Caribbean tourism officials urged to do more advertising with black press

NASSAU, Bahamas – Elinor Tatum, publisher of the New York Amsterdam News has called on Caribbean tourist departments to get serious about the African American market and to redirect advertising and marketing spending to capture this burgeoning market.

Speaking at the 7th Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx) in Nassau, Bahamas, Tatum said 38.3 million African Americans in the United States spend $679 billion annually, almost $5 billion a year on transportation, travel and lodging. “Yet when you look at the black press there is little to none advertising geared to them for travel to either the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe or Africa,” said Tatum, who reasoned that travel expenditures would increase with targeted outreach.

“There are over 200 black newspapers across the United States and they are greatly untapped when it comes to actually reaching out with dollars,” lamented Tatum. She admitted that tourist boards do seek free publicity, but recoil when asked to spend their advertising dollars to reach potential travellers.

Oswald Brown, editor and general manager of the Freeport News in the Bahamas, who has worked in the Black media market in Washington DC, called on Caribbean governments to understand the strong cultural connection between black Americans, the Caribbean and the Bahamas. “My government in the Bahamas should start (with) full page ads in the New York Amsterdam News,” he announced, calling for a unified media force to pressure regional marketers.

Frank Comito of the Bahamas Hotel Association said the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism had recently focused on targeting the American Black group market, a decision which was bearing fruit in meetings and convention business after about three years. “I don’t know to what extent we are doing it in the media, but I know we are focusing and targeting and we are seeing our numbers in those demographics change dramatically.”

Basil Smith, senior director of communications with the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, said the Internet was now gobbling up more of its marketing resources, leaving finite resources for advertising in magazines and other traditional print venues.

“For the smaller publications, we would have to be satisfied there is a specific target in that community that we can go after with (a specific) promotion,” he noted, arguing that it is very easy to target specific group or convention business and deliver that revenue to the destination. “We are in business, not to attract African American tourists or to attract Caribbean tourists. We are in business to attract tourists who can pay a certain price … we are seeking the affluent traveller and it is fine if he is a Caribbean national.”

Michael Edwards of the Jamaica Observer newspaper opined there is a general lack of awareness about the reach of black publications. “From my experience the local hoteliers and the persons in the tourism industry really are not aware that there is something other than Condé Nast Traveller or National Geographic or the Wall Street Journal that can bring in a more diverse and higher spend of tourist.”

Gail Moaney, Executive Vice President of Ruder Finn, the public relations agency of record for the Jamaica Tourist Board (NOT advertising agency), said her agency works creatively with the black media using PR promotions tools, such as paid editorial placements, which benefit both her clients while generating revenue for the media outlet. She said by gently “moving the needle”, advertising agencies and tourist boards could be convinced to diversify their ad spending.

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