Reader’s Letter: The basics of destination marketing

POSTED: 07/6/11 1:42 PM

Recently the President of the Collectivité of French Saint Martin said in an article in the Today newspaper that he is looking at a more upscale tourism market for his side of the island. Immediately two things came to mind. One was that this would be a huge challenge for a destination already known for mass tourism. At least, where the southern half of the island is concerned (Dutch St. Maarten).

The second thing that came to my mind was the question how do you turn a destination into an upscale destination? Obviously, creating an upscale destination is not just a matter of having great beaches, attracting and/or building high-end resorts, having top restaurants, good infrastructure and services. St. Martin already has all of these facilities and amenities. So what more is needed?

I believe that besides the fact that a destination needs to have great facilities and amenities, it also needs good marketing and promotion and great word of mouth. My opinion leads me to wonder what makes people visit a destination in the first place? To find out, I took a small informal poll of regular visitors to St. Barths on the SBHonline.com forum.
The question I posted was: “How did you first hear about St. Barths?”
Here are the results:

  • A daytrip to St. Barths – 24%
  • Read about it in a magazine – 24%
  • Advertisement for a hotel property – 3%
  • Recommendation from friends – 32%
  • While touring the Caribbean – 7%
  • From research – 10%

Based on this quick one day poll it is obvious that marketing a destination, no matter the scale, class or status, is still a matter of creating good public relations (via articles), attracting first time visitors (via daytrips) and generating good word of mouth (via recommendations from friends and family).
This means that President Frantz Gumbs will have to make sure that first time visitors have such a good experience that they will return. He has to ensure that day trippers (in this case cruise tourists) have such an enjoyable time on the French side that they will book a stay-over vacation. Lastly, the COM President has to create enough buzz in newspaper and magazine articles that readers will be inspired to visit French St. Martin.
Obviously, the challenge is to ensure that visitors to Saint Martin experience such a great time that they will visit the island again. Maybe after reading this article, Mr. Gumbs will accept my recommendation and make a daytrip to St. Barths to get some ideas on how that island consistently generates such high percentages of loyal return visitors. I strongly believe he will get a lot of inspiration from such a visit.

Terrance Rey

 

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