Much has been made of the lack of funds available to the Barbados Tourism Authority and reported outstanding debts, severely limiting the ability of the organisation to effectively market the destination. Whatever, the facts are, those of us that have spent almost an entire lifetime in business have learnt, usually from necessity, to do a lot with very little.
There are so many ways that you can raise the ‘brand’ profile, often at low or no cost. TripAdvisor, is perhaps one of the very best examples.
Around 6,000 hotels have recently been awarded the so called Oscars of the hospitality industry, Traveler’s Choice Awards, in various categories for 2013. At first you might say, 6,000 hotels, that’s an awful lot. But when you then consider that those who receive this coveted distinction are selected by the highest ratings in a single year out of over 650,000 listed hotels in 82 countries across nine regions, worldwide – so less than one per cent make the grade.
As you would expect, many individual properties and savvy destinations now go into hyperdrive, using this incredible opportunity to highlight their product with media mentions and press releases at zero cost. The ratings are entirely generated and positions gained by guests personal experiences who have actually stayed in the featured accommodation providers.
What could be a better accolade than reviews and opinions based on the feedback from those who really matter… their guests?
The proof is in the pudding.
I am pleased to report a small number of hotels on Barbados are winners for this year and I would expect that our national marketing agency will take every opportunity to highlight them, while at the same time growing awareness for the destination.
Staying with TripAdvisor, I would like to mention, what I consider some of the least recognised ‘unsung heroes’. These are the so called Destination Exports or senior contributors, who volunteer their time to answer a myriad of travellers questions posted on the Barbados Forum. This is done with a certain amount of anonymity, doing so, not under their own names, but using a number of evocative ‘title identities’ like butterflysue1, footychick, InBarbados, Kirimist, LittleMiss Red, LoisInsider, Scary, Sunniebgi and perhaps the most prolific, BGIWorldTraveller with an incredible almost 11,000 posts, at last count.
Promotion by Social media costs us not a single cent
I could not begin to calculate a value that they add to our island, entirely without costing ‘us’ a single cent.
Just as we recognise visitors who return to our shores, year after year, personally I think its time the Destination Experts received some form of appreciation from our policymakers. These are people motivated by the love of the country, whether they live here or are frequent and/or long stay overseas guests. There is no possible way that we could ever afford to employee sufficient people to perform the function they do.
And as social media sites continue to gain a pivotal role in holiday selection and final accommodation choice, we really have to learn how to nurture these smart partnerships better.