Caribbean Brand Champions

A former secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization and one of the most brilliant marketing minds of the Caribbean, Vincent Vanderpool- Wallace, used to describe the Caribbean as the world’s best-known, unowned brand. I believe he felt that as familiar as the world was with the name Caribbean, someone still needed to take charge of the brand Caribbean. The brand needed to be owned and given a mission, a purpose and some goals. It needed to be championed. Someone listened, at least for a while. More on that in a minute.

The temptation is great to get all enmeshed in a debate about what a brand really is, what it means within the context of the Caribbean and whether anyone can actually own it. The discussion could go on forever about whether a brand represents a promise to meet certain expectations or whether it is a reputation – a set of criteria which define the entity. Does the brand offer customers ‘will do’ assurances, or does it comfort them with the knowledge of past successes? Once we wrestle our way out of those questions, yet another two confront us: What really is the Caribbean brand? And who has the right to own it?

Let’s agree that opinions will always vary on those questions, but there is general acceptance that brands need to be championed. In fact, brands absolutely thrive when they have champions. To be truly effective the champions themselves need to be passionate, believable and competent. They need to represent the brands well. Anyone who witnessed the performance of the world’s finest athletes at the just-concluded Rio Olympics must surely have felt a burst of pride every time his or her country’s brand dominated the competition.  Those athletes, champions all, displayed the attributes we ascribe to brand champions. To those who represented the Caribbean we especially offer our kudos whether or not they ended up on the medal stands. Of course those who did achieve medal status deserve our region’s highest accolades. This article provides a recap of the top 10 performances from our Caribbean athletes this year at Rio.  Hail to the king of them all, Jamaica’s unstoppable Usain Bolt. What Bolt does as a champion for Jamaica and the Caribbean goes far beyond mere brand-recognition. He has gone deep into the territory of creating a certain expectation of Jamaican athletes; an expectation which might actually not be exceeded anytime soon!

While Olympians and other world-class athletes are of course champions in the literal sense, brand champions are all around us. They are our leaders, our CEOs, our staff and sometimes our customers. Over the years the branding of the Caribbean’s tourism product has benefited hugely from champions who were indeed passionate, believable and competent. Mr. Vanderpool-Wallace is one of those. Their successes are a matter of public record.

In 1993, the CTO released an advertising campaign that obtained funding from 28 countries, hotels, airlines, cruise lines and tour operators. The campaign consisted of creating 60-second commercials to generate awareness of multiple destinations showcasing the region’s diversity beyond sun, sand and sea. The commercials did well and were remembered for their use of the Beach Boy’s song “Kokomo”. The combined funding method and success made the structure of the marketing campaign something other destinations followed, including the state of Florida.

In 1994 following this campaign, the region’s share of the US market was an impressive 49%. When the campaign ended and momentum was lost, the market share fell steadily. Later on in 2002, another advertising campaign known as “Life Needs the Caribbean” was launched to market and promote the Caribbean’s brand as a single destination. Following this campaign, the region’s share of the US market rose from 40.6% to 43.7%.

Sadly, on August 13, 2016 the Caribbean lost one of its true champions. Michael Youngman assumed the position as Director of Marketing for the CTO in November 1991. In this role, he was responsible for all regional marketing activities worldwide for member states of the CTO. One of his most cherished achievements was the highly successful CTO/CHTA Regional Marketing Program of 1993 that resulted in a 10.4 percent increase in visitor arrivals to the Caribbean in 1993-1994. Youngman also wrote the original CTO Marketing Plan in 1991 which was used as a platform for CTO marketing worldwide. His expertise was used by the CTO to develop strategies for the first-ever government Tourism Summit meeting in Kingston, Jamaica in 1992 and again for the Tourism Summit held in The Bahamas in 2001. He introduced the first CTO website in 1995 and was involved as an author and editor in the creation of the CTO Tourism Executive Brief. He also received the CTO’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002, the same year as the launch of the Life Needs the Caribbean television campaign which he had helped to develop.

Michael was a friend and mentor. He loved our industry and the Caribbean. He was my predecessor in a previous job and so I had the benefit of standing on foundations which he built with passion, credibility and great competence. Michael was a champion.

We remember him with affection and great respect. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Arline, his family and all who loved him.

The Components of a Smart Tourist Destination: Practical examples for the Caribbean

smart destination pic 1

A new world is emerging. Worldwide destinations are becoming “smart”. In this new smart world everything is connected, enabling the physical, digital and social domains to unite creating a new hybrid ecosystem. In this new environment, individuals interact, play, communicate, collaborate and share information in new ways. Tourism businesses and destinations need new principles, policies, processes and objectives, sustainable world strategies, comprehensive planning, integrated models and globally effective solutions to adapt to this new world.

 Although some may think that the simple integration of technology within a tourism destination is sufficient to be classified as “smart”, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. As destination managers, we must acknowledge the multidimensional construct of smartness to create value for all and enhance competitiveness. Here’s how we can try to achieve this.

Innovation

Innovation stimulates smartness and is essential for the competitiveness of destinations. One way to inspire innovation is through establishing a connection in multiple communities to develop a smart nation economy. According to Skift, one destination adopting this approach is Tahiti. Similar to the Caribbean, the Tahitian islands are small and closely geographically situated creating an opportunity to link various communities together to develop a smart nation.

Last year, the French Polynesia’s Ministry of Tourism introduced a new partnership with Tahiti Innovation Labs and Florida based Travel Startups Incubator to create a Tahiti Smart Tourism Initiative. The project goals included expanding free Wi-Fi access beyond resorts increasing visitor arrivals and by digitalizing the guest experience, and creating new opportunities for local job growth and economic development. The strategy relies heavily on creating a more dynamic multi-layered Internet pillar.

