Increasing Tourism Market Share

Go Lean Commentary

It’s December … this is peak winter travel season.

It’s time to take inventory of Caribbean tourism:

It has been weighed in the balance; it has been measured …
It has been found wanting!

Our peaks … are not enough. There is the need to Increase Caribbean Tourism Market Share. See this magazine article here with this title:

Title: Increasing Tourism Market Share
By Tony Fraser

For the Caribbean tourism industry to take a larger chunk out of world tourism arrivals (a necessity for continued survival and growth), there are a few innovative options lapping at the shores of tourism economies in the Caribbean.

To achieve the objective in an industry which provides hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Caribbean and US$30bn in revenue in 2014, wide-ranging options were presented to governments, hoteliers, tour operators and others in the business at the State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC) of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation in Curacao.

Eastern focus

Among the options, officials looked at the following:

  • how to attract more visitors from the fast-growing Chinese market;
  • how to cast aside traditional and moral restrictions that could pose barriers to the US$100bn US market of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGBT);
  • how to engage the Millennial generation (those born between 1980-1998) in exciting weekend package tours around the Caribbean;
  • how to tackle the issue of damaging high tax rates on the airline industry while looking to expand the Open Skies policy;
  • and the need to sweep away the layers of travel restrictions on passengers (including Caribbean nationals) wanting to move around and into the region with one-stop visa and security checks.

Increasing but…
An examination of the figures on visitor arrivals shows that the number of tourists coming to the Caribbean in the first six months of 2015 increased by 5.8% compared with the same period in 2014.

That percentage increase was larger than the 4.1% average increase in global tourism arrivals.

Significantly too, the Caribbean region (which encompasses the English, Dutch, French and Spanish-speaking areas of the Caribbean) in 2014 earned US$30bn, a 10% increase over the previous year.

However, Caribbean tourism’s share of the international market, as calculated by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, was a mere 2.8% of the 1.1 billion people who travelled to destinations all over the globe.

“The Caribbean has a relatively low global market share compared to the importance it places on its tourism economy,” the UN World Tourism Council’s director/executive secretary of member relations, Carlos Vogeler, told the SOTIC in Curacao.

Asia focus
But while the Caribbean’s share of the international tourism market is quite small, South East Asia (SEA) has experienced the largest growth as a region.

The reason is not too difficult to assess.

“Those countries have access to a nearby source market, China, whose outbound travel market grew by 30% last year, and by 48% during the first six months of this year,” Mr Vogeler told Caribbean Intelligence©.

At the same time that the SEA countries have the emerging Chinese market from which to source tourists, Mr Vogeler says the source markets of the Caribbean for tourists are mature.

He said that the Caribbean tourism industry had to take up the challenge of attracting tourists from the Far East.

Cut taxes
Another challenge is for governments and airports in the Caribbean to reduce taxes on airline tickets.

It is a call that has been made for many years.

It was made even while the Caribbean tourism industry was petitioning the United Kingdom to reduce the Air Passenger Duty for passengers flying to Caribbean destinations.

In the Caribbean, airlines and tourism experts have continuously pointed to the negative impact that continued high taxes on airline tickets and airport taxes have had on travel into and around the region.

However, governments have contended with equal vigour that since they have a narrow tax base to raise revenue for development, and with airline travel being a captive source of revenue, reducing taxes on airline travel and airport duties is a difficult proposition.

The Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Dr Rufus Ewing, told the CTO conference that “If you want governments to remove and or reduce those taxes, then we have to know how we are going to get alternative revenues; how do we take care of our security responsibility when there is one visa system and security check at airports. And those are real concerns for us in these countries.”

The proof of the pudding is in the eating for Robin Hayes, JetBlue’s president and chief executive.

“Where we have been able to reduce fares by 30%, we have doubled the travel market,” he says.

And Mr Hayes commended the government of Barbados, which has “one of the lowest tax rates in the region”.

“The idea is that we can collectively look at ministers of finance and ask them to relook the tax argument; but we do need government revenue to run countries,” Barbados Tourism and International Transport Minister Richard Sealey told Caribbean Intelligence©.

