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RIGHT OF CENTRE: Changing ‘them and us’ attitude

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

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Staycation Barbados was officially launched in 2009 as a structured domestic tourism programme for Barbados, to provide the platform for the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association to heighten public tourism awareness through the personal experiences of the local public.
The programme has five main objectives:
1. To help maintain cash flow in the tourism industry.
2. To encourage the development of domestic tourism on the island and encourage locals and residents to experience the tourism product in new and exciting ways and at affordable rates.
3. To maintain jobs within the industry.
4. To dispel the myth that locals are not welcome in hotels and restaurants.
5. To provide marketing exposure for BHTA members.
To date, the programme has been a tremendous success, generating over US$4 million for participating hotels, activities and attractions, while thousands of locals and residents have the pleasure of experiencing for themselves why people travel from all over the world to visit our beautiful island.
In turn, that appreciation has given many people a greater understanding of the role they play in the industry and has done a tremendous job of addressing the “them and us” misconception about the industry, where locals often felt that they were not welcome in tourism establishments around the island.
This perception was what sparked the “Tubby de Guard” character which is now defunct largely because many Bajans now see vacationing at home as a top option when they make their holiday decisions.  
Staycation Barbados is now such an established brand that the word “staycation” is used in our daily conversations. No longer do advertisements or commercials say, “Win a stay at X hotel” – we are hearing and seeing “Win a staycation”, and the public knows what that means.
The staycation programme has changed the mindset that hotel stays, restaurant dinners and activities and attractions are relegated to only special occasions or celebrations.
The tag for the programme Because You Deserve It has told locals that any time is the right time for a staycation.
Staycation Barbados has empowered many locals to enjoy a vacation experience they previously thought to be unaffordable.
In addition to traditional accommodation, hotels are offering alternatives like buying timeshare – which has also increased in the local market.
The programme has grown to the point that our members are now offering specials such as flash sales, last-minute deals and special promotions for couples and girlfriend weekends, among others.
Before the launch of this programme, the only rates available to locals were the CARICOM rates that regional visitors enjoyed.
• The Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association is the trade organization of hotels and related tourism services in Barbados.