Better Days are coming to Caribbean Tourism

Bevan Springer

NEW YORK – While tourism operators at home and in the marketplace bemoan the current difficult economic times and the typical challenges they associate with the summer and fall seasons, others are “improving, renovating, expanding and exposing” their product in anticipation of better days.

Sandals Resorts Chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart’s approach was shared recently in
the travel trade media, making it crystal clear that the global fallout in travel and tourism is not so severe that we should bawl and complain.

Out of every crisis there is an opportunity – and today’s tough times of reduced airlift and weak demand in a global financial mess, does in fact present an opportunity to go to market – to fish for new business.

Airfares and packages to the Caribbean, contrary to popular opinion, are not prohibitively expensive; rather, they have been affordable to a number of destinations in the fall and upcoming winter, attractive enough to woo our stressed-out friends up north (your scribe included) who are often exhausted with the fast pace of la vida loca in America’s metropolitan areas.

My American friends and business associates yearn for a getaway, but are unaware of some of the affordable offerings for an escape to paradise which includes a sure shot of restoration and renewal.

While traveling to Barbados last weekend, even though I was working and not on vacation, the fresh air, therapeutic sea baths, and healthy fish, fruit and vegetable options each contributed to a break from the monotony of life in the fast lane, promoting spiritual renewal and the kind of restoration that we all need.

With old man winter warning of his arrival to the northeast and other parts of the country, now is not the time for the Caribbean to hide its light under a bushel, but to return urgently to the marketing strategy that promotes “Life Needs the Caribbean.”

Executive Vice President of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, Sue Springer, was correct when she said last week that tourism is too dynamic to be devastated by the present shake-up in the global economy, and that the industry would survive the current crisis as it did after September 11.

Seasoned Jamaican tourism writer Janet Silvera encourages both the public and private sector in her country to band together to ensure that Jamaica weathers these tough times. “There is real need now for our marketing teams to be out there on the road knocking at all the doors that are left open,” she penned in Hospitality Jamaica, a popular newspaper supplement which she coordinates. Whether they are young professionals, baby boomers, girlfriend groups, retirees, religious organizations – whatever the demographic – one thing’s for sure, there are people in the marketplace whose lives need the Caribbean and who have the disposable income to make America’s Third Border their next stop.

With additional airlift returning and new routes being introduced to the Caribbean soon, some critical keys to our success include constantly motivating our sales forces and bolstering our partnerships with tour operators, travel agents and the media. Positioning ourselves to capture the bounty of the new season should be our priority because surely better days are coming.

Bevan Springer

Bevan Springer, the Director of Counterpart International’s Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx), is a journalist and communications advisor, and reports regularly on the travel and tourism industry.

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