While this may not be universally accepted by all, can and should the private sector tourism industry do more to help itself?
The simple answer must be yes!
I firmly believe there are so many more ways that we can build smart partnerships to build our destination awareness in all the key markets.
As an example, many years ago we persuaded the three largest villa rental agencies to jointly produce a full page ‘ad’ that appeared in leading travel magazines like Caribbean Travel and Life. By collectively sharing the costs they were able to attract an audience that would have been price inhibitive if attempted individually.
As first you may think that you were collaborating with the ‘enemy’ and handing valuable business to your competition, but in today’s reality the consumer is savvy and well informed. They can make a defined choice based on their own preferences.
There would be nothing stopping our car rental agencies, major attractions and small hotels doing exactly the same and ideally, in one concerted effort, together.
The re-organisation of what was the Barbados Tourism Authority has presented the commercially driven tourism partners with an opportunity that must not be squandered. Yes! We are all aware of the financial restraints but there is so much more that can be done nowadays with the internet without spending small fortunes.
Certainly at the recently held Connect 2014 tour operator’s event I left with the feeling that both the private and public sector interests were reaching out with renewed enthusiasm, while actively looking for improved communication channels and ways of co-operating.
Perhaps the new Delta flights from Atlanta and New York could be the catalyst for some creative way of joint advertising. Generate interest in the destination and then present multi-options of accommodation choices and ancillary services.
Atlanta especially excites me with its population of six million living within an hour’s drive of Hartsfield Airport (ATL). Having spent a week driving around the city and its suburbs some years ago the overall demographics look tempting. One concern is the currently high airfares at around US$700 economy return. The inconsistencies of the airline business is that fares to Barbados from Atlanta routed via Toronto are presently almost US$250 cheaper. To ensure the route is sustainable that will have to change if we are going to maintain the service.
Through Airfarewatchdog.com, it’s easy to monitor all the ticket prices to other Caribbean islands. It would be foolhardy not to take into account that our potential visitors are doing this as well.
I also wonder after the 49 percent acquisition of Virgin Atlantic by Delta whether there is an opportunity to offer triangle fares London-Atlanta-Barbados-London. Two or multi-destination holidays have long been popular, especially among independent travelers and there clearly is a market, citing Florida as a proven example.
With less than three months before the flights recommence, there is certainly a lot of work to do. Let us hopefully make it happen together.