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Caribbean tourism officials urged to look beyond sun, sea and sand

 The travel market is an ever-changing one.
From the way people conduct travel searches and the plethora of information at their fingertips to the things people expect from their travel experiences and the way travellers now document their trips, destination marketers are challenged to find new and creative ways to promote their products.

When it comes to the Caribbean, promoting sun, sea and sand is no longer enough.

Speaking at the CTO Caribbean Week Caribbean Marketing Conference on Tuesday in New York, John T Peters, Founder of Mind Mashery, urged tourism stakeholders to pay attention to the trends and adapt their marketing accordingly.

In his presentation, Beyond Sun, Sea and Sand: Evolving Destination Marketing, Peters said consumer behaviour is changing and that will impact tourism in the region.

He examined trends in several areas.

Looking at mobile use, he said 26 percent of search on mobile devices is all about travel. Data shows that mobile users are also impulsive, with a 150 percent increase in mobile searches for the words ‘tonight’ and ‘today’.

He said 38 percent of mobile bookings are made within two days of planning a trip.

The way people search is also changing, he said with searches going from Google to home voice devices such as Alexa.

He urged destination marketers to change the way they write their content to accommodate these devices.

Peters said with China the fastest growing travel market, many destination marketers are vying for that market.

To capitalise on that, Wechat, the Chinese multi-purpose messaging, social media and mobile payment app launched a city experience mini program that features map-based guides and QR codes in location to provide destination markets with key insights about their visitors.

Examining the tastes of travellers, Peters said trends show that travellers are more interested in experiences. He said an Airbnb research showed that three in four Millennials prefer to buy an experience than a physical good while 25 percent of travellers deem it important for an Airbnb host to have strong local knowledge about food and places to visit.

Peters said high-end hotels are now hiring in-house specialists to provide guests with out of this world personalised experiences

He gave the example of the St Regis Hotel in Mexico City who hired a cultural curator to arrange private tours around art and architecture, kids and family and culture.

Other trends he encouraged the audience to pay attention to is the Bleisure (Business and Leisure) travel, the solo traveller, family travel and adventure travel, which he said has been redefined to mean off the beaten track.

Among the suggestions he gave the tourism marketers is to focus on culturally immersive experiences, invest in drone technology, produce different video themes for different experiences since people don’t want generic video content, be very careful in choosing influencers to work with and to partner with those making big investments such as hotel contractors to understand how to deliver a product that travellers want.