With the installation of fiber optic connectivity and telecommunication companies developing peer-to-peer “mesh” networks which don’t need cellular service, the usage of more apps is enabled and the quality and reach of service is also enhanced. The Caribbean can adopt this approach to develop a digital eco-system to attract consumers who depend on a fast and free Internet to navigate their travel journey and communicate with their social networks.

Moreover, imagine the capabilities of data obtained by new digital tools to better understand tourism traffic flows, service quality issues and emergencies. We can use innovative tools to collect, process and organize large amounts of data. This data can be accessible to creative communities and research institutions to foster further innovation to contribute to the success of smart tourist destinations.

Social Capital

Social capital consists of networks with shared interests, values and understandings that enable cooperation within or among groups. Strong social capital in geographical areas involves the presence of various networks between people, organizations and communities. Collaboration and cooperation between these networks support collective knowledge and competitiveness. Let’s look at Mexico for instance. According to Caribbean News Digital, during late last year, Cozumel was announced to become Mexico’s first “Smart Tourist Destination”. This case is a useful example of cooperation between two organizations. The project that was originally inspired from an initiative utilized by Spain’s Ministry of Tourism, was envisioned to provide the destination with a fresh makeover within the areas of accessibility, innovation, sustainability and technology. Spain and Mexico began working together by sharing each other’s strategies for tourism development; Mexico shared their “Pueblos Mágicos” (Magic Towns) initiative, and Spain shared with Mexico the “Smart Destination” project in which the main goal is to foster tourism development through technology and sustainability.

smart destination pic 2 mexico

With this project, the first orders of business were to enhance the communication infrastructure, develop a technological platform that can enable proper interaction between the three levels of government along with the tourism service providers, and therefore develop new innovative business and operation models.

Human Capital

Human capital is a necessary component of smart destinations. It embodies the knowledge, skills, competencies and attributes from individuals that enable the development of personal, social and economic well-being. According to Boes, Buhalis and Inversini, smart destinations include hubs where human capital is developed in a virtuous circle.

smart destination pic 3

These networks of connected people collaborate, cooperate, innovate and co-create to become smarter. Research also shows that areas with an educated workforce and a great number of entrepreneurs constantly driving innovation, result in a higher economic growth rate.

Utilizing this concept is the World Cities Network initiative. World Cities Network is an open and independent body developed to improve the resilience of cities. The organization facilitates the sharing of ideas between city leaders and professionals internationally across the real estate, technology, design, and urban infrastructure industries. World Cities Network attracts professionals who understand that by coming together and sharing experiences, more positive change can occur at a faster pace. They provide a learning network where ideas can be shared in a confidential and neutral environment. After launching in October 2012, World Class Network has obtained a high level of interest and attracted a range of leaders and experts from around the world.

There is an opportunity for a similar network to be created for the Caribbean that would attract knowledgeable people and individuals in different disciplines to share ideas to improve the intelligence of the destination.

Final thoughts

There is definitely potential to develop the Caribbean as a smart tourism region. However, to get there, there is some work to be done. As the focus of smart cities is on its residents, smart tourism destinations have to incorporate ways to improve the tourist experience, while simultaneously improving the quality of life for local residents. These two priorities need an inclusive ecosystem design, which can be accomplished by integrating all components of the smart tourist destination. Although this blog post mentioned only three components, there can be other areas worthy of exploring. What are your thoughts? Feel free to leave your comments below.

For more solutions to improve Caribbean tourism and enhance the competiveness and profitability of your business, don’t miss the CTO’s State of the Tourism Industry Conference (SOTIC). SOTIC is the annual gathering of tourism leaders from across the Caribbean and around the world to tackle issues affecting the travel and tourism industry. Come and add your voice to the debate and be apart of the regional solution: September 14-16, 2016, Hilton Barbados Resort, Barbados. For more information and to register, visit http://sotic.onecaribbean.org/.

 

 

“WOW” Your Visitors With Augmented Reality Experiences

augmented reality tourism

For most visitors, the destination experience starts long before the moment of touchdown. The sheer anticipation of the visit can be exciting. The reasons people choose a particular destination  continue to evolve and greater focus is being placed on experiential travel and search for authenticity. It is important that visitors get to experience the destination on their own terms.

There has been a lot of talk in the digital space recently after the launch of the Pokémon Go augmented reality mobile application game, which of course has reached the Caribbean. As this application brings many opportunities and challenges for tourist attractions, tourism leaders are starting to wonder, could augmented reality technology be a valuable asset to develop potential within the tourism industry?  This blog isn’t about Pokémon Go, but it is about using the technology that helped to create it.

Augmented reality (AR) is a fairly new technology. It enables the seamless overlay of digital graphics onto the real world to add more information and improve the perception of reality. The possibilities for the application of this software in tourism are endless. Let’s take a look at a few.

  1. An improved booking experienceplus twoSource: http://www.plus-two.com

After some years of development, AR has already started to revolutionize the publishing industry. There are many companies providing AR software experiences for their viewers such as  Aurasma, Layar , and  Augment to name a few. This new form of next-generation advertising could be applied to digital tourism catalogues, brochures, pamphlets, flyers and any other type of promotion materials.

Hotels, attractions,  and special events can come to life to offer an enhanced impression of what the customers are buying before they actually visit the destination. AR systems can convey a strong, persuasive power and create a lucrative opportunity to market services successfully —an approach which is still undeveloped in the tourism and hospitality industry.

