First, I would like to sincerely congratulate Zed Layson and his team at Surfers Point for being awarded one of the world’s top ten surfing schools by the prestigious National Geographic Traveler Magazine. It’s a tremendous accolade for a small business operated by a vibrant young entrepreneur and you would think that it might be a role model example for our media and national marketing agency to highlight.
Perhaps our news media and our national marketing agency – the Barbados Tourism Authority – do not fully understand the branding and destination exposure benefits brought by have having ‘famous personalities’ like teen super star, Justin Bieber learning to surf off our shores.
Only this year Forbes rated the singer the third most powerful celebrity in the world, so its not surprising that even an amateur video of Justin taking board lessons off Inch Marlow has been watched by hundreds of thousands of people on YouTube.
Or discussed among his 43 million Facebook fans.
According to the ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulation) National Geographic Traveler Magazine has a verified circulation of over 725,000 copies, so a readership of nearly 2.9 million people. I would also argue, probably with a demographic profile, more likely to be influenced by Barbados as a vacation choice.
By piggybacking on the years of endevour Zed has taken to build his business, through ensuring consistent customer service, ‘we’ as a destination have not paid a single cent for this extensive coverage.
Staying with the subject of lost opportunities, TripAdvisor reached yet another milestone last month by amassing 75 million reviews and opinions, a staggering 50 per cent increase over the previous year. Fifty contributions are posted per minute and 56 million people now use the site each month. Over 11 million images have been submitted.
It is difficult to imagine any other reference medium that plays such a critical role in travel planning, the final decision of where consumers take their holiday and what influences accommodation choice. There is no doubt in my mind, that if we are ever going to reduce the overwhelming dependence on tour operator driven business, we must all learn to take better advantage of these vast social media forums.
Until this happens, and the percentage of direct rack rate bookings is increased, we simply will not achieve the viability that is urgently needed to upgrade our existing tourism plant.
But for those tourism players that have no immediate plans to change their business model, do not think for a minute that the traditional tour operators and wholesalers have not cottoned-on to the power of the world’s most visited travel website.
The first UK company to incorporate TripAdvisor reviews of featured hotels was Hayes and Jarvis. The logic was that it was better to keep a customer logged onto your own site, rather than let them stray and possibly lose the booking. Plus it’s far better to put the emphasis on the customer to ultimately make the decision on lodging selection.
The net result is that 20 per cent of people visiting the hotel description pages on the Hayes and Jarvis site click onto the TripAdvisor reviews and the booking conversion rate is twice that of those who do not.
It would appear the proof is in the pudding.
Editor’s note: The following changes were made in this article by BFP. The phrase “the Barbados Tourism Authority” was inserted in paragraph two. The main title was changed to the current “Justin Bieber learns to surf in Barbados – and our Barbados Tourism Authority couldn’t care less”. Adrian Loveridge’s original title was “Tourism Matters 99”.
BFP also searched on YouTube and picked one of the dozens of videos there about Justin Bieber learning to surf in Barbados.