CEO: Time to diversify Caribbean tourism marketing
As Ainsley Henriques sees it, culture is one of the main attractions for tourists, so the Caribbean tourism industry should do more to market each country’s unique cultural heritage.
“What I am saying is that the product that we now offer is not the way to growth, to wealth, to self-realization and self-worth for a people; it is not sustainable tourism,”he said, during his presentation at the recent Caribbean Media Exchange in Jamaica.”We are a proud people with a remarkable history, a legacy from our forebears that is being researched and explored, but not yet transmitted to the majority of us. This is the largely untouched product of depth and interest to our main markets.
“We have religion, heritage, environment, music[and]culture, which includes art, literature, dance, culinary arts, shopping, sports and water sports. There is so much that we can share with our visitors that we ignore at our peril.”
He lamented the fact that cultural heritage is being identified but remains practically unknown locally and throughout the region. It’s something persons have been urging in the last several years here in The Bahamas, arguing it would give local tourism product much needed diversification.
Those calls have not fallen on deaf ears, with several small junkanoo/cultural-based start-ups coming on stream in the last year looking to tap into that unfilled market. However, these businesses also feel that a helping hand from Tourism could go a long way in boosting not only their companies, but cultural tourism as a whole.
“They haven’t done much, not yet,”said Quentin Woodside, proprietor of Junkanoo World.”But they could help us by putting us on their web site so people know we are here and by having people when they come to visit, recommend our cultural spots.
“Instead of a tea party at a hotel, they can have it at the Junkanoo Yard or breakfast at the Yard instead of a hotel where they don’t have authentic food to serve…these kinds of things.”
Henriques urges a shift from marketing hotel rooms, beaches and attractions that can be found in many countries across the world to emphasizing those outstanding cultural aspects that define the people of the region.
Citing tourist destinations in Europe, Henriques, who co-founded Eastern Attractions Limited, a non-governmental organization(NGO)that develops community-based recreational facilities in St. Thomas, Jamaica, pointed out that Europeans promote their culture to attract visitors.
Sustainable tourism, he argues, should be the focus of policies within the industry, while also suggesting that it is important to highlight the growth of enterprises directly or indirectly related to tourism.
“If we can change the dynamic, stop counting bodies that arrive(and)room nights of occupancy, but publish that(revenues from)tourism-related enterprises, attractions, restaurants, tour companies, museums and the like are growing strongly; and especially if these are growing better than the rest of the economy, then we know that we have charted a path to sustainable tourism,”he counseled.