A successful example was developed by Plus TwoAurasma, Grenada & British Airways. Instead of using a traditional print advertisement, an augmented reality video advert was utilized to convey the beauty of Grenada.

This advert made the page come to life on the screen of users by displaying a tide washing in over a beach and highlighting additional enticing footage of the island. The content included details on places to stay, mini guides to dining out, and things to do when visiting Grenada. During any point of the video, the user could tap on their screen to be taken to the British Airways landing page and book reduced flights to Grenada.

This was the first tourism campaign to utilize augmented reality in the UK. As a result, the promotion received huge media interest and the results exceeded the targets set by Grenada Tourism and British Airways. To read more about this campaign,  click here.

2. Enhanced visitor encounters with tourist attractions old and new barbados garrisonSource: Getty Images

Without a doubt, AR provides a new possibility of attracting visitors to a physical space, to encourage them to participate and truly experience a tourist attraction. The most apparent application is the reconstruction of ruins or historic and heritage sites.

Imagine being in Barbados and standing on the ruins of historic Bridgetown and its Garrison. Here you can admire the site’s  appeal as a whole as it would have looked centuries ago, or even witness a simulation of a classic representation on your mobile phone.  This synergy between past and present, virtual and real, is what best explains the difference between augmented reality and 3D technology.

 3. Better Navigation 

better navigationSource: Buhalis & Yovcheva

AR software can work as an ultimate tool to guide visitors through unfamiliar environments. Augmented displays have the capability to decrease the mental effort needed for both pedestrians and vehicle navigation. AR can display virtual paths and directional arrows to simplify both indoor and outdoor pedestrian and vehicle navigation.

One example of this is the smartphone application called “Nearest Tube” (displayed above) which shows the route to underground stations from the current location of the user in London. Imagine the opportunities here to display navigational points and landmarks in the Caribbean that tourists would like to visit but may have difficulty finding. This gives visitors a convenient and enjoyable way to navigate through a Caribbean destination, particularly in places where adequate signposting may be missing!

4. Improved Translation

better translation

Source: Quest Visual Inc.

Touring unfamiliar environments can also be difficult with misunderstood foreign language signs and instructions. In addition to interpreting street signs, AR systems can offer real-time instant translation of written text on restaurant menus, bus schedules and newspaper headlines from a foreign to the native language of the user. The smartphone application, “World Lens” (shown above) demonstrates this opportunity. World Lens overlays translated text over the original text in which the device is pointed to.

Bringing it all together

Although AR has been around for a few years, there is still a tremendous opportunity for it to be developed further in the Caribbean to enhance our visitors’ experiences. The above are just a few ways we can use AR to enhance the enjoyment of our destinations and improve the overall image of our industry .

What are some other ways you think AR could be utilized to propel the Caribbean tourism industry forward? Feel free to leave your comments below.

For  more solutions to improve Caribbean tourism and enhance the profitability of your business, don’t miss the CTO’s State of the Tourism Industry Conference (SOTIC). SOTIC is the annual gathering of tourism leaders from across the Caribbean and around the world to tackle issues affecting the travel and tourism industry. Come and add your voice to the debate and be apart of the regional solution: September 14-16, 2016, Hilton Barbados Resort, Barbados. For more information and to register, visit www.OneCaribbean.org.

 

In tourism, we know we have to be flexible.

“She turned to the sunlight And shook her yellow head,And whispered to her neighbor- -Winter is dead.”

Caribbean tourism is naturally impacted by threats that cause the state of the industry’s well-being to fluctuate. Unless a destination has unique characteristics, tourists can simply select another destination when faced with various threats. Therefore, if a country’s tourism industry is affected by pandemics/health crises, crime, natural disasters, global terrorism and economic woes, tourists will simply move to a place where they feel more comfortable. Though fairly rare, crisis events can have a dramatic impact on tourism and often consist of spill-over effects to nearby destinations within the same region.

This post will focus on how threats have affected Caribbean tourism and the extent to which we have been able to recover. As vulnerable and unpredictable as the tourism industry can be, it has a strong record of resilience.

Here are some examples..

Tourism & Zika

Confirmed cases of the Zika virus were on the rise since May 2015 when the Pan American Health Organization first issued an alert linking the mosquito-borne infection to infant brain defects in Brazil. Five Caribbean nations were placed under a level two Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) travel advisory, encouraging enhanced precautions while travelling.

Despite this advisory, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) urged travelers not to cancel their travel plans to the Region, assuring them that proactive measures were in place to minimize the risk of transmission.

Working closely with the CHTA and the Caribbean Public Health Agency, the CTO continued to assess the situation, and  encouraged visitors to follow the professional advice and take precautions to protect themselves the way they would when travelling to most tropical destinations.

Caribbean countries and hotels continue to work with health authorities and local community groups to combat mosquito-borne viruses by eradicating breeding grounds, installing screens on windows and placing bed nets in outdoor sleeping areas. Indications are that the efforts have been effective.

Despite the spread of Zika in Brazil, with just one month to go before the Olympic Games begin, flight bookings to Rio are booming, according to ForwardKeys, which monitors future travel patterns by analyzing 14 million reservation transactions each day. When compared with the same dates last year, forward flight bookings are ahead 148% between July 27th and the Olympic Day on August 21st.

Flight bookings for the Paralympics, which run from September 1st-8th are also strong, up 23%. Regarding monitoring travelers’ health while in Brazil, Brazilians and international attendees of the Olympic and Paralympic Games will have the opportunity to self-monitor and report symptoms typical of known epidemics in the country.

At a time when Brazilians and nearly 500,000 foreign visitors will simultaneously enjoy the Games, the Secretary of Health Surveillance from the Ministry of Health in Brazil has just launched a new smartphone application called “Guardioes da Saude” (Guardians of Health).

