Tourism operators in Barbados and the rest of the region are being told to stop fighting tourism industry “disruptors” and start forming partnerships with them instead.
Singling out the increasingly popular Airbnb network, Uber and TripAdvisor as some of the modern day disruptors to the industry, airline consultant Tom Bacon said it was time the sharing economy be allowed to operate comfortably alongside traditional models.
Bacon was speaking at a marketing conference during Caribbean Week New York which ended on Friday.
“So I guess my advice is, you can go and put up a fight, but look at what the market needs and look at what the disruptor is actually offering the market that you can’t or you can’t do as well as they can, and see if there are [opportunities] where you can make money by supplying the disruptor with certain things he can’t do as well. So try to take advantage of the marketplace, make more money by partnering and collaborating with a disruptor,” advised Bacon.
Recalling some major changes in the airline industry in the 1990’s as a result of the explosion of low cost airlines, Bacon said the tourism industry on a whole is currently being disrupted in the areas of product offering, technology and processes.
“The bottom line is that we all need to change. The marketplace is very dynamic and ultimately what we all need to do is serve the customer better. So if that means that some of us can find a way of doing something better with our disruptive partners, then see if you can take advantage of that and work together as opposed to fighting,” he said.
Official in Barbados including government ministers, have been warning that the importance of the increasingly lucrative online marketplace Airbnb to the local economy could no longer be ignored.
This comes as tourism officials explore the possibility of legislation to regulate the online community marketplace here so they too could pay taxes and adhere to certain rules.
The Airbnb hosts here have since launched the Barbados Entrepreneurship & Tourism Association to advocate on their behalf and give an input into pending legislation and other development relating to the tourism industry.
During a media conference at Caribbean Week, president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Karolin Troubetzkoy said while that organization is all for supporting other businesses, it has been advocating for a “fair playing field”.
She said the CHTA is urging governments in the region to “address the issues of licensing, registering and taxation for Airbnb”.
Troubetzkoy also urged industry players to “wake up” and see that “it is not business as usual” with the advent of new and innovative models and ways of conducting business.
“The wake up call for the tourism industry at large is that it is not business as usual anymore. We just have to come to grips that they have come to the table and they will stay there. So the question is how do we all work together,” she said, while questioning whether some travellers would visit the Caribbean if the Airbnb type accommodation were not available.
“So really I think we just have to get our house in order. It is not business as usual. We are affected by many things on the internet – online. I think that hotels just have to also look very carefully how they can grow their marketshare and speak to the visitors,” she advised.
Regional destinations were also urged to pay close attention to the different types of travellers and ensure they have specific niche areas to cater each of them.