Thursday, April 18, 2024

THE ISSUE: Need to market as one destination

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THE CARIBBEAN HAS OFTEN been called the world’s most tourism-dependent region and Barbados has been referred to as one of the most tourism-dependent countries. This is not surprising considering that in both instances there has been a heavy dependence on the industry for economic sustenance. For most islands in the Caribbean, especially those not enriched with natural resources, once tourism declines their economies decline.

But even though the Caribbean is widely recognised as being heavily dependent on tourism, is it doing enough to maximise all it can get from the sector? Or will countries that are less dependent on the tourism dollar for their economic well-being likely to do better?

The World Travel & Tourism Council, which calls itself “the authority” on world travel and tourism, recently predicted that South Asia “will be the fastest growing sub-region for total travel and tourism GDP long run growth to 2015”. It also said travel and tourism in the Caribbean would grow by 3.3 per cent in that time. No Caribbean country was named among the “fastest growing major countries for travel and tourism GDP to 2025. That group included India, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Peru, Kenya, and “amongst smaller economies”, Myanmar, Montenegro, Angola, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Mozambique.

Additionally, in its Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index Ranking 2015, the World Economic Forum (WEC) said that “in the Caribbean, common [travel and tourism] issues including further leveraging of natural and cultural resources and air transport infrastructure, and – with some exceptions – improving the capacity for connectivity”.

“[Travel & Tourism] Competitiveness Index suggests that most Caribbean economies rely extensively on their famous beaches but do not seem to sufficiently promote their cultural  resources,” the report stated.

“More efforts in promoting and leveraging their cultural heritage could further improve the [travel and tourism competitiveness of these economies, while the lower than expected performance of Caribbean countries on the natural resources pillar is partly explained by a lack of UNESCO natural heritage sites and a low percentage of land being officially protected.”

Antiguan diplomat, Sir Ronald Sanders, who recently commented on the WEC report, noted that of the 141 countries measured in the index, Barbados was the highest ranked CARICOM country at 46 followed by Trinidad and Tobago (69), Jamaica (76), Guyana (104), and Haiti (133).

“Surprisingly, countries such as The Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and Grenadines, and St Lucia, all of which rely heavily on tourism for their economic growth, are not included in the report’s measurement of competitiveness, due to insufficient data,” he said.

The suggestion from these reports and others is that Barbados and its neighbours still need to do more to maximise their earnings from tourism, and in a sustainable way.

For Caribbean Tourism Organisation secretary general Hugh Riley, a major part of the challenge facing the region will be overcome once the Caribbean is marketed as one destination.

Speaking in an interview published by skift.com, he said the one Caribbean marketing push was “an important goal” and that “the real meaning of this very important tenant is that the Caribbean brand is stronger than any individual country brand in the region”.

“To the extent that people first wrap their minds around a vacation in the Caribbean, we believe this is the starting point. We would much rather have them decide on the Caribbean this year than on some other region of the world,” he said.

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