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RIGHT OF CENTRE: Use social media to push tourism


by Adrian Loveridge

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THERE ARE so many more things we could be doing that I doubt this publication has sufficient room to articulate, so I will try to focus on one small area.We really have to spend the available resources, which are substantial, in a more cost-effective and  creative way. And it’s long past time that it becomes the norm that we carefully monitor each and every programme or initiative, to ensure that the best return on investment  is achieved.I am told that somewhere around  60 per cent of the Barbados Tourism Authority’s marketing budget for the last financial year was spent on e-commerce.After viewing a short video produced by a company based in Atlanta for one of the small hotels in Grenada that recently participated in the re-Discover The Caribbean Show, I asked the firm to make two presentations to targeted tourism partners at our event.Over 160 hotels and other tourism partners on Barbados were invited to attend one of the free presentations.As a consumer and a potential visitor to a new destination looking for somewhere to stay, I would want to be persuaded in the most alluring way by pictures, words or moving film that my vacation investment was being spent in the best  possible way.As an hotelier, I also am fully aware that every direct booking we attract is giving us the highest revenue option. No travel agency commission or tour operator discount is deducted from guests paying published  rack rates.Therefore by investing some of that rate differential in creative marketing solutions, we can – individually or nationally – gradually reduce the reliance on sources  of business that cannot be  easily controlled.There has been much interest and discussion related to the new national tourism  website – www.visitbarbados.org – some positive, some not!The video elements on the site, using locally well-know Barbadian personalities to endorse the destination, are beautifully filmed.  But why limit them  to the website?According to published statistics, 98.9 million viewers watched 5.9 billion United States videos in December 2008 alone on YouTube.Of course, I don’t have a team of eight with a budget of millions working on the website, but it seems we are missing out on far too many opportunities.A compilation of these video endorsements could easily be placed on YouTube, which would almost instantly improve the potential destination audience reach.  We should also be using these mass media outlets more to highlight reasons for coming to Barbados, our attractions, activities, dining experiences, golf courses, polo, motorsports  and so on.Readers who have any difficultly following my logic, please search for “Island Routes”, a Five Star Diamond video on YouTube filmed for Sandals Ocho Rios.High-definition professional filming  of events and posting them to social  websites would provide  additional enticement for people  to travel to Barbados, and  be an investment for the future.In an economic downturn it would be absolute folly to stop spending on marketing. Conversely,  it would be just as reckless not  to spend smarter.

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