When you look carefully at long stay visitor arrival figures over the last twelve years from the United States to Barbados, at least until this year, it’s frankly a dismal picture. […]In 2003 we recorded 129,326 American stay-over visitors.
We peaked in 2011 with 142,414 and then by the end of 2014 dropped to the lowest annual figure during the last 12 years with just 118,508*. So the increasing arrival figures in 2015 now coming out of that market can only be heralded as impressive and all those who have driven the remarkable growth should be sincerely congratulated and especially within the short time span.
These things certainly do not simply happen by chance. They are down to personalities, building relationships, imposing enlightened policies, smart partnerships and a whole lot of hard work in the background. What prompted this subject, at this time was the recent Switchfly Inc., commissioned Harris Poll on how likely is it that Americans will chose Cuba as a vacation destination and some of the results are fascinating. For those of you unfamiliar with Switchfly, it describes itself as ‘a global technology company that powers commerce and loyalty point redemption solutions for the biggest names in travel, ecommerce and financial services’. The conclusion of the sample poll according to Switchfly’s CEO, Daniel Farrar was that ‘In terms of marketing Cuba to customers, travel providers should focus on millennials’. The exact definition of ‘millennials’ or Generation Y varies depending on which website you study, but I found the most useful one at www.whatls.com among many other relevant facts states that it is someone born after 1978.
Millennials currently represent more than one quarter of the overall US population standing at about 83.1 million persons falling into this ‘category’ or grouping. To me, the most thought-provoking aspect to the report was that as the average American traveller matured in age, they were less likely to pick Cuba for their holiday. This was particularly notable where 48 per cent of men and 51 per cent women over 65 years indicated they would never go to Cuba.
As a tour operator for 12 years, our own experience was that in the vast majority of cases it was the female gender who decided which destination was selected. Our marketing and promotional strategy took that into full account, right down to the choice of images and where any advertising was placed. Just maybe that has changed over three decades, but I seriously doubt it.
When the gradual opening-up to USA visitors started, there was endless speculation of how detrimental it would be to the remaining tourism dependent Caribbean. Perhaps we are not considering all the decision making components sufficiently, prior to the impending reality of unrestricted travel from the United States to Cuba. Should we be better studying the demographics as to what is driving increased interest and bookings for the present selected few?