A shared article on a well-known social media platform on May 11, 2022, respecting Barbados and the Caribbean tourism recovery progress brought back memories of a posting in the March 23, 2020, edition of Barbados Underground under the caption “We need a new game to promote Tourism.” Both articles offered opinionated suggestions on the development of various sectors of the tourism industry but neither one embodied a program for the way forward. Recommendations appeared to be relying on the induced demand strategy for generating visitor arrivals, but this approach might not produce desired results.
In the post pandemic period, digital technology will be the axle tourism officials will utilize to drive and operate tourism industries. Competition between Caribbean states for tourism receipts will be fierce. To survive, tourism dependent destinations will have to create and implement tourism master plans that are innovative and futuristic.
If a change is necessary, a business model should be put in place that (1) will modernize and keep destination programming abreast of industry technology and (2) develop and introduce diverse collaborative marketing campaigns that are consumer and travel trade oriented. Product distribution and tourism revenue generating initiatives should be incorporated in the program as they will be a Force Majeure in the new era tourism.
THE NEW BUSINESS MODEL
One of the non-publicized benefits Covid-19 provided Caribbean destinations dependent on tourism revenue, was the opportunity to review and upgrade their Modus Operandi. The chance to recalibrate and improve destination programming was apparently passed over as tourism authorities appeared to favor a return to pre covid marketing strategies.
The new model would necessitate upgrading and expanding current business strategies to include rebranding, monetizing tourism activities, product distribution, concentrating on community programming, and depending on resources, the establishment of a” National Destination Tour Company” with Internet Booking Engine (IBE) functionality.
BENEFITS OF A NEW MODEL
1 – Reduced dependence on international tour operators, foreign carriers and their tour companies, wholesalers, and hotels reps for generating visitor traffic
2 – Building a better working relationship between public and private sectors in marketing and promoting destination
3 – Establishment of national destination tour company branches in overseas
4 – Generate tourism revenue and eliminate need for government subsidies
5 – Better management, control, and distribution of tourism product
6 – The building a tourism industry that is not susceptible to industry partners “High and Low Season” marketing activities
NATIONAL DESTINATION TOUR COMPANY
The incorporation of a national tour company with a booking engine in a destination’s tourism authority infrastructure will not only level the playing field but lessen third-party involvement. It will reduce marketing and promotional expenditures, open new avenues for generating revenues, create employment opportunities, provide effective industry management, and year-round competitive programming. Moreover, it will generate visitor arrivals.
The internet booking engine concept is also not new. It is an updated, upgraded digitalized version of the reservation/sales function which appointed travel product wholesalers in overseas markets performed for Caribbean destinations in the 1960-1970’s prior to the evolution of tour companies. The booking engine would enable direct destination bookings and revenue earned remains in country.
There is also the precedent of the successful and productive use of the above-type business model in support of a popular Caribbean Island for approximately 30 years. Some tangible destination project benefits include (a) a dedicated airline service, (b) premium marketing campaigns, (c) an out of country licensed sales facility, (d) affordable tourism/hospitality holiday packages, and (e) excellent working relationships with international airlines, travel trade professionals and tour operators. Estimated arrivals at this destination in 2022, approximately 2.5 million visitors.
If Caribbean destinations are seeking solutions for a robust recovery of their tourism industries, an adaptation of this model could be the resolve.
DIVERSE COLLABORATIVE PROGRAMMING
Most Caribbean destinations experienced major tourism revenue losses due to Covid-19. To attempt to rebuild tourism industries in the post pandemic era, programmers will have to create and offer value laden affordable holiday packages “chock-a-block with authentic enjoyable experiences” that are superior to other programs in the marketplace.
To enlighten persons not familiar with tourism programming, the following is a draft blueprint of a diverse collaborative master plan that could be utilized by any Caribbean destination.
A SWEET FUH SO HOLIDAY PACKAGE
1 – Tourism and Hotel Association officials should convene a meeting to discuss the creation of a Public – Private Sector Collaborative “Sweet Fuh So Holiday Program.”
2 – Meeting participants should include Tourism and Hotel Association executives, local and international airlines, their tour companies, overseas .