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TOURISM MATTERS – Inadequate use of social media

by Adrian Loveridge

Social Share

As two of the last four Tourism Matters columns have been dedicated to the subject, it was refreshing to hear the Minister of Tourism recently say that Barbados would be increasing its use of social media to promote the destination.
This, following the earlier appointment of a director of social marketing by the Barbados Tourism Authority’s advertising agency in North America, MMG Worldwide, and its launch of a social media tool called Travel Share.
Not wanting to regurgitate large sections of a MMG media release explaining the objectives of Travel Share, it would certainly imply that this agency was on the cutting edge of maximising the benefits from this medium.
It therefore continues to beg the question, why are our tourism policymakers seemingly so slow to fully embrace what is considered by almost every competing territory an absolutely integral part of marketing?
An example is Facebook.As at July 2010, Facebook boasts over 500 million users, or put another way, one in 14 people in the world who declare themselves at least 13 years old.
At the time of writing this column, I did a Google search of Barbados Tourism Authority Facebook and the site displayed had not had a posting or entry since July 13.
Of course, it’s inconceivable that nothing has happened of interest over that nearly three-month period.
Go to the American version of the national website , click the Facebook icon and it takes you to The Barbados Beat which is frequently updated.
But how would a potential first-time visitor know that?
Why does this confusion exist?
Surely, if the first site mentioned is dormant or cannot be regularly updated, it should be removed rather than confuse people or give the impression we do not consider this form of social media important.
Is there any overwhelming reason for each of the principal markets speaking more or less the same language to have its own version and is it logical or desirable?I did try to verify exactly what was the policy concerning Facebook with the president and managing partner of MMG Worldwide, Clayton Reid, but up until the time of submitting this article, had not received a response.
Several times in the past I have questioned whether a locally or regionally based advertising agency could not do a better job. Clearly, we as a destination seem to frequently suffer while any newly appointed far-and-away company brings itself up to speed in terms of product knowledge and geography.
And when blatant errorsare identified, it seems a long time before they are corrected.A recent example was the withdrawal of the duty-free cigarette allowance. Our visitors noticed the wrong information on the national website months ago and it became the subject of over 100 postings on the TripAdvisor Barbados forum page.
It seems that despite the power social media has from a marketing perspective, “we” do not have staff in place to effectively monitor and update these sites.
It really does not place us in the best light, having a Minister of Government publicly saying one thing and something quite different is happening in the background.