The slogan there is ???never a dull moment??? in Barbados is an accurate description of Government???s continued efforts to ???freshen up??? the existing tourism product and project it as the destination for events-based tourism.
Chairman of the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA), Adrian Elcock, outlined government???s initiatives during a recent interview with the Barbados Government Information Service.??
He said the ongoing economic crisis and the resulting declines in the country???s main source markets, necessitated a more creative approach to marketing the destination.
???We employed a lot of digital marketing which was more economical for us in times when our budget was under some challenges and we did not have as much funds available to market, so we used some creativity as to how we should explore pushing our brand to newer and wider audiences using digital platforms. I think from Winter 2013/2014 we are seeing the benefits of that initiative,??? Mr. Elcock added.
The BTA Chairman also mentioned ongoing work to strengthen the relationship with tour operators in the United Kingdom, which resulted in increased airlift.
???We demonstrated to them that once we put our dollars in from the digital side and we increased our cooperative marketing with some of our carriers ??? Virgin Atlantic and British Airways out of the UK and some of our major tour operators ??? what it did???it created such a demand, that we were also able to get additional airlift out of the United Kingdom, which was a good story for us. So, once we have the number of seats available, you will see the benefits of that.???
Understandably, the economic benefits from events-based tourism cannot be underestimated and Mr. Elcock outlined some of the activities from April to November that were guaranteed to bring droves of tourists to our shores.
He alluded to the recently-concluded Barbados Festival in April, which attracted reggae lovers from as far as Japan and led to increased air traffic for Caribbean Airlines and LIAT. Additionally, the historic hosting of the Top Gear Festival Barbados in May at the redeveloped Bushy Park Racing Circuit was also a ???drawing card??? for close to 6, 000 motor sports enthusiasts.
The BTA Chairman said: ??????We now have the agreement with Top Gear which is a three-year multi-million dollar agreement and we are partnering with the Bushy Park Circuit Inc???to bring what by any definition, is a world class event to Barbadian shores. The beauty of this event is that it is anchored around the newly-redeveloped Bushy Park Circuit and that would segue into many events in the motor racing calendar. You have a committed tourist board ???and a committed government that is supportive of driving that.
???So, we have this new niche which would have been built from the days of the SOL Rally that will be fully expanded through a global audience [by] Global Rally Cross in the US and Top Gear which is very popular around the world, but particularly in the United Kingdom??????
Mr. Elcock also spoke to the faith-based tourism niche and the hosting of Gospelfest. He said significant sums had been invested in this year???s festival which attracted Hezekiah Walker and his huge fan base.??As an additional treat for gospel lovers, the BTA chairman said work was currently ongoing with a group to bring in a number of choirs.
???As you know, choirs by definition [have] large audiences and we are coming up with a formula which I think will be interesting to the local and regional communities to bring large masses of persons here [for an event] almost like a Choirs in the Sun type of competition. I am hoping that we can bring this to fruition in the coming weeks.???
It is certainly shaping up to be a bumper Crop Over season for tourism. This year, Mr. Elcock disclosed that the Festival will be placed into specific segments and the marketing will be targeted in niche markets such as culture and arts, steel pan, and the ???fete-crazy person??? attending the last lap events.
To deal with the expected crush of visitors, the BTA Chairman said there will be additional airlift with Jet Blue ??? which is expected to commence a redeye service out of the US ??? and additional airlift on Caribbean Airlines and LIAT.??In September, the Chairman said Barbados will be the venue for three major events ??? an international Organization of American States tourism forum; a Connect Barbados tour operators??? event; and a locally-hosted international sports conference.
In addition, the 5th anniversary of the Food Wine and Rum Festival in November will see a wider integration of communities into the event. Mr. Elcock said they were collaborating with their partners such as American Express Publishing to bring this world class event to our shores.??
Another area which would give Barbados an added advantage over its competitors was the weddings and romance niche under the theme: Forever Begins in Barbados. He said there will be some ???very creative twists??? on hosting weddings and engagements here.
???I had a very good meeting with an international celebrity in the realm of weddings in New York City and I think that we would have that person on board shortly to come up with a creative way on how we can further develop the romance and weddings niche,??? he elaborated.??
As the tourism industry continues to be one of the major drivers of the island???s economy, the onus is on government, tourism marketers and promoters to devise strategies to ensure that our product will be the envy of our Caribbean neighbours.