Thursday, April 25, 2024

TOURISM MATTERS: Do more business online


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ANYONE WHO HAS used the Internet to shop in Britain, North America and continental Europe cannot fail to be impressed with the variety available, level of service and delivery options.

And I wonder whether the recent change of ownership, branding and appointment of new management in some of our distribution and supermarket outlets has not presented an incredible opportunity to better serve up to 500 000 long stay visitors we attract each year.

This is especially so for first-time visitors staying at our vast choice of villas, condominiums and apartments and who are unsure of what is available and pricing of certain consumables, at least prior to arrival.

What prompted these thoughts was the appointment of Judith Wilcox as the new chief executive officer of Trimart Inc. Her vast knowledge of the tourism industry gained with Virgin Atlantic and, more recently, one of our largest villa rental agencies, could provide a unique insight in developing better synergies between our suppliers and visiting customers from overseas.

While there have been various local websites in the past, perhaps now is the time to take this marketing medium to a much higher level with the means to research product offerings prior to homeland departure, pay online with a credit card and have delivery coincide with the visitor’s arrival.

It is also potentially a great promotional vehicle to expose more locally-made items and build better brand awareness to a much larger marketplace.

While we are often depicted as an iconic destination for the rich and famous, let none of our tourism planners be lured into the illusion that the vast majority of our visitors are not increasingly demanding value for money.

This will become even more critical as we transition from the peak winter season into the long eight months of summer, if the additional airlift attracted is going to be sustained.

From a business operation aspect, in many cases we appear to be light years behind many developed countries in the area of electronic commerce. By now we should be able to order and pay for so much more online, including electricity, water, all government taxes and licences, and postage stamps.

There seems to be little alternative to queuing for up to an hour to deposit cheques in most of our banks. It recently took four hours to renew road tax because the Licensing Authority had decided, without telling its customers that the rules had changed.

It seems the phrase “time is money” isn’t understood by many of our service providers and this will have to change if we hope to emerge intact from the current financial challenges.

Of course there are notable exceptions. We can pay our phone and Internet bills online and we can order a very limited choice of everyday supplies, but it’s far from the norm. Often it means holding on a telephone while a check is made to see if the item is in stock, then writing a cheque for payment on delivery or at the end of the month.

All of these transactions require time while this precious commodity could be spent far more productively, both from a consumer and suppliers perspective.



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