As a small business person for most of my life, trying to make miniscule budgets become larger profitable realities goes with the territory. As a general rule we adopted a very simple psychology, any marketing dollars spent, had to produce a tenfold return, or ROI of 1:10. For example if you took a quarter page […]
Way back in 2001 we registered a business name and established a website domain under the trading title of MILESCloser. The idea then, which still has not changed, was to target the hundreds of millions of frequent flyer members who largely use their accumulated miles for vacation or holiday travel.
One of the impediments to growing the United States market especially is we are a little further away from key source market cities. Inevitably airfares are often more expensive, resulting in the overall cost of the ‘vacation’ making it more difficult when competing with other destinations. This is especially true with non-gateway departure points. A good example is Minneapolis-St. Paul to Barbados where the current cheapest bookable fare online in October or early November is US$761 economy return. For the same dates the miles required are just 25,000 and US$60.60 in taxes. So by getting rid of the perceived ‘high’ airfare, we then only have to compete on accommodation options.
While this column has never been about individuals, I celebrated a milestone birthday a couple of weeks ago and could not help but spend a little time reflecting on the fifty years that I have spent mainly in the tourism industry. Some people evaluate success or what the definition of it differently and there is nothing wrong with that.
My introduction to the world of commerce at a very early age was driven not so much by any desire to become fabulously wealthy with all the associated trappings, but more by the basic need to fend financially for myself without the benefit of sustained further education as a result of a prolonged illness. Looking back, I learnt very quickly and by the age of 21, I had already become the majority shareholder and managing director of four companies which employed scores of people. This is not a boast, but a simple fact.
Anyone who has used the internet to shop in Britain, North America and Continental Europe cannot fail to be impressed with the variety available, level of service and delivery options. And I wonder with the recent change of ownership, branding and appointment of new management in some of our distribution and supermarket outlets has not presented an incredible opportunity to better serve up to 500,000 long stay visitors that we attract each year. Especially for first time visitors staying at our vast choice of villas, condominiums and apartments and who are unsure of what is available and pricing on certain consumables, at least prior to arrival.
What prompted these thoughts was the appointment of Judith Wilcox as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of TriMart Inc. Her vast knowledge of the tourism industry gained with Virgin Atlantic and more recently, one of our largest villa rental agency, could provide a unique insight in developing better synergies between our suppliers and overseas visiting customers. While there have been various local websites in the past, perhaps now is the time to take this marketing medium to a much higher level with the means to research product offerings prior to homeland departure, pay online with a credit card and delivery to coincide with the visitor’s arrival. It is also potentially a great promotional vehicle to expose more locally made items and build better brand awareness to a much larger marketplace.
One of the most difficult and painful decisions I have ever made was to cancel our last re-DISCOVER the Caribbean Show some years ago, which had become a highly successful annual event spanning over seven years. As well as highlighting and driving new interest in Intra regional travel it was also used as a catalyst to build trade between the islands. It also brought almost around $1 million of foreign exchange into Barbados, filled scores of hotel rooms, generated significant car rental business and helped keep our multitude of restaurants busy, during a traditionally quieter off-season period.
If you were among the thousands of people who visited the show over the two days it took place annually, you would have met representatives from up to 22 participating territories, from Surinam in the south to Jamaica in the north and everywhere in between.
What finally prompted the final decision to stop coordinating the show was the reduced funding by the then Barbados Tourism Authority which even at its peak, represented less than 10 per cent of the actual cost. Plus the sad realisation that they could not find two or more of their staff to ‘man’ a stand for the duration out of what were then over one hundred employees.
I am often surprised and occasionally humbled by some of the people who read this column. Out of the blue a couple of weeks ago, I had a call from a senior executive of the Illinois based third largest credit card issuer in the United States, with a quoted 47 million card holders. He had been following some of our tourism initiatives and wanted to see how we could ‘partner’ to help increase their brand awareness and acceptance on Barbados.
Of all our major markets the United States has, for the last decade, been one of the most challenging. Until the 2014 figures are published the industry at large can only speculate about any real recovery last year. But what we do know though is that 2013 recorded the lowest number (120,584) of long stay American visitors over the past 11 years. So clearly, there is work to be done and I am sure with the recent restructuring that has taken place, we will start to witness increased numbers in the not to distance future, especially if we wish to sustain any added airlift. So what is finally being negotiated with DISCOVER is a win-win scenario that will hopefully achieve their object, while at the same time help to raise our destination visibility in US market, again at minimal cost.
Kudos to the recently revitalised national marketing organisation renamed the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, by facilitating the production of a series of videos where the airline WestJet partners with the chain store Michael Hill Jewellery and a number of Barbadian tourism interests to highlight two couples who become engaged on our island .
At the time of submitting this column already well over 1 million people had watched the three videos and this number will rise substantially over the next few days. Add the media coverage by print, television, radio and other shared social media and realistically millions of people will be exposed to Barbados as a desirable destination. Timing of course, can be everything, and the fact that WestJet posted the videos just before Valentine’s Day can be no coincidence.
