that at lunch with a couple of glasses a red wine, okay? (Ya, we know ya love red wine!)
- Once every few days feature a different section or topic of the Barbados Tourism White Paper as a new article. Learn about tags and keywords. Find some other blogs and websites discussing similar issues and make comments and quote from their articles. Link to the other blogs and websites. You will have thousands of visitors in the first week and so many will contribute. (Currently the MOT “blog” posted one article on November 18, 2010 and they wonder why there’s no discussion. That is because there is nothing new! A blog has to lead, to create to excite the world – not remain static.)
- All the Barbados blogging community will come on board once the Ministry of Tourism blog becomes part of the large community and posts regularly.
Okay. Been up way too late so I’m heading to bed (Alone. Woe is me! Shoulda, woulda, coulda asked her last year. Doan know why I couldn’t, but I couldn’t an now I’m alone. Can’t ask now. …Cliverton.)
Here is Adrian’s new article. Worth your time…
Tourism MATTERS – (17) – 10th January 2011
Among the presents my incredibly thoughtful wife bought me for Christmas was a hard cover, full colour book published by the UK based Octopus Publishing Group Limited and entitled 501 Must-visit Islands. Thankfully, Barbados is one of them.
It graphically highlights the number of upcoming tourism destinations that many of us perhaps would have not either heard of, or considered visiting ten years ago.
The majority offer comparable, or in many cases superior beaches, azure seas and attractive climatic conditions similar to us. While some emerging countries have long seen the economic potential of attracting foreign visitors, the advent of the internet has changed the dynamics of marketing, enabling even destinations with tiny budgets, to disseminate high quality images to anyone that expresses an interest.
Of course you need a lot more than the often quoted, sun, sea and sand.
Accessibility can be a critical component.
But new air routes are opening up all the time. Next generation, smaller capacity aircraft with extended range are gradually reducing flying time from our current main markets and will play an increasingly important role in developing new tourism hotspots. Global travelers too are becoming evermore adventurous and discerning.
It therefore is becoming even more critical to decide exactly where Barbados is going from a tourism perspective.
Let me declare that I wholeheartedly support the long delayed concept of a white paper to give every player within the industry some sort of guidelines, so that they can at least try and formulate middle to long term strategies.
The Ministry of Tourism carries outlined criteria on its website and from around the 20th November, 2010 a blog went live to encourage feedback from Barbadians and the Diaspora.
Two Town Hall Meetings have already been held and a couple more will take place later this month. These have been reasonable well advertised on radio, through the Government Information Service and in the print media, and in fairness it’s difficult to know what more the Ministry could do.
The phrase “Tourism is our business” lingers on, but despite the often heralded importance of the industry, at the time of writing this column, only seven people outside the administration of the site, have posted their comments on the blog.
Why is this, as at times you get the impression that just about everybody has an opinion of what the Barbados Tourism Authority and Minister of Tourism should be doing?
Somewhere around 12,000 to 13,000 people are employed directly in tourism on Barbados, but only seven persons feel the imperative to express their opinion.
Unless this radically changes and the Ministry receives representative feedback from all sectors of industry, then the private sector will have scant justification to complain about decisions that are finally drafted and implemented.
Last week the retired diplomat, Peter Laurie wrote an interesting column entitled ‘Tourism Master Plan’ which contains at first glance, some rather extreme suggestions. While personally not necessarily agreeing with all of them, found it very refreshing that a person of Mr. Laurie’s stature and proven ability was questioning the reasons why we do things.
Hopefully Mr. Laurie and others will share these thoughts on the White Paper Blog.