CI Shorts: Caribbean Tourism - When less is more
It seems that many seasoned globetrotters have had enough of the traditional Caribbean holiday. Coverage of this year’s World Travel Market, held in London in early November 2019, centred on themes such as “island hideaways you didn’t know existed” and “off the beaten track”.
In an age when simplicity, sustainability and “austerity chic” are all the rage, people are being urged to move beyond sun, sand and sea for the 2019 winter holiday season. And the Caribbean stands ready to deliver suitably “authentic” experiences, as Caribbean Intelligence has been finding out:
- Top-selling British tabloid the Mail on Sunday provided a typical headline of this current style of travel journalism in early November: Gems of the Caribbean (that you've never heard of): Revealing the tiny, tranquil isles that tourists seldom discover. The article featured the British Virgin Islands, described as “a cluster of 60 soaring volcanic peaks and coral outcrops that barely make it above the surf”, and Little Cayman (“one coastal road and more iguanas than people... extremely laid-back and quiet”). It billed Nevis as “gentle, charming and the Caribbean’s most historic-feeling island - it measures just six miles by eight”.
- On social media, popular travel blogger Suzanne Jones, who uses the Twitter handle of The Travel Bunny, has written about “adventure and adrenaline activities” in St Kitts. She posted: “Dreamy white sand beaches are heaven for sun worshippers, there’s natural beauty for nature lovers and a strong heritage for history buffs. And there’s more. Much more. St Kitts is an island of adventure, activity and adrenaline. I had five island adventures in St Kitts. Hold onto your hat…”
- Similar blurbs on social media include: Want a remote island destination that hasn't been overtaken by tourists? Here are a few more to add to the list and Having the distinction of being a less-visited, beautiful, slow-paced, warm-weather destination, Grenada is a lovely paradise for relaxation, brilliant white sand beaches, stunning blue water and a bit of culture.
- Mexican travel company Viajes Caribe Maja drew on the image of getting away from it all, Caribbean-style. One part of its latest promotional campaign read: Go where WiFi is weak and rum is strong.
- There’s a reason behind this change of emphasis. According to travel industry insider website Travel Mole, a survey released at the World Travel Market (WTM) indicated that travel professionals are giving added focus to millennials and the older members of Gen Z.
- A survey by PR firm The Lucre Group found that travel professionals are going after that demographic via social media channels, digital advertising and PR – in that order. Travel Mole reported that “WTM professionals are predicting that unsustainable travel will decline during 2020 in line with the continuing rise of conscientious travellers. Holidaymakers will prioritise more eco-friendly modes of travel, alongside frequency and distance, whilst actively seeking more 'off the beaten track' and 'authentic' experiences.”
- We at Caribbean Intelligence have not figured out what fake tourism is. However, “authentic tourism” is described in the following way by the website Responsible Travel: “Authenticity is simultaneously the most talked about trend in travel, and the thing tourism marketers are most nervous and unsure about defining. The most common opinion from those I've spoken to in the industry seems to be that authentic is what you feel is authentic.”
- As far back as 2013, Dominica’s respected cultural historian Lennox Honychurch outlined his view on authentic tourism. Dr Honychurch told the travel website Caribbean Journal: “Here in the Caribbean, we increasingly market ourselves as the genuine article. We have sites related to the real pirates of the Caribbean, real rainforests, real coral reefs and real people taking part in traditional cultures of the islands that have evolved over centuries with the coming together of a variety of ethnic groups.”
- Back at the 2019 World Travel Market, Cuba found a new way to tap into the “authentic tourism” label. Cuban Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero told a news conference that his country offered “a safe and authentic tourist destination”. Taking his message also to China, he said that Cuba was not only a place to enjoy sun and beach, but also to learn about its culture and heritage. He told the Chinese that the economic difficulties caused by the American embargo had not stopped the island consolidating its tourism sector to help its hard-hit economy.
- Trinidad’s smaller sister isle of Tobago showed that it knew how to make a song-and-dance about authenticity, as the WTM photo (above) indicates. It featured a drummer and pan man ensemble playing against a headline strap of Tobago being “Unspoilt, Untouched, Undiscovered”.
- Jamaica also took the message of small and authentic to events around the WTM. Jamaican Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said that his country was going beyond the development of hotel rooms. He told a tourism conference in London: “Small tourism players, which I refer to as Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMTEs) are the backbone of the industry. It is through their creativity we have been able to tap into the passion points of our visitors whether through food or entertainment, to give authentic experiences to our visitors.”
So leave that beach towel behind and get ready for that authentic tourism experience this winter!
By Jabari Fraser