COMMENTARY: Rethinking tourism; change is better than more of the same

Was the World Tourism Day an occasion to celebrate? Then why was the theme “Rethink Tourism” attached to it?  According to the Secretary-General of UNWTO -UN World Tourism Organization-: “the World Tourism Day has always been a chance to come together and celebrate the many and varied accomplishments of our sector.” And so, it appeared that everyone started celebrating and sending out press releases about successes of the past.

But……, in the same address the Secretary General also noted: “However, this year especially we also recognize that we cannot go back to the old ways of working. We must Rethink Tourism.” And that was something missing in all the press releases. Rethinking means considering something, especially in order to change it.

Some authorities and organizations claim that they have a five-year plan for tourism development. It is somewhere in a drawer, as if it is an insurance policy to be kept in a safe place. Good years bring good things. But making a five-year plan counting on five consecutive good years is risky. Nothing to be proud of to claim having such a plan. A vision is okay, but a plan may become questionable when one starts with the ‘what-ifs’. One can plan the development of infrastructure, accommodations and technicalities related to tourism.

One just cannot plan the behavior of people abroad. It cannot even be predicted. Tourists are individuals from a different country. They are often much depending on what is happening in their own country and environment. We have seen that in the past, whether it was recession or pandemic. Current inflation and energy prices are a concern. And then there can be trends that have some influence on their consumer behavior. One just cannot plan on their numbers for the next five years; it’s wishful thinking.

What can be planned for sure are the basics what they like. In principle, they are all looking forward to spending their time in paradise on Earth. A place of exceptional happiness, pleasure, delight, contentment, and fulfillment. That is where the challenges begin, and where rethinking tourism comes in. It is a challenge because the competition will try to do the same to attract them to their paradise concept. Therefore, the planning should include outdoing the competition as for what they are offering now and intend to offer in the future.

Destination or tourism product development should start with trying to get on their bucket list. A bucket list is a list of experiences one wants to have before dying. It comes from the phrase “kicking the bucket”, which simply means in one dramatical word, dying. Typically, a bucket lists always have at least one ‘the best life has to offer’. Be the one.

Then, the actual experience at the bucket-list destination should be such that the desire is created to make the visit to the destination part of the lifestyle. Thus, cultivating buckaroos, the iconic figure of a cowpuncher, into loyal repeat visitors. A lifestyle typically reflects an individual’s attitudes, way of life, values, or world view. The only regret from a stay at a destination should be that the visitor couldn’t stay longer!

The worst one can do is planning the destination as a day-care facility for tourists. Don’t create hustle- and-bustle attractions in a tourism product, if that not something that belongs in paradise. The most important thing is to have unique offerings. Unique is something that others cannot claim to have. Authenticity and heritage come to mind. Natural environment is an essential part of Paradise.

Swaying palm trees are absolutely not unique enough to be mentioned. Palm trees love tropical climates, anywhere in the world. Nothing unique about them. Amazingly the orange flamboyant trees and the purple gardenias are never mentioned.  There are forty or more beautiful tropical plants with flowers in many different colors including red, orange, purple, pink, white, etc. that can make one feel like being in paradise on warm sunny days. But how many Caribbean islands actually have a department to cultivate flowering plants and trees in public places?

What about ‘Guestocology’? You will not find the word in the dictionary. It is the study of the people for whom services are provided. It is a term and originates from the same man who said: “You don’t build it for yourself. You know what the people want, and you build it for them”, Walt Disney. Make no mistake, tourism or destination development is not about creating another Disney-like destination. It is learning some of the principles that may lead to success. What the guests want and need, means knowing and understanding the clientele from abroad. Not just their culture and behavior, but their true needs, perceptions, and expectations. These should not be taken lightly, considering that for many a vacation is just a once-a-year happening.

A destination should establish a comfortable and lasting position in the marketplace. Tourism and destination development should acknowledge that there is a link between guest satisfaction and brand reputation. This combination can set one destination apart from all others. Assumptions and calculations in planning don’t always square with reality. Dare to think differently about how tourism can be changed. Daring to think beyond the conventional way of thought is part of the recipe. When feet are kind of numb, polishing the shoes is not the solution. Last but least, think of how to get them to paradise fast and easy at a reasonable price.

‘Rethink Tourism’ is the theme!

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  1. If we knew better
    October 13, 2022

    stay over tourism is where the real money is. Cruise tourism is like operating a bus stop where vendors stand a chance at making a sale.

  2. Jonathan Y St Jean
    October 11, 2022

    When the writer says that tourists are people from a different country, he lost me. Why can’t we encourage our own citizens to participate in the tourism products we create in their own country. How about packages for married people to spend their anniversaries enjoying the amenities we’ve created? Why should marriage tourism be only for foreigners? Why not encourage locals to spend their money in country and create things they will appreciate then package these and encourage visitors to try them out as unique to Dominca and other Caribbean countries? If we only view tourism as things for people from other countries then it falls short of rethinking tourism. In addition this myopic thinking is why most of the so called tourism dollars go overseas to import more stuff to try to give people from other countries more of what they just left behind and not enough of what we truly have to offer.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
    • Bp
      October 11, 2022

      I think the idea of tourism as a serious industry is to gain foreign exchange rather than recirculate local money.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
    • badbaje
      October 12, 2022

      The article is on “Tourism” and you are lost because he speaks of people from a different country. You think the article should be speaking of our own citizens when talking about tourism. Very well.

    • Mark
      October 12, 2022

      Jonathan, when you say, we should encourage our citizens to be part of the tourism industry by offering packages such as wedding anniversary packages, are you referring to citizens on island or those in the diaspora?
      Apparently, you’re unaware of the cost of such packages. Those businesses would shut down, go bankrupt overnight if they had to rely on just locals to survive.
      This is not a practical suggestion. Tourism doesn’t only consist of the stay at an establishment for a night or two but rather a combination of taxi/bus service to include site seeing tours, car rental etc. so bottom line is, we need that foreigner if those businesses are to be successful.
      Citizens are always welcome to spend their dollars in DA.

  3. Ibo France
    October 10, 2022

    Look around the entire Caribbean. Alll of these countries have one thing in common, TOURISM is the main industry. There is very fierce competition among the countries as they share the same markets.

    The biggest drawback with this service industry is that governments spend an inordinate sum of money putting in the necessary infrastructure and in overseas advertisements. There is much leakage of the profits as the money made is repatriated to the expatriate investors’ countries of origin.

    What about investing much more in agriculture and agro-processing, technology, entrepreneurship, and in the orange economy.

    Tourism is too much of a fickle industry for our small country to put all our eggs.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4
    • badbaje
      October 12, 2022

      Ibo please get out of my head, please. I have expressed these same thoughts repeatedly over recent times.

  4. Roger Burnett
    October 10, 2022

    In the 1970’s the British Virgin Islands came up with the catch phrase, “YES, WE’RE DIFFERENT”.

    Sadly, they have since turned their backs on the niche market that the phrase appealed to and become hell-bent on being the same as everywhere else.

    Although it would require focusing on entirely different priorities, Dominica is an island that could fill the void.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

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