Tourism exploring digitized immigration cards to improve market intelligence

The Ministry of Tourism and Aviation is exploring the digitization of the immigration cards filled out by foreign visitors when they travel to The Bahamas, as a means of digitizing the business of tourism.

Executive Director of the Bahamas Out Island Promotion Board Kerry Fountain said its an area of market intelligence that can better help Family Island hotels and resorts in particular better serve the needs of visitors.

“I would be remiss if I really didn’t talk about how we can digitize the business of tourism. Quite frankly it starts with market intelligence and that same piece of paper that visitors fill out, the immigration card, Bahamians don’t have to fill it out anymore, but visitors have to fill it out. I know there are plans in the making to digitize that. When this happens, it will allow a visitor to fill out the immigration form even before he or she gets to the destination,” Fountain said during a recent Ministry of Finance webinar entitled “The Citizen’s Exchange: Digital Commerce, Tourism Innovation, Disruption & Opportunity”.

“And we know that when someone is coming to The Bahamas they’re booking 30, 60, 90 days out. Now imagine if I’m a hotel owner, I’m getting that information and we know that Christy is coming down 90 days out, or Nick is coming 90 days out, it allows me to engage in conversation with him or her. Trying to find out what you like to drink, what you like to eat, what you like to do. And it now gives me the opportunity to presell those things before they even get down to the island.”

Pointing to the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation’s power business intelligence initiative – which gives an individual hotelier the opportunity to log in and see where their business is coming from, who is flying to that island and for what purpose – Fountain said the next step is to collect data on travelers to customize vacation experiences in the out islands to ensure visitors keep returning.

“Another thing with the digitization of the immigration card. You remember last year when we got slammed in Abaco by Hurricane Dorian, I would then know that you were coming down to Abaco to stay at the Bluff House and to steal a page from Barnes and Nobel, what we can say is, well you were coming down to stay at the Bluff House but the Bluff House was hit by Hurricane Dorian and we think you would like these three hotels on this island or that island. It allows us to keep the business within The Bahamas. That’s just touching on the surface of what digitization can do for the tourism business in the Family Islands,” he said.

Fountain added, “The next step now is to digitize this and not be collecting a paper card where you have to pay for it to get to wherever, so the immigration cards can be placed on the aircraft, and then the flight attendants have to give it out and when the flight is completed you have to store it for seven years. The digitization of that can save us a ton of money.”

As the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation prepares to enter phase two of the tourism reopening plan, which allows for the resumption of international commercial flights to The Bahamas, Fountain said the Out Island Promotion Board is ready.

“We actually did a poll and we got some 1,700 persons to respond. What we learned is, because of the secluded nature of the out islands – they offer a primary get away from it all vacation experience – and because of that and also if you couple that with the proximity of The Bahamas to South Florida, Miami or Fort Lauderdale, it really helps us,” he said.

“Are we ready to capitalize as far as digitalization is concerned? Some hotels are and some hotels are not. As you know in the out islands folks are still simple, it’s not sophisticated like Nassau or even Grand Bahama.”

The government has allocated $61 million in the 2020/2021 budget for the newly formalized department of Transformation and Digitization, as the government moves toward more cashless commerce in its operations and improves the ease of doing business.

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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