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TOURISM MATTERS: Protecting brand a high priority

Adrian Loveridge

TOURISM MATTERS: Protecting brand a high priority

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In may this year an announcement was made that plans were under way by the Barbados Tourism Authority to commence a planning process to analyze and define the Barbados destination brand.
According to the media release, the chairman was “particularly concerned that the study evaluates the relevance and strength of the brand for both Barbadians and visitors”.
He said: “Once we get the information, it may tell us that the brand is fine; but it may also tell us that we have work to do, and I think we can all agree that this is probably going to be the outcome.
“We will then harmonize that work into creating a strategy for rolling out our new brand promise into the markets.”
Of course it makes absolute sense, but six months later, how much closer are we to this objective?
Simon Anholt wrote in his excellent essay entitled Why National Image Matters, “Today, every country, city and region must compete with each other for its share of the world’s commercial, political, social and cultural transactions in what is virtually a single market.
“As in any busy marketplace, brand image becomes critical: almost nobody has the time, the patience or the expertise to understand the real differences between the offerings of one country or another, and so people fall back on their fundamental beliefs and prejudices about those countries to help them make their decisions.
“Just as in the commercial marketplace, that brand image provides a short cut to an informed buying decision.”
Under a previous chairman, a tourism masterplan white paper was promised and a staggering four years later the industry still awaits it, leaving many to contemplate whether tourism can really be considered our No. 1 foreign currency earner.
While we have drifted, some may say bumbled, along without any coherent national policy for decades, branding and the protection of a destination brand is something altogether different, requiring a much higher priority and need for integrity protection.
What prompted this week’s column discussion is seeing the vast quantities of negative material appearing on blogs relating to various proposed tourism developments on the island.
Many of the detrimental comments refer to planning consent, the granting of concessions and the economic viability or creditability of either the project and/or the developer.  
One of the grey areas seems to be what is legally permissible in Barbados and whether or not the same laws apply to would-be investors in other countries.
Clearly, any ongoing uncertainty and ill-informed speculation has the potential to damage what many competitors consider our enviable holiday brand status.
Is it not time to draft and implement legislation that leaves no one in any doubt, whether it is an investor considering purchasing property, or a company submitting plans and undertaking proposed tourism construction projects?
This, in my humble opinion, is almost a prerequisite to any meaningful tourism master plan if we are going to maintain and enhance our solid reputation as a transparent and quality destination choice.