Thursday, April 9, 2015

Caribbean tourism must reflect changing demands ....... pink $$$ anyone?



After years of idling in the doldrums, visitor arrivals to some parts of the region are increasing rapidly, travellers are spending more, and the yield for hoteliers is increasing. Moreover, as demand soars in Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and some smaller Caribbean destinations like Aruba, it is getting much harder for visitors to find a quality hotel room at short notice. Recent figures by the tourism ministry reflect good increases but those only reflect a lower section of the US market in particular while the ever increasing and robust if not bold LGBT market is yet to be tapped into.

Gay marriage rights are almost covering the 50+ states in the US, The UK has already moved in that direction and the EU is quite clear as to such rights and state benefits. Correspondingly local travel interests in those jurisdictions have adjusted rapidly to meet their demands and while LGBTQ family goes mainstream they have more disposable income and on the face of it seeking relaxative environments outside their countries, honeymoons anyone?

The Business of Tourism - Caribbean tourism must reflect changing demands

Cuba apart, which is a special case following the virtual freeing of US travel restrictions late last year, this rapid increase in demand for a Caribbean vacation largely reflects the fact that disposable income in the main feeder markets in North America and parts of Europe is increasing as economic recovery occurs and travellers begin to feel more financially secure. It is also the case that some Caribbean destinations such as Jamaica have again become hot in the eyes of those who establish on social media and in print the image of an aspirational destination.

see this previous post:
Cuba Makes Progress in Sex Reassignment Surgery ... expects communist party to accept LGBT rights 2012

Cuban(s) enjoys new benefit of free sex-change operation 2011


Cuba Looking to Become Gay Travel Hotspot 2013

Cuba's already forward thinking treatment of LGBT matters especially transgenderism the recent changes of US foreign policy and courting by the federal government when the trappings are finally gone the flood gates will open. Medical tourism especially may grow there given the above posts hints to free reassignment surgery and their overall state healthcare.

But for the most successful Caribbean markets, there are also other factors at work.

The recent surge in visitor demand and indications that even the lower-cost coming summer season is building well reflect better marketing, product improvements, and new airlift that has resulted in improved access, for instance, from the countries of Latin America and from Scandinavia. It also in part, reflects the ability of lower-cost air carriers to pass on to the growing numbers of visitors using their services, the savings they are making as the price of aviation fuel falls.

What this means is that the industry in many Caribbean tourism destinations is not only making a significant contribution to national economic recovery, but again demonstrating its often-ignored significance to the wider Caribbean economy.

At its most basic, this is good news, but it also raises interesting questions as to where the region's product is headed now that sustainable growth again seems possible.

For some, renewed demand is simply about a return to business as usual, the end to heavy discounting of room rates, and the Caribbean again taking its 'rightful place' as the world's paramount warm-water destination.

Competitive marketplace

However, for those who are more thoughtful, it is about recognising that during the years of stagnation, the global marketplace for tourism has changed, becoming intensely competitive, and that the future will require adapting the product and the tourism offering so that present success is sustainable.

For those willing to look over the horizon, the issue now is about reorienting and developing the Caribbean tourism offering to reflect changing international demand for the authentic, quality service and cuisine; and even when the price is high, value for money. It reflects, too, an understanding that a significant part of the higher spending end of the market is looking for much more than just a luxury hotel and a beach in the tropics.

This will mean a sea change in the way that some in the industry and government in the region think. It is about more than the normal default position of rebranding. It requires a new approach involving both the industry and government reconceptualising tourism, hotels and the tourism product in ways that make it globally competitive and ensures that a visitor feels that the region and a destination is special and wants to return.

This will not be easy as it requires properties, restaurants, attractions, and if they are able to become better corporate citizens, the internationally branded chain hotels, to think in a vernacular way and come together to renew and develop the product in a manner that promotes the uniqueness of the Caribbean nations in which they are located.

The old practice of the LGBT market having to be engaged most discreetly as they do come but under most private arrangements often in ultra private villas for security reasons. Outward displays of affection is a no no even if you're a tourist (local culture may often overlook certain things) 

Tolerant industry

"Our hotels have always welcomed. We don't necessarily place ads advertising that we accept the LGBT, but we would never turn back persons because of their sexual preferences," said a Negril hotelier, who added that there is really no difference from how the LGBT market was treated by the average hotel 20 years ago.

"The industry has always been more tolerant than the rest of the society," said the hotelier, adding that there are many gays working in the tourism sector, so it's no big news.

Another hotelier says Jamaica is not ready for this market, which is a big mistake. "I have tried to target them in the past, but I have given up, because it's a hard sell, particularly because of our homophobic reputation," said the hotelier.

She said if members of the LGBT community were to turn up at her property they wouldn't be turned back. She admits that the market has huge potential of pumping foreign exchange into the island's coffers.

also see:


Jamaica missing out on gay billions, says J'can scholar 2008 from the Jamaica Observer

Peace and tolerance

H

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