New CTO Appointment
Economics of Going Green
State of Caribbean Media
Passport to Paradise
Death Sentence in 2 Years
Priest Thinks Twice
Charges & CounterCharges
Communication in Tourism
Moves to Oust Savarin
WIBC Settles with Gregory
UWP Leadership Question
Threat to State College?
Why Marpin Was Rejected
Sanford Now In Barbados
Hotels Threaten Shutdown
Urban Baron to Cross Floor
Lestrade & Stabilisation
Urban Baron Did Not Cross
PM Charles Tightens Grip
Search for New President
Tension at N.D.C.
New Independent Party?
AT & T in Dominica
Curtis Matthiew - DFP?
Sonia Williams - Indep...
SARS in Toronto, Canada
Bobby - Independent?
Casino Gambling Begins
Formal Opening of DSC
End of Douglas Dynasty?
Wage Bill Cut
DLP Want Theodore Fired
DFP Virtually Dead
PM's Fiscal Adjustment
Dr Etienne to PAHO
Relations with China?
Sam Raphael Resigns
Tour de Dominica Politics
PJ on Independence
Politics 25 Years Later
Cure For Aids Mooted
DSS Stymied by IMF
New Development at CTO
The Silent Killer
Grenada & Hurricane Ivan
Regional Tourism Security
Making Millions on Haitians
UWP Falling Apart
© Johnson JohnRose
Address by Johnson JohnRose, Communications Consultant, Caribbean Tourism Organization at the Curacao Hospitality and Tourism Association Tourism Summit 2002, at the Sheraton Curacao, September 27, 2002.
(The Importance of Communication in Tourism)
Let me, first of all, thank CHATA for inviting me to present my thoughts on this very important subject, as well as to moderate the discussion among a panel of very distinguished people. This is my first visit to this lovely island and I'm really impressed with all I've seen thus far, and with your Caribbean hospitality, spiced with a Dutch flavour. Or is it Dutch spiced with Caribbean flavour? Curacao is indeed a unique and attractive product that is still somewhat of a secret to many in the English-speaking Caribbean with which Curacao, along with Aruba and Bonaire, shares a long history. I know of many people from my own home country, Dominica, who in the 1950's and 1960s flocked to Curacao and the other ABC islands. Many settled down here and made it their permanent home.
As I reflected on the subject of Tourism Communication in preparation for this presentation, and as I searched every cell in my brain to come up with something that would make sense, my thoughts turned to the chicken and the fish. I do not know if either of the two has any significance for Curacao, but they kept coming back, again and again.
You see, both the chicken and the fish are producers of eggs. The chicken, on its day, lays a single egg - although I have been told that technological advancements have caught up with production and a chicken can now lay two eggs a day. The fish, on the other hand, produces thousands of eggs at one go. Yet it is the chicken that we, humans, and I suspect every other living being in the universe, see as the greatest thing on earth when it comes to egg production. No one ever gives a thought to the fish.
Just think about it. For breakfast, almost all of you would have had eggs. And, anytime we say eggs, we mean chicken eggs. Who would think of roe if I were to ask for scrambled eggs at breakfast time?
The reason we think of the chicken, and not the fish, as being the world's greatest egg producer, is simple. The fish, which produces these thousands of eggs, very efficiently I may add, does it very quietly and goes away without making a sound. The chicken, on the other hand, produces this product, which it obviously is proud of, and cackles so the whole world hears.
It is clear to me that what the chicken does with a very high level of success, is to communicate its message to the world. It communicates in clear and forceful terms that it produces a product that, first of all is the best of its kind - many are convinced it's the only one of its kind, and secondly, one the world can't do without. And the world believes it. The world believes it because the message is clear, and while I happen to believe that the fish's eggs are better, I must admit that the chicken does produce a consistently good quality product.
What, you may ask, do the chicken and the fish and their eggs have to do with tourism and the importance of communication to tourism?
Let's think for a moment of our destinations as eggs - although those of us involved in the industry don't like the fragility that eggs connote, we prefer resilience - and those in the industry, whether policy makers, the private sector, the entire country, can be the chicken, and present to the world a strong, clear and unambiguous message that Life needs the Caribbean, or we can be the fish. By now you know the consequences of being the latter.
We first of all must present a consistently good product. And I won't dwell on this subject because, it's not within my purview and, in any event, has already been dealt with in detail at this summit.
But, with the Caribbean region as dependent as it is on tourism, one of the most effective ways of communicating our message, is to ensure we produce a consistently good product. The figures for 2000 indicate that tourism provided gross foreign exchange earnings of 20 billion US dollars. It employs about one in four Caribbean workers and provides revenue for governments' social programmes. The sector generates from one-third to about 60 percent of gross domestic product of various Caribbean countries. The fact is, we as a region cannot afford to lose the tourism sector.
We have already had a glimpse of what can happen when the sector suffers a setback. The dreadful events of September11, 2001 dealt the region's tourism sector a severe blow from which it continues to struggle to recover. During the first six months of 2002, visitor arrivals to the region were down 10 percent, when compared to the corresponding period last year. This itself is an improvement, when compared with the period immediately after September 11, when arrivals fell nearly 20 percent. Regional airlines, like their international counterparts have lost tens of millions of dollars and are searching for creative ways to keep their businesses without sending home employees.
But even before September 11, the sector was already beginning to hurt. The economic recession in the US was taking its toll and hotels were closing down with scores of people were losing their jobs. Antigua and St. Lucia are two examples that come to mind.
However, I remain confident about the resilience of the industry and that of Caribbean people to cope with, and conquer crises. It is for this reason that I believe that, despite its current problems, tourism still represents the economic sector with the fastest rate of expansion and growth in a context of globalisation and that it remains a main driving force for cultural exchange among peoples.
