Regional officials have been told they need to get on board with the technological revolution that is already significantly impacting the global tourism industry.
Addressing the Sixth Annual Sustainability Conference in St Eustatius this week, sustainability consultant Elizabeth Thompson warned that it was no longer be business as usual in the vital sector, with travellers now able to compare countries and product offerings online before deciding where their next trip would be.
However, she lamented that the region had been slow in adapting to the changes.
“In some countries the product souvenir offerings and entertainment are not sufficiently differentiated or interesting, facilities are tired and worn out and need injections of capital to modernize, refurbish and revitalize what is their offer to visitors,” Thompson said, while pointing out that new niche areas had developed.
Highlighting the Airbnb online marketplace and hospitality service, which enables people to lease or rent short-term accommodation, and the global transportation technology company, Uber, which allows for easy access to transportation services, Thompson warned that such businesses were likely to “deepen” instead of disappear, while suggesting that the region creates its “own new trends that will help to shape the market and maximize revenues”.
“I have not heard any discussion in the tourism sector on how robotics and artificial intelligence or increasing automation and related issues will drive the reshaping of the tourism industry,” Thompson said, while warning that “unless the Caribbean can anticipate and get in front of such trends to influence how they will impact us, we will forever be in reaction mode, buffeted by development changes and trying to play catch up in a world where people have Avatars and more of an online presence”.
Given the increasing use of technology, Thompson further challenged regional tourism operators to offer travel enthusiasts a virtual experience, which she said could yield “substantial revenues”.