By Adrian Loveridge
Trawling through the Internet, when it has been available this last week, I have been almost overwhelmed by the sheer number of beautifully presented and creative local world class websites, clearly built by what appear to be mostly small Barbadian entrepreneurs. Often with stunning images both in still and video format, frequently highlighted by outstanding graphics.
Adrian Loveridge has spent 46 years in the tourism industry across 67 countries, as a travel agent, tour director, tour operator and for the last 24 years as a small hotel owner on Barbados. He served as a director of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, and as chairman of the Marketing Committee. He also served as a director of the Barbados Tourism Authority and is a frequent writer on tourism issues
To me, it raises the question why any private or public sector entities feel the need to venture overseas for this expertise, which is plainly available on our doorstep.
Follow this to a logical conclusion and it is an absolute wonder why so many websites, especially in tourism, look sad, neglected, out-of date and lack the dynamic attraction that is a prerequisite these days to compete on a global stage.
The quality and resolution of images are especially critical. Thirty-plus years ago, as a tour operator, I recall spending hours and sometimes days with renowned photographers attempting to capture the ‘right’ picture that would dominate the front cover of a holiday brochure. These would be placed on the shelves in thousands of travel agents throughout the UK.
The exact placement in a prominent position at eye level was absolutely vital to ensure maximum pick-up and would directly influence the eventual level of bookings.
Thankfully, three decades on, the internet and social media have almost eliminated what usually ended up as tons of waste paper; however, the importance of quality images remains, in whichever format.
I remember asking a senior Thomson official at the time, what the brochure collection to booking ratio was and he responded, 50 to 1.
So how do we bring this abundance of locally available creative talent together with the ‘managers’ to elevate these many less than impressive websites?
An improved web presence also has a direct correlation to revenue generated and profits in tourism. The larger percentage of direct bookings attracted at rack rates obviously mean higher profits, some of which it is logical, should be used to enhance your position in the marketplace.
Our ‘tech’ expert recently reported that there has been an increasing use of mobile devices (phones and tablets) to research and book travel and this is highlighted by the leading private sector destination site, Barbados.org where 48 percent of users are currently using a mobile device to gain access.
She also points out that if managers had a more quantitative view of the value of their website they would invest more in improving, maintaining and promoting them.
Tools like Google Analytics, which is free for most businesses where it is possible to do so, down to a transaction (booking) level.
Adding that it is just as important to understand and target your customer base, by geography, browsing habits, way of accessing the site, etc.
My sincere hope is under the new Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. that all these objectives will become everyday common practice and our policymakers draw on this incredible fountain of available talent and ability, who are clearly not being fully utilised at this time.