Scott Wiseman Updates Caribbean Tourism Ministers, Directors On Emerging Trends with Keynote at CTO Marketing Conference
NEW YORK, NY (June 8, 2017) — With Travel Impressions' (www.TravelImpressions.com) standing as the universally recognized leader for the travel agent market of Caribbean resorts and destinations, company president Scott Wiseman was tapped to deliver the keynote address at this morning's Caribbean Tourism Marketing Conference, staged by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and hosted by CTO Allied members in conjunction with the Association of Travel Marketing Executives (ATME) at the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel during Caribbean Week New York.
Wiseman addressed several issues of prominent interest to the Caribbean tourism and hospitality industries, beginning with a current assessment of tourism prospects for the region over the next 10 years. "You can look at any tourism barometer and see that travel to the Caribbean is trending upwards," Wiseman proclaimed to an audience of tourism ministers, directors of tourism and other regional tourism representatives from the public and private sectors.
While reaffirming Travel Impressions' commitment to the Caribbean, which he playfully pointed out was the company's "breadfruit and coconut butter," Wiseman cautioned attendees about some of the Caribbean's tourism-hungry neighbors, many of which are on pace to provide stiff competition in the coming decade. He noted Central American destinations such as Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua in particular.
Wiseman also stressed the importance of marketing for the Caribbean in order to remain at the forefront of warm-weather travel, while recognizing the financial constraints many destination tourist offices face in today's economic climate.
"All of us in the industry are facing budgetary issues," said Wiseman, noting: "Travel Impressions is a much leaner organization than we were 10 years ago," and acknowledging that the marketing budgets of Caribbean destinations "reflect this new paradigm as well."
Wiseman went on to explain, "Marketing is a lot like agriculture. It's an essential exercise to grow your tourism product. As decision-makers for your destinations, you're responsible for planting the seeds that will ensure your tourism appeal remains vibrant for years to come. This is true for destinations worldwide, but is especially crucial for the Caribbean because of your economic dependencies on tourism," said Wiseman, before launching into an extensive profile of the Millennial traveler and how the evolution of the human condition is changing the way savvy marketers are communicating with all generations.
"Pristine pictures in ads have given way to followed social media accounts that show more raw images, footage, and on-the-fly media sourced organically by influencers they trust or hope to emulate. This group and the rising generation are looking for more connected experiences—pictures and quick videos that are immersive, destination-specific, and happening in real time. They don't want to be sold; they want authenticity, visual storytelling, and virtual experience," explained Wiseman.
Wiseman pointed to research commissioned by ASTA, demonstrating how “Millennials are more likely to book their vacation through a travel agent than any other age demographic,” hinting that Millennials are “a lot more complex than the ‘selfie generation’ label might suggest” and that the needs and wants of this up-and-coming demographic are driving changes to the “classic motivations that have inspired the travel choices of virtually everyone until Millennials came along.
"Millennials aren’t coming to your shores to spend their entire week tanning poolside. They come to experience things worthy of their Instagram feed—and they want to cram as much into their vacation as possible," said Wiseman, emphasizing the prevalent "Fear of Missing Out"—popularized with the "FOMO" acronym—which Wiseman identified as something on which every destination should seek to capitalize.
While Wiseman covered Millennials in depth, he also pointed out that social media is a useful tool for marketing to older generations as well, including the baby boomer generation which is "adapting faster than ever to evolving technology," he said.
"We've learned to stop signing our Facebook posts with our names. We're becoming as fluent in emojis as any of these youngsters. We're tweeting, double-tapping, and adding filters to images of our kids, grandkids, and dogs with the best of them," said Wiseman.
Addressing multi-generational travel, Wiseman explained that while adventure travel and ecotourism are trending, Google searches for terms such as "Best Vacations for Kids Under 10, Inexpensive Family Vacations, Baby-Friendly Vacations, Family Trip Ideas, and Family Vacation Ideas with Toddlers were the top five breakout search trends" in the surging family travel category.
"With the growth of brands like Karisma, AIC Hotel Group, and AMResorts in the Caribbean, care, entertainment, and enrichment for young children is no longer an afterthought. Think kids clubs that are larger than life. Red Cross-certified staff. Complimentary use of tiny bathrobes, step stools, cribs, pack-and-plays. Bottle warmers and toys from 'toy lending libraries' delivered right to the rooms. Musical instruments on loan. Child-sized buffet tables in the show kitchens. Even baby food pureed fresh to order from organic local produce. The list goes on, and the Caribbean should feature heavily on it," Wiseman encouraged.
Wiseman acknowledged that "every island in the Caribbean is unique and has its own appeal" and encouraged the region's decision-makers to leverage it to their advantage.
"We've all seen the millions of pictures of sparkling white sand, crystalline turquoise waters, and swaying palms. It'’s expected of the Caribbean, but it's also cliché and almost ubiquitous," cautioned Wiseman, who encouraged destinations to "stand out" by showing their social media audience that their "beauty runs more than skin-deep."
Wiseman balanced his recommendation for differentiation by stressing the vital importance of collaborative marketing. "While it's important for each of you to maintain your own unique brand identity and in order to differentiate your tourism product from the Caribbean as a whole, there is a power derived from regional partnerships that you just don't see when destinations decide to go it alone.
"Over the past three decades, the Caribbean's greatest successes were achieved only when [the region] worked collectively. When the Caribbean Tourism Organization, and its private-sector counterpart, the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, are performing well-funded marketing together, the entire region benefits. And that's why I implore you to pool your resources and remain focused on marketing—and on social media marketing in particular. Because, while I see several destinations in the region embarking on successful social media strategies, I'm not seeing the same level of investment into regional campaigns that made the Caribbean brand what it is today."
Wiseman concluded his keynote remarks with a message on the importance of the travel agent distribution channel. "You won't find a better vehicle for shifting market share than the retail distribution channel," he said.
"In addition, the travel agent industry has had a resurgence in the past few years and a higher percentage of bookings are coming through retailers now than in previous years," noting that even "major airlines are beginning to offer agent incentives again … because they know that one of the best ways to get the word out about their improved airlift from major gateways to the Caribbean is through these travel professionals."
Wiseman implored attendees to "work with your hotel associations to come up with a coordinated approach that will drive tourism arrivals and put heads in beds" and to "make building relationships with the retail sector a priority" in general, explaining that "there's little that's more valuable than becoming an influencer's default."
Wiseman reiterated Travel Impressions' commitment to the Caribbean several times throughout his keynote address, and did so again with tourism ministers and directors at the industry awards luncheon following the marketing conference. There, the top executive for the leading agent-only operator engaged them on strategies designed to ensure Caribbean destinations remain as vibrant and alluring in the coming years and beyond.