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When it comes to advertising to promote this archipelago inclusive of 700 islands and cays, the Bahamas is arguably the leading Caribbean country in that regards. In these marketing videos, the locations of different islands are put together in such a way, that they complement each other and give the viewers or readers many reasons as to why they should just stop everything and come to the Bahamas. Everything put into these video advertisements or articles are strategically placed and written. It is definitely an eye candy when watching a Bahamian tourism advertisement video. In these advertisements, the most valuable Bahamian assets are put on display for the consumers.
“Sun, Sand and Sea”, this phrase is not merely an alliteration, but it names the most noteworthy resources that the Bahamas has when it comes to tourism, and our marketing team spares no expenses in making sure that the phrase “It’s better in the Bahamas” has more truth to it than in actuality. Although all of these expenses are being made to promote the Bahamas as the number one tourism vacation spot on a global scale, what we are putting out there in our advertisements is truly not the authentic experience that tourists may encounter. This can be very problematic because for one, the tourist is not getting to experience the true Bahamas, but they also learn little about who we are as a people and where we have come from. One may ask “Who are Bahamians? Or “What does it means to be Bahamian? There can be so many different perspective and answers to these simple questions, however there is no denying the fact that Bahamians are an ethnic group of persons that share the same cultural values, that has been passed down for generations. These cultural values are the product of our African ancestors that has been liberated from slavery in the early 19th century.
So what is it about Bahamians that are so unique? What is it that distinguish us from the rest of the Caribbean islands? Well, the answers to their questions would only be found through personal experiences and encounters with Bahamian natives. Each tourist encounter with a Bahamian is a different experience. Some tourist may opt not to interact as much with natives, unless it’s a necessity, whereas some may want to know all about who we are and the history of our country. Because of this, modern day tourism Bahamian advertisements should incorporate aspects of the Bahamian history and put more emphasis on the culture of the Bahamas.
The Bahamas should seek to preserve its cultural heritage as these can boost tourism in the economy as well as distinguish us from the rest of the Caribbean islands. Every Caribbean island has ‘Sun, Sand and Sea’ but as marketing administrators, more work needs to be done in the selling of an authentic Bahamas. According to Strachan’s insert, Michael Craton writes “A thousand miles of gleaming sands, seas of peacock blue and a winter climate have always been potentially the most valuable Bahamian assets”.
To the outside world and tourists, this may be true due to ignorance and lack of information about the Bahamas, however we as Bahamians know that there is way more to us than just merely Sun, Sand and Sea. If this is all the Bahamas has to offer, then what will become of the country if other Caribbean Islands decides that they too would like to make tourism their dominant industry and starts to mass produce advertisements illustrating this same ‘Sun, Sand and Sea’ that we portray can only be found in the Bahamas? What is it about the phrase or where are the supporting evidence to the expression ‘It’s Better in the Bahamas’ is there for tourist to really rely on?
To address this issue, The Bahamas should introduce and focus on Cultural Tourism as a means for tourist to experience what it means to be a true Bahamian and be introduced to the wonders and historic aspects of Bahamian history. Cultural tourism is a phrase that is basically self-explanatory. It is a type of tourism that is based on the cultural and historical heritages of a country, attracting tourism as an industry. According to World Tourism Organization (2008), Tourism is an internally giant growing segment which has an increase rate such that UNWTO’s Vision predicts that international arrivals are projected to reach over 1.56 billion by the year 2020, whereas the international arrivals were at 842 million in 2006. This is equivalent to an 85% increase in tourism sector worldwide. In September 2002, the World Tourism Organization executive Luigi Cabrini also told a gathering in Belgium that ‘cultural tourism is growing faster than most other tourism segments and at a higher rate than tourism worldwide.