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Launched in collaboration with the United States-based Skoll Global Threats Fund, this groundbreaking initiative of participatory, crowd-sourced surveillance for mass events will collect information about the risk of disease transmission. This information will increase efforts to combat epidemics in weeks prior, during and after the Olympics.

In the process of monitoring and detecting outbreaks and epidemics, public participation is crucial to reduce the spread of diseases, such as those transmitted by the mosquito Aedes aegypti (dengue, Zika and chikungunya).

The technology and participation of society are vital to analyze health conditions near the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Users will record their own health and ultimately help protect the community around them. Daily questions related to health conditions, such as fever, body aches or joint pain are asked of the users; however even those feeling healthy are encouraged to report.

The moral of that story? Flex to the challenge and handle it.

Tourism & Brexit

A few weeks since Brexit and it is still early to determine what the effects will be.  As it still remains a challenge, the CTO has taken the necessary steps to ensure our members are provided with up to date information on Brexit’s possible implications. The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) states that U.K. consumers could risk losing financial protection for compensation for flight delays, along with caps on mobile phone charges.

Flight compensation accounts for long delays on departures from EU airports. Following Brexit, airlines may no longer be assured by this legislation. There is also a possibility that Britain may be forced out of the Open Skies EU agreement, which keeps air fares relatively cheap.

Additionally, some savvy travelers may decide to take advantage of the deflated British pound and Euro. For travelers who have found high end rates too costly in recent years, the stronger U.S. dollar makes the best hotels and restaurants an instant valuable option for Americans.

Regarding short term travel, the weaker Pound makes it more attractive to travel to the U.K.. In the long term, access to the EU regarding passport control and potential visa requirements are all yet to be determined.

At this time, there are still more questions than answers and there is no concrete decision to be made on anything until Britain’s exit negotiations with the EU occur over the next two to three years. However, one area of uncertainty that has gone away is that we now know that Theresa May is Britain’s Prime Minister. Ms. May who opposed the EU exit, will now face some political challenges that her team will have to tackle, including how, and when, the U.K. wants to begin negotiating its exit from the EU. The separation can be complicated and could ultimately take years to formulate, with the U.K.’s economic strength at stake.

However Brexit ultimately turns out for the U.K., the CTO will continue to keep a close eye on the situation and will provide you with the most up to date information. We will also be observing how new partnership agreements can be formed with relevant stakeholders in the future. We live in a global economy; what affects one country or group, could easily affect us all.

The Assurance of Membership

Remarks from the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland at last week’s CARICOM Leaders Summit in Guyana, included that the Commonwealth will provide strength, stability, solidarity and practical assistance to its member states, particularly small and vulnerable economies, who are less able to withstand the impact of climate change and changes in the global economy.

Baroness Scotland also outlined the Commonwealth’s determination to speak up for the Caribbean, and remind Commonwealth Caribbean members of the benefits of integration and partnership.

“My message to Caribbean countries is that I understand the concerns about the potential impact on small and vulnerable economies,” she stated last week. “ I want to remind them that Cyprus and Malta, Commonwealth countries, are European nations, and it is our intention to continue our close partnership with the EU through their membership.”

“My aim is for the Commonwealth to be a steadying anchor in these turbulent times, and to offer support to strengthen, stabilize and unite our countries, as well as give targeted and practical assistance to help every member state reach their development goals.”

One More Acronym to Remember – SOTIC

SOTIC is the State of the Tourism Industry Conference, the annual gathering of tourism leaders from across the Caribbean and around the world to tackle issues affecting the travel & tourism industry. Before we close, a quick note about this year’s SOTIC focus: Tackling the vexing issue of regional air travel; , responding to threats from crime, natural disasters and global terrorism; learning how to gain a greater share of new and emerging markets; discovering whether the sharing economy (i.e Airbnb, Uber and others) provides genuine opportunity; changing the face of the Caribbean’s tourism product, and more. Come and add your voice to the debate and be part of the regional solution: September 14-16, SOTIC in Barbados. www.OneCaribbean.org

Global conditions dictate flexibility; the Caribbean’s combined strength makes us unbreakable.

 

Britain decides to leave the EU: How will this impact Caribbean tourism?

brexit

The Brexiteers have succeeded. Britain is officially making arrangements to leave the European Union. The consequences of the leave vote will be felt worldwide, and some British voters say they now regret casting a ballot in favor of Brexit.  But how does this relate to the Caribbean, considering that the UK is still a major trading partner for many Caribbean countries? In relation to commodities-exporting economies such as Guyana, Belize, and Suriname, the U.K. is within their top 5 export markets.

The U.K. is also a major source market of tourist arrivals for many member-countries of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). The CTO’s State of the Industry Report released in February of this year reported that the Caribbean received 1.1 million U.K. visitors in 2015. For the tourism-dependent Caribbean countries for which the U.K. is the major source market, their economic well-being is directly related to the health of the U.K. economy and the strength of Sterling. This was exemplified by the slowdown many tourism-dependent economies in the region experienced while the U.S. and U.K. were in recession during the global economic crisis. So with Brexit already having an effect on global markets, what can we expect the impact to be on the Caribbean?

What alarms will Brexit set off, and which ones should tourism planners pay particular attention to?

Here are some possible outcomes to consider.

Consumer Reactions

How will our consumers react to Brexit?

ABTA, a U.K. travel trade association for tour operators and travel agents, assures that there will be “no immediate changes to travel regulations after the EU vote”. However, ABTA also outlined that the decline in the value of the pound would have an “immediate impact on holidaymakers and their spending power overseas.”

