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Articles

Many gearing up for 2009/10 tourism season.

Our nation’s highest legislative body the Island Council is set to discuss a very important issue on Monday, namely the impact of the global economic/financial situation on the island and what is being done to assist businesses and the wider community.

The Island Government signed an agreement with the Dutch funding organization USONA for a sum of Naf.840,000 ($467,000) that came from the Social Economic Initiative (SEI) program to go towards marketing the destination. Commissioner of Tourism Frans Richardson has also called on the private sector to do its part.

The market effort is part of a four-phase initiative with this phase primarily focused on the island’s primary market, the US. According to media reports, the Commissioner of Tourism Richardson reportedly said that the nation’s re-branding efforts, particularly through the internet, will be in the market by September 15, Tuesday. Some of the funds will be used in the print and broadcast media.

St. Maarten is not the only island that has rolled out a marketing plan for the upcoming 2009/10 tourism high season. The Cayman Islands promotion includes flight discounts, a fourth night free, property specific upgrades and value added on car rental, water sports, attraction and restaurants.

According to the Cayman Department of Tourism, the industry tends to agree that there isn’t that much to be gained by spending a ton more money on advertising for September, October, November, because people aren’t booking and it’s not unique this year – this is just worse than usual. The Cayman tourism board strategy involves mostly online advertising.

Antigua’s Minister of Tourism convened a strategy meeting recently that included representatives from the public and private sectors to address challenges facing the tourism industry. Out of that meeting, one of the points was to work on producing a short-term joint marketing plan to be implemented over the next few months.

Jamaica’s Ministry of Tourism, intends over the next few months to grow its existing markets and make significant inroads into new destinations, through an aggressive promotion campaign that will involve integrated public relations, advertising and sales strategies.

According to Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, ‘Now more than ever, we need to be very visible in the marketplace…we need to use strategies that will get the most of every dollar that we spend,’ he said. One of these strategies includes increased use of the Internet and other web-based technologies, as these new communication tools have changed the way tourism is marketed. Direct and cable television is also included in the advertising campaign. Particular focus will be on passion travel, focusing on family, music, weddings, faith-based tourism, cuisine, sports, edu-tourism, volunteer tourism, eco-tourism, health and wellness tourism.

The crash of the financial system in the second half of 2008 did not fully filter through the global economy until 2009. According to the UN World Tourism Organization, (UNWTO), the negative trend in international tourism that emerged during the second half of 2008 intensified in 2009. Our 2008/09 tourism season did not feel the full effect of that meltdown either as visitors had already made their reservations. The year 2009 has been different where there has been a noticeable decline. The 2009/10 season will also be different.

In trying times, the only thing that can be done is to adapt to the circumstances that you don’t have any control over. As a nation we must persevere. Some islands have designed their own home-grown initiatives to take them through this difficult period. For example, Barbados launched ‘staycation,’ where Barbadians, residents and Caricom nationals were offered discounts and packages to spend their vacation at home and patronizing local hotels, bars, restaurants, water sports and other attractions.

According to the UNWTO, international tourism slumped by eight per cent between January and April to the same period last year. International tourism is now forecasted to decline by between four and six per cent. The pace of decline is expected to ease during the remainder of 2009.

 

Roddy Heyliger

 

 

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