New ways of working
JetBlue sealed a deal with Barbados at the conference announcing an additional daily roundtrip flight between Fort Lauderdale in the US and Grantley Adams Airport in Barbados.

What’s more, the JetBlue boss is encouraging the Caribbean tourism industry to tap into JetBlue Getaways, which packages hotels, tours, restaurants and other experiences into the flight package, an arrangement that he says has done wonders for Grenada.

“Thanks to strong bookings through Getaways and greats friendships with local properties like Sandals and Spice Island, we were able to add a third weekly service in September, after only three months in the market,” Mr Hayes said.

Another option for attracting more tourists to Caribbean shores and into hotel rooms is to give seat guarantees to airlines.

Under such agreements, the host government pays for seats not occupied by passengers when they fly into those destinations.

Barbados’s Mr Sealey, who is also CTO chairman, told Caribbean Intelligence©: “It is a fact that we do subsidise airlines to the region, but we prefer to have a commercial relationship with the airlines, ones like that with we have with JetBlue, which works with us to market the destination.”

Potential earners
On the intra-Caribbean travel routes there was 5.5% growth, with 400,000 travellers moving around the region during the first six months of 2015.

Liat’s chief executive, David Evans, told Caribbean Intelligence© “It’s a market with quite an amount of potential.”

He said that Liat had upgraded its fleet over the last two years. But as he explained, taxes can cost the traveller up to 40% to 50% of the airline ticket.

Partnerships with other regionally-based airlines to achieve greater efficiency and coverage of the Caribbean are coming, Mr Evans told Caribbean Intelligence©.

“While we cannot talk about those alliances right now, they are coming soon,” he said.

He said that, at the moment, Liat has strategic alliances with international carriers such as British Airways and Virgin and others to move passengers around the region from their international arrivals but the internal partnerships are long overdue.

The LGBT market
Facilitating travel into the region by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) community is an option for the Caribbean to increase its international market share.

However, it is an option that poses challenges to the church-going, Bible-believing Caribbean community.

The market is a lucrative one, says David Paisley, senior research director of the San Francisco-based travel agency Community Marketing Insights.

“The Caribbean is a perfect fit for LBGT travel; but our clients must be assured of safety and not be discriminated against, and not only by laws but by social practices,” Mr Paisley said.

His research shows that the LGBT community travels more than the general population; they spend more on hotels, restaurants and shopping than other tourists.

“We have heard of homophobic societies in the Caribbean and I don’t want to call names, but where we see those tendencies and feel threatened, our travellers will not be coming,” Paisley told Caribbean Intelligence©.

There have been a few incidents in the past with members of the LGBT community that have caused a measure of concern in one or two Caribbean countries.

CTO Secretary General Hugh Riley told Caribbean Intelligence© that “no business can afford to ignore a significant market segment”.

He added: “Our [the CTO’s] responsibility is always to source the expertise, present the facts and provide enough information on which our members can make an informed decision.”

Weekend packages
Short breaks packed with entertainment, aimed at the generation born between 1980 and 1998, are seen by Leah Marville of My Destination Arrivals as yet another option to land more tourists around the region.

The weekends consist of a blur of entertainment and experiences which can be captured on camera and become talking points for the travellers, who travel at weekends and head back to their jobs on Monday.

“There is something absolutely captivating about us… My Destination Weekends seeks to capture and immortalise experiences for those who take the trip,” says Ms Marville, a model and businesswoman.

But increasing numbers of arrivals is not the be all and end all.

Mr Sealey says the benefits of tourism must be counted in jobs, in the development of communities, the protection of the environment and the retention of a large chunk of what the tourists spend in getting to the Caribbean and having memorable vacations in the region.
Source: Caribbean Intelligence Magazine – Posted November 2015; retrieved December 6, 2017 from:

The movement behind the book Go Lean … Caribbean seeks to reboot the economic engines of the Caribbean member-states. Tourism is the region’s primary economic driver, but it is inadequate for providing the needs of the people in the region. We must do better. This foregoing magazine article about the Caribbean Tourist Organization (CTO) identified some defects … and solutions in 2015. It is now 2017; unfortunately, the identified defects are still defective; the hoped-for solutions, never materialized. See the introductory VIDEO about the CTO State of the Industry Conference in the Appendix below.

