TripAdvisor’s Brian Payea coming to Barbados

To deliver Keynote talk at Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Conference

When it comes to travel information and reviews, TripAdvisor LLC is probably the single most powerful online presence. The company’s websites attract 50+ million unique visitors each month – and that’s unique visitors, not visits. One person visiting 20 times in a month counts only once.

So when Brian Payea, TripAdvisor’s head of industry relations, speaks – hotels and tourism people listen very very closely. Mr. Payea will be delivering the keynote speech at the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Conference coming to Bridgetown June 1 to 3, 2011.

Like all businesses, tourism was thrust into an unknown and frightening world when the internet arrived and, much to their horror, hotels discovered that tourists could post unedited reviews and photos online. And post they did…

Suddenly the paid-for advertising and colourful brochures showing ten year old photos of a brand new hotel were countered with the truth. Disgruntled and ripped off customers at destinations around the world posted photos of cockroaches, stained bedding and filthy swimming pools. Tourists trapped in broken down buses with no toilets, no food and no water blogged and twittered in real time as their personal hell unfolded. The BBC and CNN often picked up on the feeds and broadcast the vacation disasters.

Things changed virtually overnight from the days when a glossy vacation pamphlet and a planted, paid-for travel story in the New York Times was all it took to attract visitors.

The hotel and tourism industry is still struggling to cope with free speech on the internet, and some fools in the industry even called for “tight regulation of hotel reviews” after TripAdvisor published as list of “dirtiest hotels”. They might as well try to stop the tides and the rotation of the earth because if TripAdvisor was shut down tomorrow another dozen or a hundred travel review websites would appear overnight.

What can the tourism industry do about internet reviews and criticism?

Mr. Payea has some ideas and he’ll be talking about the internet and other subjects at the upcoming conference.

Here’s what we think that Barbados tourism should do about the internet: Listen to what many people are saying.

Barbadians are not delivering the tourism product that we used to.

Barbados is not delivering the product that we promise in our current advertising. Look at the paid travel stories, commercials and glossy brochures. Now look at the reality. Look at what’s left of some of our beaches. Look at the trash everywhere. Talk to some of the sullen, uncaring and even hostile shop attendants downtown.

We don’t know what message Mr. Payea will bring to the conference, but we know that no amount of advertising, spin, internet engagement or re-branding can make up for a decade of neglect of our tourism and island infrastructure. No amount of paid-for travel videos can compete with the damage done by a filthy, old hotel and staff who would rather be doing something else and think that being polite to guests is “subservience”.

Barbados must concentrate on providing our best possible product and the best possible experience for every visitor to our home. That is, and should be, the business of every Barbadian.

Anyone who thinks that “re-branding”, new advertising or spin is some sort of “solution” to what’s happened to Barbados tourism is only fooling themselves.

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13 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism

13 responses to “TripAdvisor’s Brian Payea coming to Barbados

  1. Interested

    Whoopee

  2. "Interested" is the problem

    Tourism is our country’s life blood. There is probably no more serious or important subject that could be discussed in Barbados at this moment because the patient called tourism is not at all well.

    We’ve lost thousands of tourism jobs in the last ten years. Dozens of hotels, accommodation providers and tourist attractions large and small are gone. Too many of our remaining hotels are old and in disrepair. The time for a trip from the airport to Bridgetown has doubled in the last decade due to traffic volume. The west coast beaches are nothing compared to a few years ago. Where yards of sand once was is now rock and undercut walls. The flyovers flew away and we are the furthest and most costly Caribbean destination from North America and most of Europe. Cruise ships are cutting Bridgetown from the destinations list because of skyrocketing fuel costs and for the same price as a week in Barbados a tourist can spend a month in Cuba.

    Over 80% of vacations booked have an internet component (either booked or researched online) and that figure is rising daily.

    One of the most knowledgable speakers from one of the most influential online travel website is coming to Barbados to give us some insight.

    And “Interested” says “Whoopee”.

  3. bajandave

    Yes, the head of TripAdvisor might be coming here, but will he have “creative control” over his speech and “keep it real”, or will the organisers of the conference give him some generic speech with a couple of “newsworthy” sound bites so he doesn’t make them look bad?

  4. what will they think of next

    This is news?

  5. Bad Bob

    Hang on there partner.
    What about Adventure Tourism!?
    What’s more exciting than being held up by a gang of thugs when you miss your turn heading up country and get stopped by the “Road Gang”? What’s wrong with a trip to the emergency ward to get gashes stitched, tetanus injections and bones set because of bad roads? We don’t even have to go to T&T, or Jamayka to get our bit of excitement. Let’s enjoy our bit of Paradise before it all changes.

  6. Homegrown

    Trip Advisor is quite an interesting phenomenon– I even use it (as a local) before trying out a new restaurant, or one that I haven’t been to before– a treasure trove of information. TA could teach bajans a thing or to on how to become informed consumers, maybe that would shake things up a bit around here!!!

  7. watcher

    It is a competitive world. Trip Advisor has given the whole tourism industry a level playing field. It certainly is sad to see what has transpired with the Barbados tourism product. Can it come back to where it was? Hopefully Mr. Payea will paint a clear picture of the current market and how Barbados fits into it .

    Many of the destinations in Barbados are 3 star with 5 star prices. It is time for BTA to lead or get out of the way and let the suppliers of the proudct control the destiny.

  8. watch

    i think that people like to blame front line staff too often for bad service. I think management is to blame.
    Management does not care about customers. [anyone tried calling Pricesmart recently? what does the membership fee pay for? What about calling LIME, no one cares. The banks make millions but at peak time wickets are always empty. There is not enough competition to make mgt motivated to care

  9. Adrian Loveridge

    Some very interesting comments and you really only have to spend a few minutes on the Barbados Hotels TripAdvisor section to see that in many cases we are simply delivering far below what the majority of our visitors are used to and reasonably expect.
    Remember that one of our top hoteliers referring to TripAdvisor as a ‘menace’. I wonder if he will be at the conference?
    What is alarming is that many of the detremental comments appear on the same hotel’s page time after time, so clearly management are not reading the feedback and at least attempting to correct the problems.
    It also sad that when our hotels do excel and win coveted awards they are seldom recognised and highlighted by the BTA.

  10. Pingback: Tourist slams Peach and Quiet Hotel on TripAdvisor. Owner replies… | Barbados Free Press

  11. LoveBim

    It’s sad that as a tourism destination Barbados comes up short time and again. As a former travel agent in Bim and also in USA, I want to primarily recommend Barbados, but am not totally confident and always flinch when others speak of the lack of service we all experience from the time of arrival at the airport, all through our trip to the time of departure at the airport…I see other comments and have to agree, we seem to think that a SMILE might crack our faces, that simple courtesies are for “back then” or that personal time on the cell, liming or gossiping should be done ahead of service to the customer…Time to wake up and see that our reputation has taken a nose-dive and regaining it might just be impossible!

  12. Pingback: Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Conference cancelled – lack of interest! | Barbados Free Press

  13. barbadosadvisory

    TripAdvisor is paid to post good reviews but try to put a bad one up that is actually true. good luck. all about the money.
    scam. nonsense.