“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” – 3 John 1:2
Tourism is the single major sector that is important in every Caribbean country. Two to three weeks ago, American Professor of Economics, C. Fred Bergsten advised the flagging tourism-dependent Caribbean countries to turn to China as a potentially booming source of visitors to insulate themselves from future external shocks. He said that “the region needs to diversify its economic relations with Latin America and East Asia, more specifically China which is the world’s second largest spender on tourism- more than US$100 billion annually and China is going to explode as a source of tourism. There is going to be a tsunami of Chinese tourists flooding the world over the next several decades and if the Caribbean can get even a small slice of that huge market, it can do wonders for the economies of our small states”.
The secret for the region lies in a five pronged tourism strategy: (1) marketing and public relations; (2) enhancing cruise ship arrivals and airlift capacity to the region; (3) augmenting the quantity and improving the quality of hotel room stock; (4) developing an attractive mix of tourism services which can be accessed through multi-destination tourism; and (5) introducing individual productivity enhancing measures to uphold high quality and standards.
Marketing drives revenue and is supported by Public Relations which professionally maintains a favourable public image of the region as a tourism destination. In this regard, the Caribbean Tourism Organization has a mandate to position the Caribbean as the most desirable, year round, warm weather destination.
Not only must we enhance the quantum of cruise ship passengers and airlift capacity to the region by establishing relations with new carriers in the emerging markets but we must also develop LIAT so that it can link with the these new carriers and exploit multi-destination tourism opportunities and create a more viable market for itself.
Even though the average hotel occupancy rate in the Caribbean is low, an aggressive marketing strategy will address this provided that we listen to the marketing feedback and are prepared to improve the quality and augment the quantity of the hotel room stock commensurately.
The Caribbean as a destination boasts of many diverse attractions. I received two e-mail messages last week which stimulated some thought on this subject. The one was from Senator Professor Henry Fraser on the carnivalisation of Barbados by Trini cousins and the other by James Blades who drew to my attention that the The ‘Dinner with George’ (Washington) event, currently running in Barbados, was a HIT! This is of course just the tip of the iceberg.
Henry Fraser reported “Carnival fever was at boiling point in Trinidad last week, with the costume bands, steel bands, calypso, soca ‘fuh days’ and the frenzied mud bath on J’ouvert morning”. I recall when I lived in Trinidad 40 years ago that there would be at abrupt end to the celebrations on the Carnival Tuesday night. A metamorphosis in behaviour took place from Ash Wednesday for the religious period of Lent. Not so today! Yes, a large turn-out at church services on Ash Wednesday but no abrupt break in the festivities except for those visitors who have returned to their respective abodes.
Fraser continued “with the close association between our countries, from the Bajan occupation of Tobago under Lord Willoughby in 1660 through the emigration to the oil fields 100 years ago, it’s no surprise that Bajans tried to copy carnival – some 60 years ago. But it flopped… it wasn’t until 1974 that the revival of the ancient Crop Over celebrations provided an opportunity to try to out-do our Trini cousins, in letting it all hang out”.
George Washington, later to become the 1st President of the United States of America, visited Barbados in 1751 and spent about two months. George Washington House, the place where he stayed while in Barbados is now a tourist attraction under the control of the Barbados National Trust and gives useful insights into life as it was in the Barbados of 250 years ago.
James Blades reported “the event ‘Dinner with George’, at George Washington House, is a HIT! The average occupancy since the first presentation on December 23rd 2013 has been 97%. The activity takes place every Monday evening from 7 – 10 pm and has lived up to being called one of Barbados’ most exciting and authentic ‘world class’ dinner theatre experiences. The last regular presentation this winter season will take place on March 31st 2014. The cost is BBD$198 per person – please call 246- 233-2601. The season reopens on December 15 2014.
Finally, Jeff Haden an American television producer and director shares five scientifically proven ways to work smarter, not harder. In other words five ways in which we can increase our productivity to set and uphold high quality and standards. They are: (1) Take more breaks to give your mind and body a rest; (2) Take power naps to recharge the learning process; (3) Spend time in nature to listen to the whispers from heaven; (4) Move and work in blocks – the break helps you to think through what you are working on or what you will do next; and (5) Check your email first thing, so you can stay ahead of the game.
In conclusion, if we appreciate the broad definition of what the tourism industry is all about, it is therefore incumbent upon every single one of us to engage in innovative practices and practise high levels of productivity (human, technology and process), so that our future prosperity will be ensured.
(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET – Columns are archived at www.cbetmodel.org)