These same issues have also been addressed in other Go Lean commentaries:

Can the CTO be counted on to provide the need empowerments to elevate the Caribbean economic engines?

No! It is the assessment in the Go Lean book that the current stewards for regional tourism is inadequate. The book quotes (Page 3):

Many people love their homelands and yet still begrudgingly leave; this is due mainly to the lack of economic opportunities. The Caribbean has tried, strenuously, over the decades, to diversify their economy away from the mono-industrial trappings of tourism, and yet tourism is still the primary driver of the economy. Prudence dictates that the Caribbean nations expand and optimize their tourism products, but also look for other opportunities for economic expansion. The requisite investment of the resources (time, talent, treasuries) for this goal may be too big for any one Caribbean member-state. Rather, shifting the responsibility to a region-wide, professionally-managed, deputized technocracy will result in greater production and greater accountability. This deputized agency is the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU).

The CTO represents for-profit hotels and resorts. The needed solutions for the Caribbean cannot be profit-driven. It must pursue features like collective bargaining and the Greater Goodthe greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong” (by philosopher Jeremy Bentham; 1748 – 1832). So the Go Lean book presents an alternative; it serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU). The CU is designed to be a technocratic intergovernmental entity that shepherds economic growth for the Caribbean region; in other words, Increase Tourism Market Share. The goal is to reboot and optimize the region’s economic, security and governing engines. There are ways for individual member-states to improve their tourism product, but there needs to be a regional focus to accomplish this goal.

The Go Lean motivation is the Greater Good (Page 37).

In total, the Go Lean/CU roadmap will employ strategies, tactics and implementations to impact its prime directives; identified with the following 3 statements:

The Go Lean book provides 370-pages of turn-by-turn instructions on “how” to adopt new community ethos, plus the strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to execute so as to reboot, reform and transform the societal engines of Caribbean society. One advocacy in optimizing the tourism landscape is to foster infrastructure that is too big for any one member-state alone; consider some specific plans, excerpts and headlines from the book on Page 190 entitled:

10 Ways to Enhance Tourism in the Caribbean Region

1 Lean-in for the Caribbean Single Market
The economic engine associated with the CU will provide the infrastructural needs to improve the tourism product for all member-states. The plan is to expand trade treaties with other countries and regional blocs to target markets and languages outside of North America. One goal is to expand “snowbirds” traffic, as these have been a consistent revenue source. The CU will provide the support services like translations, medical and transport (ferries for RV’s) to augment this special market.
2 Special Festival Events
Promote multi-day events in the style of Sturgis (see Appendix J on Page 288), Coachella, and Milwaukee’s Summer-Fest. The CU will liberalize the loitering laws, allow for camping & car/van sleeping, public showers, food trucks, open canister for alcohol, etc. (Jamaica’s SunFest is a start). To facilitate traffic, jurisdictional governments should grant temporary motorcycle licenses and arranged for optimal shipping logistics.
3 Fairgrounds/Amusement Parks Empowerment Zones
Encourage the establishment and promotion of Fairgrounds/Amusement Parks (Disney, Sea World, Busch Gardens-like attractions) that can bring in vast number of visitors. The empowerment zones get special tax incentives and building code variances, or managed as Self Governing Entities (SGE) in which they are beholden only to the CU jurisdiction. Many US and European theme parks are only open during the warm seasons, the opposite can be advocated in the Caribbean region, where theme parks may only be open during the “high season”, or only when cruise ships are in port.
4 Dynamic Sea-lifts / Air lifts
Grant temporary licenses to shipping (ferries) and air charters to facilitate the transport of Festival participants. The goal is to move huge number of guests in and out readily. The US Passport Card (used for travel to Mexico and Canada) should suffice the travel documents for these events. These logistics can be modeled after Ramadan travel to Mecca.
5 Excess Inventory Auction
The CU buys from the Hotels (with warrants) and sells the Excess Inventory of Hotels rooms to the highest Bidder to combine with Air, Sea, Car and Tour Packages. (Much like The CU uses e-commerce strategies and tactics (web, phone and text messaging) in their campaigns. The hospitality sources should drill down, beyond hotels, to also include bed-and-breakfast and other certified (CU ranked & rated) home-sharing arrangements.
6 Medical Tourism
Hospitals and medical clinics will be installed on SGE campuses, designed for alternative and experimental treatments. These will attract medical tourists to come for extended stays, many outfitted with monitoring and medical alert devices to engage designated medical personnel in case of emergencies; thus minimizing stress on domestic facilities.
7 Eco-Tourism Promotions Board
8 Sports Tourism
9 Cruise Line Passenger Smart Card Currency
The CU will collectively bargain with the cruise lines to deploy electronic “purses” and allow the Caribbean Central Bank to settle the transactions. This incites more spending at the ports-of-call. Smart cards feature more functionality like physical access, locator service & photo ID. The cards can also offer contactless transactions, like “tap and go”.
10 Tourist Hate Crime Sentence Extender

