ROSEAU, Dominica (2002)—A key architect of the Caribbean`s last regional marketing campaign - launched about a decade ago - is eagerly awaiting the unveiling of the new joint private-public programme to promote the region as single destination.
“The brand name `Caribbean` still conjures up a sense of mystery, paradise and peace in the tourism world,” said Charles Maynard, former Dominica Minister of Tourism and chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation.
Maynard is hopeful the new initiative will make a significant dent into declining tourism revenues, particularly in his native Dominica which has been hard hit.
The new US $16 million marketing campaign, which will now be launched August 21 on North American television networks under the theme “Life Needs the Caribbean”, represents the tourism industry`s attempt to reverse one of the most dismal periods in recent memory.
Maynard made a call for an urgent and consistent joint approach to promoting all facets of the industry, including intra-Caribbean tourism and special events like sports, carnival and festivals. Regional cooperative efforts and strategic airline alliances to capitalize on connections from international flights into and out of Caribbean hubs also is a must, he says.
The tourism and trade consultant is especially passionate about the Eastern Caribbean attracting - by air or sea - even a small percentage of the hundreds of thousands of European visitors who visit the French departments of Martinique and Guadeloupe.
According to Maynard, the adoption of a regional strategy to negotiate alliances with cruise lines is also crucial to tourism`s future. Such a strategy would help increase the conversion of cruise passengers into stay-over visitors, employment of Caribbean nationals on ships and the sale of agricultural products. “Why should we have a decline in agriculture when on our doorsteps is a business that is becoming more and more prominent in the world?” he asked. “We must strengthen our negotiating capacity because we have shown the world, through the Lomé Convention, that we can negotiate beyond our size.”
Industry officials have long complained about the difficulty in negotiating with the cruise lines whose executives, for example—despite reporting encouraging results—are yet to support the new regional marketing campaign.
Furthermore, the Nature Isle consultant hopes that new, imaginative products and activities that link tourism to other industries will be developed to tap into the changing tastes and demographics of today`s travelers. “We must encourage visitors to take part in the life and culture of the country,” he said, citing linkages to native cuisine, indigenous people, history and art, theatre, nature and horticulture. “They want to eat where the taxi drivers are eating - we should take them there,” he noted.