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Tourism makeover


by Shawn Cumberbatch

Destination Barbados is getting a tourism makeover. A major rebranding to transform the island’s “tired” tourism product led by a restructured Barbados Tourism Authority, the convening of a new Ministerial Council on Tourism, an annual state of the industry seminar, and the launch of “an aggressive online marketing strategy” are all part of the plan.

The tourism industry blueprint is revealed in the new White Paper On The Development Of Tourism In Barbados, a 252-page document laid in the House of Assembly last week.

Following concerns from local partners and visitors themselves that Barbados as a tourism destination, Government is undertaking what it acknowledged was a belated rebranding of tourism in Barbados.

“For quality assurance, all product sectors and niche markets within the brand will be required to come under one umbrella, to ensure a high profile, recognisable image for tourism in the country. This is the product that will be promoted internationally,” the document, which will be followed by the island’s first Tourism Master Plan stated.

“This will be timely, as the results of consultations with Barbados’ trade and travel partners, as well as from the recently concluded visitor focus groups, have suggested that the Barbados brand is tired and may be in dire need of comprehensive brand refreshment.

The branding exercise will include: * Conducing a brand audit through a series of stakeholder surveys, including local Barbadians, visitors, meeting planners, travel media and locals; * Conducting market research; * Defining the unique selling points that separate the designation from the competition; * Producing and prioritising a series of crisp and clear motivational messages for consumes that address the positive visitor characteristics of the community; * Crafting a “marketing” statement that describes the destination and separates it from other competitors; and * Creating a new theme, tag line and graphic logo for the destination that mirrors/complements the positioning statement.

“This process has already commenced within the BTA. The conduct of such an exercise, belated as it may be, is nonetheless opportune and will inform the process for clearly defining Barbados’ brand identify. In the short term, it will also allow Barbados to test and develop the best strategies for effective destination product marketing around its core competencies,” the policy document noted.

Differentiated destination

Based on the voluminous document, which was published after a series of consultations and discussions said to have included everyone involved in Barbados tourism, the intention “is for Barbados to become a differentiated, year-round destination, with a spectrum of unique attributes appealing to several key segments of the mid to upscale market”.

“To do so, high end, quality tourism products, will be developed to appeal to these lucrative market segments,” the white paper stated.

“This product development will be market driven and aligned with the specific needs of visitors, especially those that require immersion in the local communities to interact with the locals and opportunities to experience the true Barbadian culture and way of life.

“Alternative forms of tourism such as sports tourism, cultural heritage tourism, community tourism, culinary tourism, agro tourism, health and wellness tourism, faith based tourism, events tourism and genealogy tourism will be developed, that will not only be the most sustainable forms of tourism, but will also attract the most sustainable segments of the travel market,” it added.

Government added, however, that it was “critically important that the markets targeted must be the ‘right fit’ for the product on the ground and must be in line withe the sustainability policies of the government”.

“Research indicates that Barbados has a loyal repeat customer base, a large segment of which is made up of the more mature Boomer segment,” the document stated.

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