Tourism MATTERS – Which type of person finds Barbados particularly appealing?
One or two people have questioned my recent shortlist of potential new gateways for additional airlift, so it may help to better articulate the reasons behind the suggestions.
Let’s start with Ottawa. Yes! Of course it has a smaller population (metro area around 1.4 million) than Toronto, but its boasts the highest median family income of Canada’s six largest cities. You also have to look at its employment structure. 18.9 percent of the workforce is currently employed in high tech, closely followed by 18.2 per cent by Federal Government, 10.4 per cent in finance, insurance and real estate with the next highest percentage, 9.4 in trade.
So the demographics fit our product.
Hopefully our tourism policymakers carefully track exactly where our visitors originate from, behind the current gateways and if for any reason they do not, I am sure the airlines could provide this information. This would give at least some indication of potential demand for a non-stop service.
Ottawa area residents currently either travel through Toronto with a Canadian airline or connect via a US gateway involving a minimum journey time of at least seven hours. In flying distance Ottawa is only 8 miles further from Barbados than Toronto.
So what we should be asking is, would a direct flight of five hours tempt enough people once or twice a week to fill an Airbus 319 or Boeing 737 or about 0.5 per cent of the greater Ottawa population annually? Personally, I think it would, and in addition to holidaymakers, visiting friends and relatives (VFR), people would also be travelling for diplomatic and trade purposes.
For a very long time, I have felt that we need to undertake a great deal more research when targeting prospective visitors.
Well over thirty years ago as a tour operator in the United Kingdom we became one of the first companies to install a custom built computer reservation system specifically geared towards our requirements. Nothing existed at that time to fulfil our exact needs, so we persuaded a then little known software expert to write a programme specially for us.
One of the unique features, and remember this is more than three decades ago, to avoid duplication, it would search by last name and postcode.
We quickly noticed that higher percentages of people booking resided in areas with similar postcodes and that was our introduction to target marketing. Identifying potential travellers by economic grouping and lifestyle preferences became the norm.
Rather than attempt to appeal to just about everyone, could it be more productive to try and establish what differentiates Barbados from other destinations and to which type of person are we especially appealing?
None of this is rocket science or even a new approach to marketing. It has been tried, tested and proven to work.
I was privileged recently to attend the launch of a new book called ‘Bridging the Gap’ which was prepared from ten years of weekly columns written by the late Peter Morgan.
One enduring memory that Peter left with me, was to keep it simple and that way everybody would understand what you were trying to achieve.