Every fibre in my body tells me that ‘we’ should be doing a great deal more in terms of creative marketing and product quality control, if there is any remote chance that our largely tired and lacklustre tourism industry is going to make any meaningful recovery in the short to medium term. And when I say that, I do not mean dramatically increasing the spend of the national marketing budget as clearly ‘we’ are already having difficultly paying the bills.
Apart from some rare exceptions, we seem to have largely lost touch with the most important group of people that sustains the entire industry, the customer or visitor. With the huge explosion of the social media sites, we can no longer think that if we ignore a problem, or try to sweep it under the carpet, that it will simply go away. You only have to spend a few minutes on one of the more popular social media sites to see that a high proportion of those posting observations and experiences have real worries in what direction ‘we’ are heading. This maybe dismissed as a worldwide phenomenon and shared with other tourism dependent nations, but it certainly doesn’t help fill hotel beds and keep our people employed.
Personally, I would like to see two or three of the existing BTA staff, form a quality control monitoring department whose primary or even sole function would be to track comments hourly that are made on the various travel websites, and after a thorough appraisal, respond accordingly in a timely manner. This should not be viewed just in a negative light, but could also be used to thank the many visitors who make positive comments and encourage them to return.
Like many I have heard the frequently used phrase that ‘tourism is our business’, almost to a point when the normal response is to cringe, as there appears to be so many basic things that we are just not taking taking care of. A simple example was a recent topic posted on the Barbados Forum section of TripAdvisor (TA) entitled ‘Disappointed with the Gap’. A visitor raised a number of concerns, which in his words ‘ruined our holiday’. Issues that just about every business in the Gap have known about for years and that have remained mostly unresolved.
After comments were made by 180 contributors, the topic was closed down by the site administrator stating ‘TA staff removed this post because it did not meet posting guidelines’. But not before enormous potential damage was created.
Thankfully, it was also read by senior members of the BTA, after another regular contributor contacted them. The head of the Quality Control department responded and at least one of the points raised, poor lighting, will now be addressed.
However, any delays in dealing with, or recognising negative situations and incidents that detrimentally affect our visitors, may help form a view that they are not paramount in our thoughts and planning.