The Caribbean region is well positioned to take advantage of the inevitable upturn in the travel and tourism market, says Tom Murray, Americas Vice President of InterContinental Hotels.
Speaking at the annual Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference (CHIC) in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic in June, Murray said the region`s proximity to its major inbound market, the United States, its viability as a long-haul destination for European customers, the safety factor and politically stable governments will each contribute to the Caribbean recovery, in addition to possible benefits from the current difficulties for tourists from outside in getting visas for the United States.
“But perhaps the best thing the Caribbean has going for it, is the opportunity to brand this region as a whole,” he said, noting that 9/11, the US economy, the war in Iraq and SARS have negatively impacted travel and tourism.
Delivering the conference`s opening keynote address, Murray explained that brands, branded companies and branded destinations will be well-positioned to flourish when the industry rebounds. He schooled delegates in the ABC`s of branding, explaining that a brand is a promise to guests to deliver a consistent experience - time after time, hotel after hotel. “If a brand`s execution does not meet or exceed its promise, consumers will flee faster than you can say “SARS”...and you can kiss your once- loyal customer base good-bye,” he warned.
According to Murray, “Branding 101” compels brand managers: to define an experience that the customer values; to deliver that experience in everything they do; to measure the impact of the experience on their customer; and to deliver the experience consistently. He concluded that the only way to enjoy long term profitability in the travel business is to provide good value for customers, ensuring that guests are happy, satisfied, interested and loyal and reminded delegates of the industry`s “Rule of 10”:
“It takes 10-THOUSAND dollars in marketing funds to attract a single guest to a hotel. It takes 10 SECONDS to irritate that guest to the point of not wanting to return. And ... it takes 10 YEARS for the guest to consider RETURNING to the hotel ... especially if there are a number of competitive choices in the market.”
Murray summarised that by accentuating the positive characteristics of the region, understanding the importance of branding, and keeping the focus on guests, “we can ride out any storm ... and emerge more successful than ever when the skies do, eventually, clear up,” as predicted by the World Travel and Tourism Council.
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