Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
The Grand Bahama Island Tourism Board (GBITB) intends to invest heavily in marketing and promotion next year, as it works to build the Grand Bahama brand and encourage investment in the island.
Around $1.9 million of the board’s $2.3-million expenditure in 2014 is earmarked for advertising, promotion and marketing.
“We have done a very poor job of communicating that we are open,” says GBITB chairman Russell Miller. “We have to spend money to get the word out.”
The Board has already spent $250,000 on radio advertising, which is due to air in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale area by the end of the year, and hopes to branch out into television commercials in the future.
In addition, the GBITB, in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism, will be extending the Instant Air Credit (IAC) programme, which allows visitors to earn credit on their airfare and runs over the summer months. The Board also intends to invest $50,000 on updating facilities at the Wednesday night Fish Fry and $200,000 on extending the Goombay Junkanoo, so that it can run for up to eight weeks in the summer.
These initiatives form part of the GBITB’s new five-year strategic plan, which was drawn up after a two-day retreat with industry representatives and board members in September. The retreat revived the board which, according to Miller, had become “defunct” in recent years.
“There hasn’t been a functioning board in two years [but] the foundations were there,” he says. “Now we are pulling things together and working on some real action plans. I think the benefits for the destination are going to be huge, and the first step of bringing everybody together was amazing. People were happy to give their opinions and offer their help. They were saying: ‘What can we do? We’re all in this together.'”
Miller was appointed GBITB chairman in July and since then has appointed a full board including a vice chairman, treasurer and secretary, as well as creating various committees such as those dealing with finance, membership, marketing and airlift.
During the retreat, industry leaders voiced their concerns about the challenges to Grand Bahama’s tourism sector. “People were concerned about the downturn in the economy,” says Miller.
“The fall off in business and the heavy cost of airlift. These are all things that are discouraging and are creating real hardships.”
The board chairman is optimistic however, pointing to several new developments that are expected to boost visitor numbers, such as the renovation of the 503-room Reef Village resort and the introduction of weekly winter flights from six cities across Canada, both of which are being delivered by the Sunwing Travel Group.
Delta Airlines are also set to enter the market in December with a new route from Atlanta to Freeport.
“We are optimistic,” said Miller. “There are little pockets of things coming onstream.”
The chairman, who has over 30 years experience in the tourism industry, is excited to be at the helm of the new, improved GBITB and says his main goal is to bring all the tourism professionals together in Grand Bahama to help ensure the long-term sustainability of the sector.
“We are all in this together,” he says. “We can all benefit from what we collectively do. We can be successful, but we have to come together as a cohesive, united front and speak with one voice. We must be aligned in how we go after business in Grand Bahama and create a sense of ownership and accountability for all tourism stakeholders.”