The growing rate in this field of tourism shows that this is getting more popular and travelers are getting more interested in learning about different cultures. This aspect of tourism can be integrated into the tourism industry here in the Bahamas. From the rich history of the Lucayans, to the alleged discovery of the New world by Christopher Columbus, the Bahamas has several historic moments and monuments to be shared to the world. Cultural tourists as cited by Hughes, are seen as “typically well educated, affluent and broadly travelled, [and] they generally represent a highly desirable type of upscale visitor”. Think of cultural tourist as business personals that have travelled across the globe in order to attend a business meeting. These persons know exactly what they came for and where they want to go. The likelihood, that these persons have already researched the background and cultural facts and heritage about the country they will be attending is more than likely high.
According to John Heenan, Cultural tourists spend substantially more than standard tourists do. In his studies, it has been revealed that the tourist that travels with intend to participate in cultural activities and learn about the countries heritage spends on average 38% more per day and stays at least 22% times longer than the average traveler. It has also been noted that according to Heenan (2018), cultural travelers take one more trip than the average traveler and are more likely to share their experience with friends and on social media. As the popular saying goes “Numbers never lie”. Because of this high number of tourist engaging in cultural activities it is safe to say that cultural tourism can be a great success in the Bahamas as majority of our tourist are from our neighbors, the United States of America. The U.S. cultural traveler spends 60 percent more, approximately $1,319 per trip compared with $820 for domestic leisure travelers.
Cultural tourism brings increased revenue to the heritage sites and, more broadly, to the community and country that hosts them. It can be an engine of economic growth. According to a 2013 report from Mandala Research, LLC, 76 percent of all U.S. leisure travelers engage in cultural activities. Take for instance Trinidad and Tobago and their Carnival. During their carnival season hundreds of tourists travel to their islands to get the experience firsthand and to participate in their culture’ generating millions of dollars for the country. Many celebrities also post to their social medias, pictures of them in their carnival costumes participating in the worlds most anticipated carnival event. This along is great enough marketing as many celebrities are social media influencers and would have thousands of persons adhere to their advices or try to mimic what they do and post to their social media contents. Trinidad and Tobago has shown for many years, how culture, seen as a resource, becomes a marketing force in the wake of increasingly difficult economic times in the Caribbean region. The marketing and selling of ‘culture’ is increasingly an important part of state and regional tourism strategies.
Tourism advertisement videos today fail to authentically show the Bahamas in a way that is authentic to the Bahamian people. It fails to sell the raw Bahamas. Take for instance the Sandals Royal video by Cindy Taylor. The advertisement video only appealed to the white masses and showed the black Bahamians as being only servants to the whites. This presentation may be partially true, in the hotel sector of Tourism however, in the advertisement there was nothing authentically Bahamian except for the few short second clips of Junkanoo that Cindy had not even make mention off. Even when it came down to the Historian telling her a few short sentences of ‘Bahamian’ history he made note of famous persons that have been affiliated with or been to the Bahamas. Many of the Bahamas’ tourism video will have some aspects of culture in it as they would show a few clips of persons parading around in Junkanoo costumes. It is very likely that when the world watches these advertisement videos and see clips of Junkanoo, the Bahamian culture, they would want to know what it is and how it came about or how is different from Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago.
Many tourists that come to the Bahamas today can be seen riding in taxis to get from one place to another. Normally, tourist would ask to go the nearest shopping site or mall so that they can buy a few souvenirs to take home in remembrance. In some cases, taxi drivers that are taking these tourists around may mention a few brief sentences about some popular places such as the Atlantis or Bahamar hotels. They may also make mentioned of the history of certain places that they may have pass in route to their destination. This can affect the authenticity of the experiences because the Bahamian dialect is one that is unique only to the Bahamas.
It is in itself a language, a creole version of the European English. It is important to give tourist when they come to visit the Bahamas an authentic Bahamian experience as it would only be the experience that they will remember the country by. After all, tourism alone provides an estimated 60% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 50% of the Bahamian workforce. Therefore, it is important to distinguish the Bahamas from the rest of the Caribbean. Hence, Cultural Tourism should be introduced to the world to what is authentically Bahamians. In this way tourism advertisement videos will start to incorporate more cultural values and history to appeal to an even wider audience by introducing cultural tourism. In doing so the notion of authenticity in advertisements would not be problematic in describing tourist experiences.
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