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Are we tuned in to our visitors? (TOURISM MATTERS)

rhondathompson, [email protected]

Are we tuned in to our visitors? (TOURISM MATTERS)

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BRITISH ONLINE TOUR OPERATOR has released the results of a survey it recently undertook.
The conclusions may surprise some people.
Only 11 per cent of British travellers will actually set foot in a High Street travel agency this year.
For their main 2012 holiday, 66 per cent of Britons said they will book through an online travel agent, tour operator, or price-comparison website.
Just 14 per cent will book over the telephone and a tiny 12 per cent said they would call into a shop to pick up brochures and chat about destinations.
By comparison, 52 per cent said they would use Internet search engines as their first port of call for holiday research and 40 per cent would head to review websites like TripAdvisor.
Comfortingly, an overwhelming 96 per cent of Brits polled by the company confirmed they will make sure they take a holiday this year.
The most common length of time spent researching the trip is two to four weeks (29 per cent).
In the current economic climate, not surprisingly perhaps, 40 per cent said keeping the cost of their holiday down is the number one consideration, overtaking the usual holiday factors such as weather (32 per cent) and accommodation (26 per cent).
Bob Atkinson, one of the operators’ travel experts, added, “With travel companies offering a huge array of deals to secure bookings, research is essential for holidaymakers to make sure they get what they want from their holiday and pay the best price.”
And, “the switch to online for our holiday planning – whether to research or book – has been one of the most noticeable changes in travel over the last few years and appears to be continuing”.  
Commenting on websites like TripAdvisor, Atkinson said “review sites are growing in popularity as holidaymakers trust the opinions of their peers”.
With Barbados’ massive dependence on what has been accepted as the more traditional ways of procuring business in the past, I wonder if as a destination we are keeping up with what seems like a growing tide in the changing way of exactly how we attract long-stay visitors.
In another publication it was quoted that the current Minister of Tourism and his team has recently been visiting hotels “around the island” to solicit feedback from visitors which is deemed “essential to providing the quality product that Barbados is known”.
Kudos to Mr Sealy and I can’t help wondering if he had been prompted by an earlier Tourism Matters column. With the ever-changing and challenging face of tourism, I believe these visits are a fundamental prerequisite to formulating promotional programmes.
It is perhaps even more critical when such a high percentage of the Barbados Tourism Authority board is made up of directors who do not have the benefit of proven tourism background.  
If you do not know the strengths and weaknesses of the product, how can you effectively sell it?
The minister might also consider another suggestion I made years ago.
It’s called the 10/10 concept.
Through creative marketing, set an objective of increasing hotel annual occupancy levels by ten per cent and average room rates by US$10 for our small hotels.
The typical size of our smaller properties is actually just 21 rooms.
Even if this is only adopted as a pilot project with a dozen or so participants, the fiscal improvement make an impressive difference.