The Go Lean book details that the Caribbean can create …

30,000 direct jobs from opening new markets, creating new opportunities and new traffic; starting new sharing options
9,000 direct jobs from Event staff and Festivals at CU Fairgrounds
1,000 direct jobs from managing, promoting UNESCO World Heritage Sites

These are direct jobs; there is also the reality of indirect jobs – unrelated service and attendant functions – at a 3.75 multiplier rate would add another 150,000 jobs. That makes a total of 190,000 jobs.

This is how the roadmap works: it identifies industries, dissects the inherent deficiencies, and proposes solution to reboot and optimize it, then it harvests the multiples of jobs resulting from the plan. Tourism is the current dominant industry; the goal is to “stand on the shoulders” of previous accomplishments, add infrastructure not possible by just one member-state alone and then reap the benefits. Imagine this manifestation in just this one new strategy: inter-island ferries that connect all islands for people, cars and goods.

There have been a number of blog-commentaries by the Go Lean movement that highlighted economic opportunities embedded in regional tourism initiatives. See a sample list here: “Must Love Dogs”  – Providing K9 Solutions for Better Tourism Security Lessons from Colorado – Common Sense of Eco-Tourism Sports Tourism and Pro-Surfing Medical Tourism and Plastic Surgeries Art Tourism and Community-sanctioned Murals Snowbird Tourism and RV Ferries Deploying regional currency and e-Payment solutions Eco-Tourism and World Heritage Sites

In summary, the Caribbean need jobs; our job creation dysfunction is so acute that our people are fleeing the homeland to find job opportunities abroad. Tourism-related jobs, while not the highest paying, could be stable, reliable and providential. More options and deliveries would help us to make our homeland a better place to live, work and play.

This is a Big Deal; this is how to grow the economy: create jobs; create businesses; retain people; foster new opportunities; learn from past mistakes and accomplishments. Tourism is just one industry in the Go Lean roadmap. While this one can result in 190,000 new jobs, the other industries (16) show even more promise: shipbuilding, pipelines, frozen foods, etc. The net result: 2.2 million new jobs.

Let’s do this … for the Greater Good.

All Caribbean stakeholders – residents and visitors – are urged to lean-in to this roadmap for change … and empowerment. This plan is conceivable, believable and achievable. 🙂

Sign the petition to lean-in for this roadmap for the Caribbean Union Trade Federation.

Download the book Go Lean … Caribbean – now!



Curacao Tourist Board

Published on Jul 7, 2015 – State of the Industry Conference 2015 Curaçao will host SOTIC from 21- 23 October 2015 at the World Trade Center in Willemstad. CTO Business meetings will be held October 20 -21, 2015.

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