Officials advised to pursue upmarket tourists in untapped destinations

Barbados should look to target wealthy persons in already defined source markets rather than seek out tourists from distant sources.

That suggestion has been put forward by former Central Bank Governor Dr Delisle Worrell, who has urged tourism officials to seek diversification of source markets through a strategy that distinguishes communities within traditional markets according to their spending power.

He said once those areas were identified, data could be used to allow for a product development and marketing strategy for tourism, geared towards increasing revenues by improving product quality and adding products and services to enhance the appeal of tourist destinations to a wealthier clientele.

In his April newsletter, Dr Worrell said the added benefit of an upmarket strategy is to make the visitor supply more resilient in the face of economic downturns which are less likely to affect the travel plans of the relatively well-to-do.

“In the first place, the Caribbean’s well-established markets in North America and Europe are already well served by airlines who have a stake in the success of Caribbean tourism, which is a significant source of reliable and highly profitable business for them. Their contacts in source markets and their marketing efforts complement those of Caribbean destinations,” he stated.

“Secondly, this strategy can be designed to build on the region’s existing business, by providing services and special attractions and features that build the image of each destination. Every major tourism economy boasts its list of sites and experiences that are unique and unmissable, and the news about them spreads by word of mouth. In that way, the grapevine augments the country’s marketing programme.”

The economist said the Caribbean would start with an advantage over the competition in the European and North American markets from which our tourists mostly come.

“Visitors from those countries benchmark tourist resorts in the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and the Far East against what is on offer in the Caribbean. The Caribbean is also more accessible for most visitors from these areas,” he added.

However, he pointed out that the provision of services to wealthy visitors was paramount.

Dr Worrell said they expected high-quality service at all times, and he therefore advised tourism providers to advertise and present such services.

“Developing and implementing a value-added strategy is more difficult than it may appear, especially in the provision of services. For the most part, hotels, restaurants and other tourism providers will be operating in the middle ground between those for whom money is no object, and the budget-conscious travel market. The majority of visitors from upstate New York and similar areas will be expecting consistent good quality rather than extravagant luxury. They will also expect services to be as advertised. They will have witnessed too many examples where this has not been the case,” Dr Worrell said.

“To succeed, tourism providers are well advised to start with pilot projects, testing and proving them until every detail is perfected, before unleashing a marketing drive. Once established, the new level of quality must be jealously guarded and maintained, with rapid and full compensation should there be any slip.” 

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