While many, including the World Tourism Organisation say it is too early to put a date on when the sector will begin to recover, travel experts believe that for the Caribbean, the focus should be on marketing to the people who have a direct connection to the region once borders are ready to be reopened.
Ursula Petula Barzey of Caribbean & Co, who was born on Montserrat and is now based in the UK and Melissa Noel, a travel journalist who was recently on island for the St. Patrick’s Festival, were part of a panel of travel experts featured on the SocaMom Summit, a virtual conference focused on issues relevant to the Caribbean Diaspora. Both believe that the region is not giving enough attention to attracting people of Caribbean descent home. Advertising and marketing campaigns, they say, are primarily targeted at white Americans and Europeans rather than to those who have the same ethnicity or bloodlines and have a great desire to be connected to their roots.
Barzey said tourism boards need to crunch the numbers and recognise that the Caribbean Diaspora make up more than 50% of the 30 million visitors who come to the region each year. She said islands such as Grenada, St. Lucia and Barbados have begun to acknowledge this and are creating experiences which are culturally rich and can connect first and second-generation Caribbean people to their land of birth.
Noel said she would like to see a return to the manufacturing of cultural products such as mas making in the Caribbean rather than production and materials coming out of China.
The speakers, who also including Oneika Raymond and JoAnnaE, said more culturally immersive tours was a must.
Noel also stated that the region should model what Ghana did with the Year of Return campaign as it will be Caribbean residents abroad and those with a heritage who will be the first to take the risk and come home once borders are reopened.
Barzey agreed, adding she was anxious to return to see her 100-year-old grandmother and that this would be the case for many who now reside in North America and Europe. The women also believe that it will be Caribbean nationals at home and in the Diaspora who will be most likely to invest and do what was needed for the region to rebuild after the crisis. They also noted, that the over reliance on tourism has proven to be unsustainable and it was time for the islands to return to more indigenous and cultural practices which can be leveraged for greater economic impact.
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