Ecuador recently went into history by becoming the first foreign country to take a thirty second television commercial which was aired during the recent Super Bowl at a quoted cost of US$3.8 million to reach an estimated 112 million television audience.
As first thought, any comparison between a country boasting a land mass of 109,484 square miles and a population of 15 million people with tiny Barbados seems almost totally illogical, but then look again.
Ecuador welcomed a record 1,500,241 overseas visitors last year up until 22nd December according to the website of their own Ministerio de Tourismo. Of that number the second largest market, the United States, supplied 16.6 per cent of the overall number which was 14 per cent up on the previous year, amounting to 232,868.
Colombia, its northern neighbour, produced the single biggest number, 23.8 per cent or 333,197 persons.
Sadly while Barbados Statistical Service posts critical information so late, it was almost impossible to compare our 2014 Barbados arrival figures with that of Ecuador for the same year. Up until last Tuesday the most recent posting covered the month of September, with October and November only being added in the first week of February.
So let’s look at 2013, where Barbados welcomed 120,584 American long stay visitors which represented over 50 per cent of the US numbers who travelled to Ecuador. Despite the initial geological and demographic disparity, their tourism planners were able to persuade the Government of Ecuador to splash out a staggering BDS$7.6 million, apparently for a single shot 30 second ‘ad’…
“Only time will tell if the results ultimately justify the huge initial expense, or if the Super Bowl placement becomes one of the most wasteful decisions in the country’s tourism history.”
Again, nothing is in isolation and various websites indicate that some US$2.2 billion has already been committed to private sector tourism infrastructural investments, including new hotel plant by 2020.
Therefore, is this part of the ‘big picture’ with a Government taking some early risk and hoping that any shortfall in direct tourism spending is more than made up in overall investment over the medium to long term?
In an interview with Yahoo Travel, Ecuador’s ambassador to the USA, Nathalie Cely, stated “that US tourism has grown 4 per cent a year for the last ten years and the country wants to double that over the next five years.”
The country says that if it sees just 1 per cent growth in US visitors to Ecuador it will cover the money spent on the ‘ad’.
I sent this column to the ambassador personally to check for accuracy and how refreshing that she graciously responded within minutes. What attention to detail.
And the diplomat’s conclusions seem to make a lot of sense. In rough numbers, a one per cent increase each year for five years would generate around an additional 12,000 visitors from the US alone. On a cost-per-conversion basis that US$3.8 million would equate to around US$316 per visitor. My guess is the average Ecuador visitor spends a little less than those to Barbados, but it still is a very plausible equation.
To reinforce destination awareness, Ecuador, as the world largest producer of bananas, exporting over 24 million tonnes each year, will affix a colourful sticker to every single piece of fruit with a QR Code to access a beautifully filmed video, highlighting the country and link to their national tourism website.
Is there a similar opportunity here for our rum bottles?