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Savings from closure of Tourism’s NY office

Tourism officials will have perhaps$600,000 per year to redeploy in its marketing strategy with the closure of its New York City tourism office, marking the end of an era for the Ministry.

The doors to that office closed for the last time on February 28, though the decision to close was made about four years ago, Director-General of the Ministry of Tourism David Johnson said.

There is one tourism office left in the United States, but the 50-year old model of a heavy physical presence in target US population centers is over.

“Closing the New York office, just off the top and based on our traditional cost of operation in New York, resulted in cost savings that approached I would say north of$400-$600,000 per year,” Johnson said.

The advent of the internet ushered in a marketing paradigm shift for many industries and businesses, and the Ministry of Tourism was no exception. The result of the new model, according to Johnson, was that the New York office had not attracted customers to its premises, neither in person nor by phone, for some time.

“The internet totally restructured the way we interface with consumers. They do that via principally and 800-BAHAMAS,”said Johnson.

Today, most of the global enticement for tourists is done online, with the notable exception of negotiations with major suppliers. But Johnson said that the last US Bahamas Tourism Office (BTO)in Plantation, Florida is ideally located to provide the efficient and effective presence needed in the States.

“We have a central location to do that because it is easier to do that from a central location and fly out to those several appointments as necessary from Plantation, which is a low-cost environment with low-cost carriers like Southwest, Jet Blue and Air Tran. Our people fly out for meetings with the major operators scattered throughout the mid-west, west coast, south east, south west and with a few in the north east as well,”Johnson said.

The Bahamas operated tourism offices in a number of major metropolitan areas in the past, including Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Chicago.

“It was very effective when we started some 50 years ago. It made economic sense and the industry was driven by the distribution from those major population centers through travel agents,”Johnson said.

The tax-payer funds that kept the BTOs going in the past will be redirected to other vehicles to reach customers more effectively, such as advertising online and on television, according to Johnson. He added that both needed more resources.

Employees at the New York BTO who were with the Ministry when the decision to close was made had the option to relocate to the Plantation headquarters for deployment or redeployment, Johnson said. At the time of closure, there had been only three employees left manning the New York office.

The office in Plantation services North, South and Central America, and is the hub of the Ministry’s global digital marketing effort. Other BTOs presently exist in London, Paris, Toronto, and in The Bahamas. Johnson said there are also Tourism representatives stationed in other markets across the globe.

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