Nadine Rankin of AMG, a U.K. sales representation and tourism marketing agency, thinks that U.K. travelers may be concerned about the cost of buying dollars for vacations to the Caribbean and the USA, but Sterling has not decreased significantly against the Euro. U.K. travelers might stay put due to their inability to afford overseas travel as the pound decreases in value. This can also have an impact on the Caribbean Diaspora living in the U.K. who may find it more costly to visit ‘home’ in the Caribbean.

Brian Major of TravAlliance Media in the U.S. posits that in the short term, spending among middle-class and even some high-wage U.K. residents will likely be impacted in significant fashion by Brexit.

A Reuters report from Friday found city workers in London, where residents voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU bloc, generally worried their jobs would be at risk. One technology worker expressed the fear that “If money goes out of the system and big businesses freeze up, my job is gone.” These economic concerns will weigh on potential U.K. travelers, who may seek to delay or alter travel plans in the face of great uncertainty. The same uncertainty may also generate an economic recession in the short run, as U.K. businesses and consumers take a wait-and-see approach. However, the British public is renowned for its resilience and its determination not to allow circumstances like these to prevent them from enjoying their overseas holiday.

According to the Washington Post, the British pound fell 8% overnight after Britain voted to exit. It was the currency’s worst day on record. The pound is now worth less relative to the U.S. dollar than it has since 1985.

If the pound stays low against the dollar, Americans will seize the moment for that long-awaited chance to visit Britain or to snap up some other British export – like a luxury vehicle perhaps – while the going is good. As important as the U.K. is to the Caribbean as a source of tourist arrivals, the U.S. is many times larger, so there can be little doubt that a shift in Americans’ spending habits will have an effect on Caribbean tourism.

Travel Trade Reactions

What should Caribbean tourism planners be prepared for after Brexit?

Should there be any prolonged softening of demand for Caribbean vacations among British holidaymakers and a measurable shift by Americans away from the region, the packagers and sellers of Caribbean vacation products will likely turn to the region’s decision-makers for a solution; a financial one, no doubt. Requests for increased marketing dollars and decreased accommodation rates to counteract the problem could start to appear.

It’s still very early to tell. Rankin also suggests that all-Inclusive hotels will be the most attractive offering at this point as prices have been fixed against forward-bought dollars, and therefore less “holiday money” will need to be converted by the consumer at the new, low exchange rate.

How will airlines respond?

Will there be enough demand for travel from the U.K. to the Caribbean? Airlines may have to adjust their prices and routes. The U.K. outbound travel industry is reacting carefully to the news, but airlines such as Easyjet and British Airways have indicated that it should not immediately hurt their business, although profits may decrease slightly. The priority for them will be that the negotiations for the U.K.’s departure from the EU over the next few years must include a favorable policy to retain the Open Skies Agreement.

Market watchers will no doubt be paying close attention to the profitability of the U.K.-based carriers as they navigate their way around a possible combination of lower demand and higher ticket prices.

Caribbean UK Overseas Territories & Other Countries Reactions

The London-based Caribbean Council has a view on this. According to David Jessop, for the U.K. Overseas Territories including Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean region, although they are linked to the EU through the member state to which they belong, as well as by their membership of the Association of Overseas Countries and Territories of the European Union (OCTA) and the EU’s 2013 Overseas Association Council Decision, they are not part of the European Union. This signifies that the five Caribbean Overseas Territories’ are considered “third countries” in their communication with the European Commission, the EU and its many institutions. This demonstrates that there is no automatic process that enables EU decisions to be applied to them.

Jessop also highlights that the main challenge for the U.K.’s Caribbean Overseas Territories would be discovering a way to secure funding from the European Development Fund (EDF), and continuing access to its Investment Facility and to the European Investment Bank, in addition to sustaining access to other European programs that would benefit the environment, education and training.

Alicia Nicholls from the Caribbean Trade Law & Development’s blog states that it is likely that the U.K. will negotiate a type of preferential arrangement, similar to what occurs between the EU and Turkey, given the strong trade and investment ties to the continent. This would ensure U.K. businesses and exporters are not disadvantaged and still have favorable access to the EU single market once the transition period ends.

Fingers Crossed

As vulnerable and unpredictable as the tourism industry can be, it has a strong record of resilience. Ultimately, consumers will exercise their right to travel; and the Caribbean’s penchant for resourcefulness in times of crisis will no doubt continue to serve the region well in attracting its fair slice of the tourism pie. Still, we must be realistic.

Brexit presents a potential risk to Caribbean economies. Of what size, no one yet knows. The nature of the risk will depend on several factors, including the kind of withdrawal arrangements the U.K. negotiates with the EU and the impact on the British economy during the period of transition.

Brexit’s negative impact on the global financial markets has been swift, but hopefully temporary. Many analysts are saying there is no need to panic.

In these early days there are certainly more questions than answers. For sure the CTO will find the answers and keep you informed on what can possibly happen next.  Working closely with the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) and other strategic partners we will provide you with relevant, up to date information. Keep watching this space for the latest.

Also keep your eye on the cost of attending World Travel Market in London in November. With a little luck, that overall bill should be somewhat less than in previous years.

 

 

Your website can work for or against you. Have you reviewed yours lately?

Digital generated devices over a wooden table. laptop, tablet and white smartphone with made up responsive booking website .

If you’re like me, you  spend less time on websites that contain lots of clutter and have an uninviting layout. Websites can be customized in any way we like; however what we think is suitable for our viewers very often misses the mark completely. To create a user experience that is both immersive and purposeful it is important to understand the expectations of users and their habits (Baehr & Schaller, 2010).