How, therefore, can we communicate to our own people, which I believe is the emphasis of this discussion, the importance of tourism to our region?
We already accept communication as an essential fact of life. Effective communication determines the extent to which knowledge is transferred. Therefore, it is important that we give out as much information as is possible to every citizen.
The concerns expressed yesterday about customs, about the way visitors are dealt with at the hotels and restaurants by employees who don't understand them, all seem to stem from lack of communication. We are yet to grasp and/or appreciate the concept of communicating a clear message by word and deed.
The Caribbean Tourism Strategic Plan from which Alex Titcombe quoted extensively yesterday, notes that the vision for Caribbean Tourism to the year 2012 speaks to the further development of a Caribbean tourism industry that is fully understood and embraced by the peoples of the region and which, through cooperative action among governments and with the private sector, makes a significant and sustainable contribution to development in both mature and emerging destinations.
I'm concerned here with the part that makes reference to the peoples of the region fully understanding and embracing the industry.
In order to realize this dream, we must first formulate a communication strategy that presents a clear message.
I believe that one of the most important factors in formulating such a strategy is that the people, the community, must be involved. Everyone here has recognized that without the full acceptance and participation of all the people, our efforts are in vain.
We must first find out the level of awareness among the people on the importance of tourism; how can information be presented in a simple, interesting and palatable manner; what people feel about tourism. This information will help in planning an effective communications strategy.
At the same time, we need to stress the many benefits of tourism. We already know that tourism is an export industry that has the potential to increase the demands for goods and services. Our message must emphasize this point.
We must also emphasize the potential for diversification that tourism presents, thereby reducing the seasonality in employment; the direct investment involved; and the potential to use idle or excess capacity (labour, infrastructure, or institutional capacity) in declining regions. As a result, unemployment can be reduced and the fixed cost of infrastructure and institutional capacity can be spread over more consuming units. (Patton (1985)
The message must also emphasize the indirect economic benefits like the development of an infrastructure for visitors as well as locals; jobs are made available for the relatively unskilled workers of the region and the contribution to the development of other industries such as handicraft, which is immensely popular in virtually every Caribbean destination. In other words, we have to follow the route taken by the tourist dollar, from the moment it leaves the visitor's pocket.
Someone mentioned yesterday, the need to have people believe in themselves. I put it to you that tourism can play a part by demonstrating that their services, their countries, their communities are needed.
Now that we have agreed a strategy, we now have to decide on the medium, or media to effectively communicate the message.
The mass media are the most effective means to get the message across. The global village that Canadian communications scholar and educator Marshall McLuhan anticipated in the early 1960s because of electronic media, has become even more of a reality now, with the internet.
In "Understanding Media," McLuhan saw the medium as the message. "The electric light escapes attention as a communication medium just because it has no "content". And this makes it an invaluable instance of how people fail to study media at all. For it is not till the electric light is used to spell out some brand name that it is noticed as a medium.
Then it is not the light but the "content" (or what is really another medium) that is noticed. The message of the electric light is like the message of electric power in industry, totally radical, pervasive, and decentralized. For electric light and power are separate from their uses, yet they eliminate time and space factors in human association exactly as do radio, telegraph, telephone, and TV, creating involvement in depth," he wrote:
Those were prophetic words and the impact of the mass media on communicating messages is now being felt, as advanced technologies make information available at an incredible rate.
It is argued that information and communication technologies provide to communities in developing countries powerful and cheap means for much more than just widely marketing their tourism products. Information technologies, it is said can allow communities to take control of their resources, revealing their preferences and valuations for these resources, learning how to manage them and obtaining financial resources to exploit them, and establishing appropriate mechanisms to actually managing their resources in a wise way. These are all important links to overcoming the difficulties facing the tourism sector.
New information technologies make it possible to break down the barriers of general and specialised information that, in the past, have accentuated the isolation of small countries like ours. The cost of new information technologies is now affordable for virtually everyone. And this is a great advantage for the Caribbean region, because the new economy of the global market will be based more on the supply and exchange of information. Already, a large part of marketing and trade is being done electronically, allowing easy access to the global market for small economies, and I expect the trend to continue at a rapid rate.
The Tourism Strategic Plan foresees an industry that is characterized by the utilization of appropriate information technology to provide timely and accurate information for decision-making and business delivery. The Caribbean Tourism Organization, through its OneCaribbean.org intranet site provides member countries the opportunity to communicate their messages to the dot com generation.
Media studies indicate that the mass media are most effective in raising awareness and to lobby for policy changes among decision-makers and opinion leaders. The radio, television and newspaper for instance, can be used to inform and educate community leaders and the supervisors at the customs department, who can be encouraged to incorporate messages regarding the importance of tourism in their various gatherings.
As we all know, word of mouth or interpersonal communication, is one of the most highly effective means of communication. Here, the message should be targeted at social workers, community activities, schools, PTAs, etc. The idea is to adopt a multi-pronged, multi-media approach to communicating the message. In order to be successful at regaining the market share that we are losing, we must become the chicken and repeatedly communicate a clear message that we are here and only we can give you a truly unique and satisfying experience.
To summarise, as we explore the importance of communications for tourism, we have recognized that there are new ways and styles of communications through the mass media. We have to know the tourist better, we have to highlight the impacts of the industry on the economy, as compared to other sectors and recognize that information technology must be an integral part of any communications strategy.
These are some of my thoughts on the subject. I didn't deal with the issue of reporting crime, and I hope it will come up during the question and answer session.
And before I pass on to our first panelist, let me take this opportunity to invite everyone here to the 25th Annual Caribbean Tourism conference in Grand Bahama next month, where the theme is "Reinventing Caribbean Tourism." Details can be found on the CTC Website