cropoverbannerThe Crop-Over Festival still has huge potential to expose tourists to local culture in a first-hand experience that cannot be had anywhere else, and the Barbados Tourism Authority is trying to market it as such in major markets.

Acting Senior Vice President of the BTA, Avril Byer, made this assertion as she pointed out that while the figures of arrivals for the festival might have been slightly down in 2012, compared to 2011, they were still above the 2010 numbers. She pointed out though, that for Crop-Over 2011, there was the added incentive of Rihanna’s performance in Barbados that twinned nicely with the culmination of the festival, which would also have led to the boost in numbers for that year.

While not providing precise figures, Byer told a media briefing this morning at the National Cultural Foundation, that the number alone would not give an adequate picture and perspective of some of the issues of the time in question.

The acting BTA executive had said early that marketing the festival in overseas markets provided an opportunity to increase the numbers of visitors, especially as the trend was for more people to be coming in during the summer festival months of July and August than any other months, even December.

“Our role is one mainly of marketing the festival overseas and I must say over the years the festival has created an opportunity for us to grow our numbers during that period of the year.

“No longer is December, the month of Christmas, where we have the majority of people coming to Barbados. In actual fact we have more people coming in July/August than any other month and that speaks to the value of the festival in terms of our visitor arrivals,” she noted.

She said they had found as well, particularly with the large events, that those spread out through July into the final weekend of August were also big draws for tourists.

“What we have been able to do is promote some of the semi-large events like Pan Pon De Sand, and they are happening on weekends. So particularly in the Caribbean, for those persons who might not be able to come on the big weekend but might still be able to come on that weekend … that is somehow working for us because it is giving us yet another story to tell…

“The festival has tremendous benefits for opportunities. It is really a platform for us to tell the Barbados story and expose our culture in many ways, in a way we are not able to do generally on an ongoing basis in terms of getting that first-hand anecdotal type of authentic exposure,” she said.

Byer said all the major markets, namely US, Europe, Canada, Brazil, and here in the region, especially Trinidad, were engaged in marketing for the festival, with about 60 journalists scheduled to visit for the events.

“The Internet has really changed the way that business is done, certainly in tourism, but certainly it has created more platforms for us to spread the word about Crop-Over. We have the use of social media which is far more prevalent in our overseas markets in terms of the journalists being able to tell their stories when they go back,” she said, adding that they were also attempts underway to have the foreign media jump for Kadooment to gain a more intimate experience.

In June, she noted too that about 300 travel agents were due in for MegaFam, which incorporates aspects of Crop-Over, including a mini-carnival, as part of that experience. The NCF’s decision to include an e-ticket sales option this year, she said, was also another positive for the growth of the festival.

“In terms of packaging, I am really delighted that we have the software now in terms of how the tickets are being sold this year and that technology will allow overseas operators, small and big ones, to be able to put tickets in the packaging of the air and hotels.

“I think it also creates a great opportunity for the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association in packaging as well for direct sales on their website, being able to sell tickets directly as a vendor,” she said. (LB)

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