The Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) is working on a new strategy to boost the island’s tourism product, making it more authentic and unique and eventually roping in thousands of locals to showcase Bajan experiences.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY in the Grand Cayman where the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) and the International Aviation Transport Association (IATA) conference is being held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, chief executive officer of the BTMI Dr Jens Thraenhart said the eastern Caribbean island had more to offer than sun, sea and sand.
He said the new project, called The Bajan Experiences Collection, would not only make the island’s offerings stand out, but it will also make way for communities to benefit more from the tourism industry.
“Barbados shouldn’t be a seasonal destination, it should be an all-round destination. The fact that it is not is an opportunity and I believe we can solve that by repositioning Barbados from the beach only,” said Thraenhart, who was one of the five-member delegation representing the island at the event.
“The beaches are beautiful but beaches are everywhere- in Thailand, Marissa (Sri Lanka) and so on. So I think Barbados has more to offer; not only is it safe and has good infrastructure but it also has diverse experiences, it has culture.
“So we are looking to create an inclusive platform. How can that tourism dollar trickle in a way that everyone can contribute and be part of that ecosystem? We want to curate small businesses and social enterprises. Those are the ones that have these unique experiences.”
Thraenhart said businesses such as rumshops and small eateries that have an ambiance unique to a particular village, that only people with local knowledge are aware of, are some of the establishments the BTMI was seeking to curate. He said tourists wanted to experience something they never did before and see the richness of the island’s culture.
According to him the BTMI wanted to work in partnership with those businesses and help put them on the map and elevate their standards of operations.
“We have them in five categories- stay, shop, taste, do and tour and I want to have a special subsection for rumshops. We want to curate them and implement a marketing system where we can give them tools to help build campaigns. On the other hand, we also want to create this for individual experiences; for people who may have a passion to cook or a photographer who takes pictures on weekends or if you have a grandfather who has a little fishing boat.
“We want everyone to be a part of this ecotourism. But no one knows where to find these experiences. The tourists may stay at Sandy Lane or The Sandpiper or the Hilton but the Bajan experiences give them a stamp of approval.”
Thraenhart said he wanted the curated businesses to be sustainable and adopt virtual elements such as producing online content and engaging people in online activities.
So far, the BTMI has curated 80 establishments and Thraenhart said that on an individual level there was room to curate thousands of individuals who had something interesting and fun to offer tourists.
The CTO and IATA conference is a regional activity where Caribbean ministers of tourism and delegates meet and discuss the state of the tourism industry, regional transport, sustainability and other issues.