To reinforce the positive effect the airline rolled out a supportive seat sale to Barbados which required booking by 14th February, but for travel up to 24 June 2015.
Ecuador recently went into history by becoming the first foreign country to take a thirty second television commercial which was aired during Super Bowl 2015 at a quoted cost of US$3.8 million to reach an estimated 112 million television audience – see Super Bowl ad. 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 22 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.
Submitted by Anthony Davis
"The start of construction on the highly anticipated Beaches Resort in Barbados has been set back. "Speaking to the media following a tour of the Sandals Barbados property this afternoon, Gordon "Butch" Stewart, chairman of Sandals Resorts International – the operator of the Beaches and Sandals brands – said work on the property in Heywoods, St. Peter, had been pushed back due to the complexity of the project." Source: Barbados Today
When the Minister of Tourism, and the Minister of Finance decided to give Sandals Resorts International the go-ahead for taking over the Almond Beach Village Resort, the excuse was that the projected time for Manager of the Crane Resorts and Residences’ Paul Doyle’s finishing of the hotel he proposed would take longer than Sandals. There was just a couple of months difference between the two, but this Government was adamant that Sandals had the best proposal and gave it to them. All of a sudden a third party became involved.
Submitted by Due Diligence
The Globe and Mail, “Canada’s National Newspaper”, is the largest newspaper with national circulation. It publishes a travel section, Globe Travel, every Saturday, and one other day each week. It also includes travel coverage and ads in its Globe Life sections on other days.
I attached a photo of the front page of yesterday’s [8 February 2015] Globe Travel section, with the banner FIND YOUR ISLAND, highlighting stories about properties in Antigua, Cayman Islands, Grenada, BVI, Roatan (Honduras), and Puerto Rico. The digital version of Globe travel, which does not include the front page can be found here. When you go to the website, click on – More Destinations on the lower left corner to see all the following stories in the print edition.
Submitted by Douglas
Barbados (Crane Beach) Comes Up #1 of the World’s 15 Best Beach Getaways for 2015
Two new, non-stop Delta flights, from JFK and Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta, allow easier access to this island paradise. The hard part is choosing among Barbados’s 60 beaches—all of them public. Whether you opt for the calm waters of the west coast, aka the Platinum Coast, or the surfable waves of the east coast, it’s hard to go wrong. And when weary of the rays, there’s plenty else to do, from wreck and reef diving to touring rum plantations to spelunking through Harrison’s Cave.
Hardly a week seems to go by without one or two prominent figures calling for, or in some cases demanding, more use of local produce by our tourism industry and especially restaurants. First, I absolutely and totally support this objective but I wonder if the energy expended in trying to make this happen is entirely well placed or in fact truly balanced.
Some time ago the dairy farmers were complaining about being forced to accept lower prices and reduced quotas, the virtual monopoly milk processing entity unilaterally stopped making yogurts locally, pretty much a basic serving menu article in most hotels and alternative accommodation offerings. No-one can convince me that it is cheaper to bring in a foreign made refrigerated alternative across 6,000 or more miles by road and ship and for the wholesale distributors to always disperse them within the stated sell by date. There has to be waste and spoilage.
I also understand the economics of mass branded cheeses like Cheddar, but surely there are specialty items that can be made locally like double cream, feta and cottage cheese which are largely imported with a huge drain of foreign currency.
According to a recent TravelMole article, British travel agents are reporting ‘exceptional’ days of trading so far this month. Some say forward bookings are up as much as ‘30-50 percent’ over the same period last year and that a third of summer holidays currently being offered in 2015 will be sold during January and February.
Based on early indications, the most popular long haul destinations are within the Caribbean and in particular, Costa Rica, Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Others far flung choices include Mauritius and the Maldives.
On the downside, the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) reported that short haul holidays are being boosted by the low value of the Euro against Sterling, making the Mediterranean much more affordable. But conversely, the abolition of the dreaded Air Passenger Tax (APD) for children below 12 years is driving demand for destinations further afield.
Submitted by Adrian Loveridge
Of course, many of us, warmly welcome the current fall in fuel prices which probably in the hospitality sector represents the greatest savings in electricity prices, especially those properties which have extensive air conditioning units. Needless to say however Government will collect a less taxes and VAT, so it’s a two-edged sword.
I also wonder how long it will take our limited number of distribution companies to pass on the benefit of reduced delivery costs as a result of cheaper petrol and diesel prices. Assuming of course, they will pass on the benefits at all.
Experts in the aviation industry do not expect any dramatic reduction in airfares and again it may work initially against the consumer’s interest while used aircraft values rise as fuel falls, slowing down the delivery of newer most fuel-efficient aircraft in some cases.
Across our major tourism markets the halving of oil prices will hopefully give people more disposable income, perhaps most notably in the United Kingdom, where we have witnessed a significant fall in the value of Sterling against the US Dollar.