Effective destination websites enable visitors to easily obtain relevant information, navigate through different textual and graphic elements, and form a virtual first impression (Palmer & McCole, 2000).

As visitors form website impressions within seconds, destination websites should evoke a favorable initial impression from  the moment an individual  accesses them, as visitors can easily leave the site with one click to find another potentially more persuasive website (Kim & Fesenmaier, 2008).

Here are some useful tips to help you evaluate your destination website.

  1. Ensure that your website is responsive on all screen sizes.

According to comScore.com, tablet Internet usage increased by 30% during 2013 and 2015. On the other hand, smartphone Internet usage increased by 78% during the same period. The key lesson here is in order to offer a truly great user experience, your website must be compatible with different devices as well as the operating systems and browsers that your visitors are using. This means investing in a website structure that is extremely flexible—one that has a responsive design. With responsive websites, content is automatically resized and rearranged to fit the dimensions of whichever device your visitor is using. Here’s an example of Belize’s responsive tourism destination website. No wonder this is one of the top choices  on Skift’s list of 20 Best Designed Tourism Websites in the World!

Desktop view:

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 10.16.09 PM 1Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 10.16.18 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-12 at 10.16.43 PM

Mobile view:

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  1. Use video on your home page banner.

As a tourist destination, using video for your desktop banner view has several benefits. Video can tell your story more effectively than images (Senshi Digital, 2016). It shows your visitors the type of experiences you provide in an impactful and persuasive manner. However, make sure video doesn’t work against you! For tablets and mobile, replace the video on your website with an image. This is crucial;  you will avoid visitors leaving your website because you’re sucking up their bandwidth. Barbados and Belize used the video approach to provide these captivating scenes  on their desktop homepages; www.visitbarbados.org and www.travelbelize.org.

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  1. Use appropriate imagery.

Great photography and full screen images are highly recommended. Avoid stock photos. Unlike stock video, visitors can usually tell if the image is stock (Senshi Digital, 2016).  This gives the perception of being false, and as a result can make your destination or business seem unauthentic. You  will likely lose your visitors’ trust at this point. If you feature an image-sliding banner, ensure that you have no more than 3 slides. Most visitors will not flick past the first 3-4 images. Also, using 3 will help your site maintain its speed, especially when using larger images. Saint Lucia does a great job at promoting high quality authentic images on their website, www.stlucia.org.

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  1. Showcase your specialties.

Below your main banner, consider showcasing  some of the main tours, rooms, or attractions you offer. Promote your best selling  assets in this area. Caribbean Region Specialist in the U.S Pacific Northwest (Washington and Oregon), Molly Sumption from Molly’s Caribbean encourages DMOs to feature and refer to travel agents on their website home pages as Destination Specialists. DMOs should also refer Destination Specialists by zip code or by state (with at least a 50 mile radius), instead of alphabetically, because in her experience, travelers prefer reaching out to local contacts when possible.

Questions continue to surround the issue of whether  tourism destination websites  should feature their own booking engine. Some experts on consumer travel behavior claim that very few consumers actually book on DMO websites because when consumers visit DMO websites, they are typically in the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey and are trying to gather information about a destination before they decide to book. When they reach  the decision stage, they would tend to visit a travel agency’s website to make the  booking.

Opinions vary widely on this subject. According to this article featuring comments from Ashwin Kamlani, President & Founder of Regatta Travel Solutions, obtaining online bookings is a very serious and competitive business and online travel agencies (OTAs) have fully grown pockets—huge financial, technological, and human resources dedicated to increasing online bookings. Studies also point out that consumers visit up to 22 sites on average before they make a booking. This demonstrates that consumers are willing to check sites that are not so well known as the major OTAs in hope of coming across a good deal or discovering something unique.

Generally, DMOs invest considerable amounts  of time and money in developing  strong, recognizable and credible brands that resonate well with consumers. With the right strategy, tools and partners, a DMO can develop ways to educate consumers about visiting  the destination’s website before they book their travel. Molly  Sumption asserts  that “trip planning is as much fun as the actual trip, so I make it a practice to reference DMO websites, recommending  the sites as places to educate potential Caribbean travelers for the purpose of engaging them in the process.”

The island of Dominica www.dominica.dm provides an effective way for visitors to search for flights and to receive more information on available tours.

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  1. Let’s scroll, baby!

Enabling intuitive navigation on your site is imperative to ensure visitors can find what they’re looking for. Hubspot (2016) recommends that visitors should be able to land on your site and not have to think extensively about where they should click next—moving from point A to point B should be as simple as possible. With regards to clicking and scrolling, Senshi Digital (2016) reports that some customers feel that pages should not scroll. They think they are too long and businesses should try and fit everything on one portion of the screen. This was a trend in the early days of the Internet. Technology as well as user habits and expectations have changed this. Due to the introduction of tablets and mobile devices, users prefer to scroll rather than click their way through your website.

The more clicks you feature, the more likely they are to leave your site. This may be because your site loads slowly from page to page or your navigation is so bad they get lost. The additional benefit of scrolling is that it feels like a more natural process.

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  1. Landing pages are your best friends.

Landing pages add the spice to your website. A landing page is any page on the web where  a visitor lands,  has a form and exists solely to capture a visitor’s information (Hubspot, 2016). A form on a landing page is an opportunity for a visitor to be converted to a lead. This conversion takes place by having visitors fill out a form for an Ebook, submitting their email address so they can subscribe to your blog, or filling out transactional information to make a booking on your site. The landing page, featuring one field or multiple fields, allows visitors to give you specific information about themselves so you can give them something in return.

