Tourism sector in borrowing member countries must change gears to meet new market demands

– CDB study

The Hilton Hotel, Barbados

Caribbean territories seeking to take their respective tourism industries to a higher level will have to prepare to service the market in the future by adapting to transformation in the requirements of the market according to the recently released Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) study, ‘Tourism Industry Reform: Strategies for Enhanced Economic Impact’.

The 64-page study, which CDB President Dr Warren Smith says focuses on “identifying the critical drivers of growth and proposing broad strategies and practical policy recommendations for improving industry performance,” says that with needs and expectations changing, Caribbean territories will have to adjust to those changes if they are to sustain their markets.

The study cites as an example the fact that visitors to the region from North America are increasingly using less cash for everyday transactions and are accustomed to accessing information and services on their mobile phones. Additionally, the study points to the evolution of new business models for transportation and accommodation services – such as Uber (a San California-based transportation network company that operates in around 600 cities globally and offers transportation and food delivery services) and AirBnB, an international online hospitality service that facilitates the short-term rental or lease of accommodation for business or holiday travel. AirBnB has access to more than 3,000,000 lodging listings in 65,000 cities and 191 countries.

The CDB study provides several other examples of strategies for preparing its borrowing member countries for what it describes as “the tourism of the future” including what it says is the need for the respective tourism sectors to work with local business and service providers to incentivize and ensure that the adoption of electronic forms of payment such as credit and debit cards and mobile payment technology in transportation services, retail, food and beverage establishments and other industries that interact directly with foreign visitors.

Meanwhile, the study urges countries in the region to explore the implementation of electronic or digital customs clearance procedures designed to expedite and standardize border crossing, a strategy which it says could be particularly useful for the yachting industry in which multiple border crossings is an obstacle given bureaucracy and waiting periods.

Additionally, the study recommends the development of tourism products and marketing approaches tailored to the needs of “the next generation of tourists” including “making the most of digital methods and providing the appropriate institutions to support the desire to interact with communities that are not traditionally centres of tourism.”

It also urges that tourism-reliant countries take account of the shifting preferences in terms of the desired visitor experiences among populations in major markets of origin. Older visitors, the study suggests, “are much less likely to buy a pre-packaged holiday such as a cruise or all-inclusive” and are much more likely “to rely on friends’ recommendations and social media.” This proclivity, the study indicates, tends to manifest itself in “ways to experience local culture and eat local foods,” adding that in some instances, such visitors are looking to do something meaningful, such as volunteering.

The study says that this category of visitor has interesting possibilities for the CDB’s borrowing member countries “ranging from how they connect with millennials to how to enhance safety and security to enable them to have more local experience.”

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