TOURISM MATTERS: Raising the ‘brand’ profile at little cost
Much has been made of the lack of funds available to the Barbados Tourism Authority and reported outstanding debts, severely limiting the ability of the organization to effectively market the destination.
Whatever the facts are, those of us who have spent almost an entire lifetime in business have learnt, usually from necessity, to do a lot with very little.
There are so many ways that one can raise the “brand” profile, often at low or no cost. TripAdvisor is perhaps one of the very best examples.
Around 6 000 hotels have recently been awarded the so-called Oscars of the hospitality industry, Traveller’s Choice Awards, in various categories for 2013.
At first you might say, 6 000 hotels, that’s an awful lot.
Those who receive this coveted distinction are selected by the highest ratings in a single year out of over 650 000 listed hotels in 82 countries across nine regions worldwide.
So less than one per cent make the grade.
As you would expect, many individual properties and savvy destinations now go into hyperdrive, using this incredible opportunity to highlight their product with media mentions and Press releases at zero cost.
The ratings are entirely generated and positions gained by guests’ personal experiences who have actually stayed in the featured accommodation providers.
What could be a better accolade than reviews and opinions based on the feedback from those who really matter – their guests.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
I am pleased to report a small number of hotels on Barbados were winners for this year and I would expect that our national marketing agency will take every opportunity to highlight them, while at the same time growing awareness on the destination.
Staying with TripAdvisor, I would like to mention what I consider some of the least recognized unsung heroes. These are the so-called destination exports or senior contributors who volunteer their time to answer a myriad of travellers’ questions posted on the Barbados Forum.
This is done with a certain amount of anonymity, doing so not under their own names but using a number of provocative “title identities” like butterflysue1, footychick, InBarbados, Kirimist, LittleMissRed, LoisInsider, Scary, Sunniebgi and perhaps the most prolific, BGIWorldTraveller with an incredible almost 11 000 posts, at last count.
I could not begin to calculate a value that they add to our island, entirely without costing Barbados a single cent.
Just as we recognize visitors who return to our shores, year after year, I think it’s time the destination experts received some form of appreciation from our policymakers. These are people motivated by love of the country, whether they live here or are frequent and/or long-stay overseas guests.
There is no possible way that we could ever afford to employ sufficient people to perform the function they do.
And as social media sites continue to play a pivotal role in holiday selection and final accommodation choice, we really have to learn how to nurture these smart partnerships better.