Here’s an example of a landing page used by www.bahamas.com. Notice how the site  features specific Subscription Preferences options; nice job Bahamas! This approach helps to strengthen your customer relationship management (CRM) database so you can create more targeted campaigns to appeal to different market segments.

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  1. Consistency is key.

The overall look and feel of your site should be consistent across all pages (Hubspot, 2016). Backgrounds, color schemes, typefaces, and even the tone of your writing are all areas that should be consistent with each other to have a positive impact on usability and user experience (UX). This does not mean that every single page on your site must have the same layout. Instead, you can develop different layouts for specific pages (i.e. a layout for landing pages, a layout for informational pages and so forth) to make it easier for visitors to understand what type of information they will likely come across on any given page.

Also keep in mind that the frequency of updating the content on your site would depend on how often you change specific details of your service offering. For instance, if you are promoting an upcoming event, content should be updated during the pre-event, during, and post-event stages for consistency.

  1. Keep it user-centric.

The main point here is that usability and user experience rely on the preferences of the end users. After all, if you are not designing for them, who are you designing for? Ensure that your website provides the kind of user experience to allow visitors to find exactly what they are looking for. Don’t bombard them with advertisements. Your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts may have brought users to your site, but if they can’t find the content to match their search query immediately after landing they will leave (Standard Marketing Ltd., 2016).  If your ads (especially pop-ups) are getting in the way of this content, your site has too many. Put yourself in the shoes of the searcher. Have someone with fresh eyes review your site to identify whether or not users are able to see the content as soon as the page loads. If not, begin removing those ads!

Bringing it all together

According to Vitamin T, 68% of visitors fail to convert because they don’t think you care about their experience. Don’t let your website visitors think this about you! Put yourself into the shoes of your visitors and keep them in mind when developing and evaluating your website.

References

Baehr, C.& Schaller, B. (2010).Writing for the Internet: A guide to real communication in   a virtual space, Chapter 10.

comScore, Inc. . (2016, March 30). Presentations & Whitepapers. Retrieved June 11, 2016, from www. comescore.com: https://comescore.com/Insights/Presentations-and-Whitepapers/2016/2016-US-Cross-Platform-Future-in-Focus

Hubspot. (2016, April 28). 8 Guidelins for Exceptional Web Design, Usability, and User Experience. Retrieved June 11, 2016, from http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/30557/6-Guidelines-for-Exceptional-Website-Design-and-Usability.aspx#sm.0001qkp0av8gdf4wu2h1bd4lor40d

Kim, H., & Fesenmaier, D. R. (2008). Persuasive design of destination web sites: An analysis of first impression. Journal of Travel Research, 47(1), 3–13.

Palmer, A., & McCole, P. (2000). The role of electronic commerce in creating virtual tourism destination marketing organizations. International Journal of Contem- porary Hospitality Management, 12(3), 198–204.

Park, Y. A., & Gretzel, U. (2007). Success factors for destination marketing web sites: A qualitative meta-analysis. Journal of Travel Research, 46(1), 46–63.

Senshi Digital. (2016, June 6). Anatomy of a successful tourism website-part one . Retrieved June 11, 2016, from senshi.digital: senshi-digital/blog/anatomy-successful-tourism-website-part-one

Skift. (2013). The 20 Best Designed Tourism Websites in the World. Retrieved June 11, 2016, from skift.com: https://skift.com/2013/12/20/the-20-best-designed-tourism-websites-in-the-world/#1

Standard Marketing Ltd. . (2016). How many ads is too many – Does your website violate the page layout algorithm. Retrieved June 11, 2016, from http://www.standardmarketing.com: http://www.standardmarketing.com/2014/09/many-ads-many-website-violate-page-layout-algorithm/

Tnooz. (2013, December 10). Booking engines on tourism websites-they’re good, not evil. Retrieved June 11, 2016, from http://www.tnooz.com: https://www.toonz.com/article/booking-engines-good-tourism-websites

Vitamin Talent . (2016). Are you a UX statistic? Retrieved June 11, 2016, from http://www.vitamintalent.com: https://vitamintalent.com/ux-statistic/#Introduction

 

Are you using social media effectively to promote your event? Consider these useful tips.

Event social media

The last thing you want is to invest time and resources into planning an event or conference and have it fail. The first step to creating a successful event is to motivate people to actually attend. Events by nature are social gatherings. People attend them so they can connect, interact, and share with their peers. Similarly, people join social media networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to connect, interact and share with their peers (Pamorama, 2016).

If you take the right approach, these similar characteristics can work to your advantage when it comes to planning, promoting and building excitement for any event or conference you plan to host. Here are some tips on how we used social media to strategically promote our Tourism Human Resources Conference held in Antigua & Barbuda last month.

Pre-Event Tips:

  1. Create your event objectives. Before promoting your event on social media, figuring out your overall event objectives should be your first order of business. Why are you having this event? Who are you trying to target? What do you need to do to target this audience? How will you measure your success? All of these questions need to be answered so you can know the right ways to reach your desired target audience(s). For instance, CTO’s Tourism HR Conference objectives were as follows:

The main aim of the Tourism Human Resources Conference is to bring together tourism practitioners, from both the public and private sectors, human resource professionals, tourism educators/trainers and consultants as well as tourism & hospitality students of tertiary institutions to share strategies and best practices on areas and issues affecting the tourism and hospitality sectors, to provide updated information on various aspects of tourism’s development, to enhance skills and to allow opportunities for professional networking.”

