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Opinion: The Bahamas Tourism Industry:
A Distinctive Paradigm for St. Vincent and the Grenadines

By D. Markie Spring, Caribbean News Now, Grand Cayman, Cayman IslandsMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Dec. 28, 2010--Turks and Caicos Islands

Inventive, conscientious and creative are only some of the words I'd use to describe the government of the Bahamas, Mr Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, and the ministry of tourism. The Bahamas, recently, has reached a milestone in its visitor arrivals -- an unprecedented success this year; one that most regional states, such as St Vincent and the Grenadines has failed to reach.

The Bahamas consists of a number of beautiful islands, cays and islet, strategically located south east of the United States -- a location that seems to attract an enormous amount of tourists from North America (US and Canada). It is also true that this state has recently experienced a drop in tourist arrivals during the global economic downturn, which in turn affected the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

Despite this, what has caught my attention and that of the wider Caribbean, and in a very peculiar way is the country's ability to entice visitors considering the global economic fallout -- through its marketing campaigns and the right execution of its marketing mix, notably its superior promotion strategies.

Hitherto, some Caribbean citizens argued that the only reason The Bahamas is so successful is the country's close proximity to North America. I beg to differ on this front. In my opinion, the country's success not only comes from its close proximity to North America, but is also derived from ingenious attributes of the Bahamian authorities in making The Bahamas the number one regional destination a reality.

Similarly, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is a splendid multi-islands state nestled in beautiful turquoise waters. This country boasts similar qualities like those found in The Bahamas. The big difference is the country's inability to attract a high volume of visitors to its shores. To date, according to stats, SVG is not able to even entice a fraction of The Bahamas' five million tourists this year.

So where does SVG go from here?

There is an urgent need to put a number of functional and workable factors in place to deal with this horrendous situation that we are experiencing in SVG. Interestingly, the government of SVG should send a contingent to The Bahamas in an effort to collect empirical evidence about the way things work there -- benchmarking a first class marketing program. In addition, far more infrastructure has to be put on place by the government of SVG to reach the standard that currently exists in The Bahamas.

In light of this, I also urge the government of SVG and the people who work in its tourism sector to adapt the business term "competitive advantage." Countries that have the competitive advantages in certain aspects of the economy must be benchmarked to enhance value chain and economies of scale at home.

Currently, The Bahamas has already secured a competitive advantage in its tourism sector and in so doing has gained value chain, tacit knowledge, cost leadership, differentiation, core competence and not withholding economies of scale. Therefore, it is urgent that SVG secures a significant market share in the international tourism industry -- only through extensive investigation of the strategies utilized by The Bahamas.

There comes a time when we can no longer do things on our own. This suggests that we must consult outside groups that have already mastered a particular phenomenon. In this capacity, it is encouraged that The Bahamas be carefully assessed, which would allow St Vincent and the Grenadines to enhance its tourism and travel industry. This is in no way different from the idea of employing foreign consulting groups when the nation is undertaking large and expensive investment projects.

Moreover, this is in no way insulting the ability of the ministry of tourism in SVG, but highlights that there is another group that is more equipped with the tools and the "know how" to attract a wider demographic to their shores.

We must seek ways to out perform the competitor and in doing so, one of the indicators is to understudy what the market leader is doing right, adapt, and thereafter develop original strategies to go past them.

In essence, the people who work in the tourism industry in The Bahamas are genii in all aspect. For those of us who don't have the "know how" should consult the authorities there -- they are the absolute best.


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Copyright (c) 2010, Caribbean News Now, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

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