It is already more than halfway through the year and this is a time perhaps that our tourism policy planners are focusing on what marketing strategies can be effectively put in place to build on the first quarter increase in visitor arrivals.
As always, it is almost impossible to accurately predict what is going to happen in our global marketplaces and how that could impact on numbers, average stay and spend.
Important issues include the fall in the value of the euro earlier this year and whether this will be further impacted with the eventual solution to the Greek crisis. What effect will the first Conservative British government budget since 1995 have on the disposable income of most Brits? And finally, there is increased speculation about an impending recession in Canada, just at a time we were experiencing improved arrivals and airlift.
Having lived in Canada for some time, I know there is a psychological threshold when the Canadian dollar falls below 80 cents compared to the United States dollar. Naturally, Canadians then start to question whether they are truly obtaining value for money at holiday destination choices. It becomes an imperative to clearly demonstrate that we can offer a competitive product by at least attempting to reinforce component parts of the tourism industry that are more affordable.
While we will never be able to compete with the mass tourism regional offerings like Mexico, Dominican Republic, Cuba and alike, Barbados still has a myriad of more affordable accommodation choices. Of course lodging is only part of the equation, so personally I think there is room for a re-DISCOVER-like promotion specifically aimed at the Canadian market that helps minimise the currency value differential, which include not just restaurants, but attractions, activities, car rental and shopping.
It is a simple concept that could be implemented quickly and at very little cost. Like re-DISCOVER, it could include a holiday competition where a lucky winning couple is brought back to Barbados next year free of cost, including flights and a hotel or villa stay. Entry forms could also ensure the success or failure of such an initiative, which could be accurately measured for cost effectiveness while identifying the take-up with the various tourism partners.
Ideally it would be desirable to include the two service airlines (Air Canada and WestJet) but they may take the view that it could lower revenue by competing with their tour operator affiliates. Of course, they would have to balance that with what could be otherwise empty seats. To me it’s a no-brainer. It is quick and inexpensive to implement and it gives us an added value marketing tool to maintain the destination’s visibility while addressing the genuine cost concerns many loyal and repeat visitors from Canada currently have. This is particularly easy to monitor now especially through the various social media channels.
Operating re-DISCOVER has been an incredible learning experience and would not have been possible without the enormous help of a small number of people who have mostly given their time and expertise freely. We cannot afford to sit back and wait, speculating on the price of oil, minerals, and any other commodity where we can have absolutely no influence.