2. Schedule a social media event communications plan. This schedule will keep you on track for content production and distribution via all of your social media platforms. Here are some of the things CTO included for the pre-conference stage in our social media event communications plan:

  •   Created visuals to promote speakers individually. Social Media Examiner (2015) says that it is almost impossible to overemphasize the importance of using visuals in your online marketing. While a headshot of a speaker may excite some people, it is crucial to share something worthwhile from that speaker as well. Use one or two powerful quotes from each of your speakers and include that on a graphic containing a headshot of the speaker. This gives people something to relate to that speaker, a glimpse into his or her personality or presentation. This also develops an opportunity to give your speakers additional exposure and for them to share with their own audiences creating more exposure for your event. Here are some examples  of graphics we created to promote our popular Master Class .

Andre Bello Speaker Flyer Version 2John Burchell Speaker Flyer

  • Collaborated with all the necessary stakeholders to maximize reach. In this case, the CTO partnered with Antigua & Barbuda to host this event. We worked together and assigned tasks to key persons to drive the online engagement for the conference. We are delighted to say that the Antigua & Barbuda team did a fantastic job in working with us to coordinate the planning and logistics for the event and also contributed greatly to help grow an online audience. They took the liberty to create a Facebook event page for the conference, which strengthened the engagement from their followers and the CTO’s respectfully.
  • Hosted online group discussion with event speakers. You are most likely to select your speakers because they are thought leaders in their fields. What better way to highlight this level of talent before your event than to host an online speaker discussion? Asking your speakers to take part in this kind of discussion has the following benefits:
    1. Your speakers will feel appreciated when they are given an opportunity to demonstrate their expertise to your audience.
    2. Prospective attendees get a sneak peak of the great content that will be shared at your event.
    3. Your audience will obtain valuable knowledge from reading and taking part in the discussion with multiple experts.

Here are snapshots of a speaker online discussion we hosted on LinkedIn several weeks prior to the conference.

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  • Created designated event hashtag. A hashtag is a type of label or metadata tag used on social media that makes it easier for users to find messages with a specific theme or content (Wired Impact, 2016). This tip may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many events miss out this fundamental step (Social Media Examiner, 2015). Create, use and market your event-specific hashtag. Ensure that it is short and easy for people to remember. You should also be using this hashtag well in advance of your event dates and it should be included on every piece of promotional material. The CTO’s hashtags for the conference were #MakingExcellenceAHabit, which complemented with the overall event theme and #LoveAntiguaBarbuda, which promoted the event hosting destination.

During Event Tips:

  1. Build the conversation online. Issue press releases, Tweets and other social media updates that would engage those who could not attend. It is also relevant here to highlight key points from your event that you would like the press to cover. This is where traditional media and new media intersect. Together with strong press releases and frequent Tweets and other social media updates, your message gets spread out to an even wider audience. This creates an opportunity to get featured by the media. For instance, issuing frequent press releases and social media updates about our event, resulted in it being featured in an article by TravelWeekly.com, written by Gay Nagle Myers. Click here to take a look.
  2. Use photos and videos of attendees and speakers in social updates. At your event, set up a media corner where attendees can take pictures and videos. This is also a perfect opportunity to ask event delegates to complete evaluation forms to get their feedback from your event. Consider using attractive props such as an InstaFrame that would compel attendees to take photos using it and would then be encouraged to upload them to their social media using your event’s hashtag. This InstaFrame costs about US $45 and is a popular promotional piece to engage attendees, especially the millennials or Generation Y demographic. This is a great example of how you can foster user-generated content (USG) to your social media platforms. Here is a video of one of our speakers, Ian Blanchard giving us his insights on achieving overall excellence.

Also, here are some delegates who tagged us in their photos with the InstaFrame on social media.

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Post Event Tips:

  1. Create and share photos from event with hashtags on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. After your event, share images of your attendees and tag them if you can. This gives people a chance to comment and talk about how much they learned or what a great time they had and how much they’re looking forward to attending again (Social Media Examiner, 2015).
  2. Share content from affiliate partners, attendees and speakers who wrote or Tweeted about your event. For instance, the CTO welcomes opportunities to share articles from industry experts who write about their experiences from attending our events. Take a look at this blog post from one of our speakers; Nicole Antonio-Gadsdon, Independent HR Consultant and Founder of Aquarius HR Consulting. Stay on the look out for these kinds of stories and share them on your social media channels.
  3. Ensure that it all boils down to the right numbers. It can be so exciting to watch your follower count increase during your social media event promotions. Look at how many re-tweets your getting, and watch how many people are engaging with your content! Isn’t it great? But wait, while this is all wonderful, how does it prove that you are bringing home the dollars? If you or your boss is starting to ask that question, here’s what you can do to see the impact on overall sales. After reviewing CTO’s event evaluation forms from the final day of the conference to which 49 delegates responded; 5 persons stated that they first heard about the conference from social media. If this was applied to the Master Class event held on the final day of the conference and the cost of one Master Class session was US$125, then we can do the math. This would mean that US$625 in additional revenue was earned from social media promotions from that one session. This is a small start to prove how social media promotions can contribute to your overall event registration sales.

In short, social media is a great way to promote an event and increase ticket sales. Remember to ask event speakers to promote your event on their social media platforms and use various props to make attendees willing to share promotional material from your event. Cheers to your social media event marketing success!

References

Pamorama. How to Promote Your Event With Social Media Marketing . 2016. http://pamorama.net/2015/02/16/promote-event-social-media-marketing/.

Social Media Examiner. 16 Ways to Use Social Media to Promote Your Event . 2015. http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/use-social-media-to-promote-your-event/.

Wired Impact. How to get more people to your events with social media . 2016. http://wiredimpact.com/library/social-media-nonprofit-events/.