By Ian Francis
The success of Kirani James at the recently concluded Olympic Games in London is definitely a proud moment for Grenadians at home and in the Diaspora. His impact and success are recognized and will always be remembered. Having said so, it is unfortunate that the fumbling Thomas Junta has embarked upon a strategy in the guise of tourism marketing to exploit his success. Such opportunistic and callous exploitation is reckless and most recognize that using James as a flagship for the revival of the Grenada tourism industry is lawless and will not yield the intended achievables.
Ian Francis resides in Toronto and is a frequent contributor on Caribbean affairs. He is a former Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tourism remains a very important sector of the Grenada economy and will always be targeted as a topic for public policy discussions and its future sustainability. The strategies and efforts required for the revival of the Grenada tourist industry requires much more than Kirani, nice white sand beaches, good rum and local foods. These are all glaring enticements throughout the Caribbean region as efforts are made to grab this critical foreign currency exchange.
Other interesting and illogical points being put forward by those who do not understand the broader picture, are suggestions that any written critical analysis about Grenada tourism could ultimately impact on an NNP electoral victory. This simplistic and dumb view is so far removed from objectivity that the proponents of this position should just desist from their idle, stupid and illogical thoughts. Addressing tourism issues in Grenada and alluding to James’s appointment will not have any political impact on the New National Party (NNP). The party and its constituency caretaker are on record as expressing congratulations to Ambassador James.
However, any writer(s) or analysts associated to the NNP should not shrug their responsibilities. They are entitled to express an independent opinion and those harbouring such fallacies of possible of victimization and incursion must clearly understand that it won’t occur. Their recognition, significance, and understanding about public policy issues is doomed, unrealistic and fails to understand the basic premise.
These telephonic and internet cryptics must understand that while they might not be in agreement with many of the views expressed about Grenada and the region, it should not diminish their thoughts and committed values about the region. We need to move on.
Having commented on the above, it is fair and reasonable for me to admit that I am one of the many skeptics and will continue to express my views and feelings as a true national of the nation. This is not uncompromising. Life has changed.
Marketing and Product Promotion
Marketing and product promotion are two key essentials in the approach to enticing visitors to our nation. While we are well known for sandy and white beaches, supported by a modern international airport, and an appointment of an Olympic gold medalist as a tourism ambassador, there are other critical initiatives to be undertaken that will result in positive change of the industry.
Tourism policy analysts must first understand that travelling trends in foreign countries that produce travellers are changing. These would be visitors are affected by the economic downturn and other economic challenges that ultimately force them to adopt alternate travel methods. This would include choices in travel, accommodation, meals, which are usually described as an inclusive passage. Cuba, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Jamaica and others can offer these packages. However, Grenada seems not to be a player in this area. Therefore, Grenada does not provide a true visitor alternative as there are too many barriers to overcome.
Another major setback is the weak marketing plan being implemented abroad. Intended visitors do not want to be bombarded with useless information about nice beaches and Ambassador James’s historical tourism site. In my view, the development, implementation and success of an effective marketing and production plan require a much broader understanding of overseas travelling trends by those responsible for directing the tourism marketing process abroad.
Information Technology Tools
Since David demitted as minister of tourism, his successor has touted the need and necessity for Grenada to fully embrace and utilize information technology tools to promote tourism. Unfortunately, the new minister seems to have been day dreaming. There is no new approach to tourism marketing and, like his faltering boss Thomas, both have placed the future success of Grenada tourism in the hands of a 20-year-old 400 metre gold medal winner. It shows clearly the ongoing lingering inability of the NDC Junta to develop and implement sustainable approaches to improve tourism.
Sports Tourism Marketing
The Thomas junta intention about sport marketing is a step in the right direction but requires major surgery. Unfortunately, there is a misunderstanding between Vincent and Grenada tourist marketers abroad that sports tourism marketing is an area that the independent sports stadium might wish to look at. Given the recent enthusiasm of Vincent and Thomas about contribution, it is important to move forward from the dreaming stage to the planning, implementation and sustainability of this public sector initiative. There is potential and its success could augur very well by ensuring that the stadium becomes self sufficient and not dependent on the administration's ability to contribute an annual government contribution.
The development and sustainability of sports marketing in Grenada is a very viable initiative and should be aggressively pursued by the government. The facilities exist but there will be need to strengthen its infrastructure. However, the government must commit itself to the notion that the tourism sector consists of many players. It is important to articulate such a position, as many in the Grenada tourism sector continue to hold the narrow and unrealistic view that they have a monopoly on tourism in Grenada and government's participation should only be giving industry incentives.
A successful sports marketing program in Grenada requires two critical components. A well furbished accommodation structure is necessary. This should include standard and acceptable accommodation; catering facilities; security and communication facilities. Secondly, the Stadium Corporation must develop and implement a strong marketing and outreach plan. It is important to differentiate that sports marketing should be undertaken independently and reliance on weak-kneed tourist representatives abroad should be avoided.
Change and marketing strategies for the sale or attraction to Grenada tourism products require a radical and fundamental change. Tourism marketing is not about an Olympic hero; white sand beaches and grinning white teeth. Tourism in the region has become very competitive and foremost in the competition is affordability and price. Unfortunately, Grenada does not provide this choice or option.
Finally, the Curacao meeting was interesting and Grenada's begging for more cruise stops were in order. However, the recent closing of La Source hotel and job losses, will no doubt impact severely on families and unemployment.
The Grenada economy is already is shambles and it is interesting to see how Dr Vincent, Thomas and Burke will handle the La Source issue. With respect to LIME, maybe it is time for the government to nationalize all telecommunication and energy institutions in the nation.
There is no reason why these institutions cannot continue with effective management and production. Many local Grenadians are currently contributing to effective management of these institutions. The only thing that is required is changing their ongoing post colonial attitudes.