Many readers may have thought that the re-DISCOVER initiative is a recently launched initiative, but in fact it was first rolled out in early 2002.
I remember graphically sitting in the opulent setting of the Sandy Lane conference room with just about every ‘big-up’ in tourism official involved in policy and planning soon after the tragic events of 911.
The question was not if it was going to impact on our main foreign earner, because everyone in that room knew the inevitable answer, but just how severely it would negatively effective the sector and the consequences that it may have on employment.
We quickly formulated a domestic tourism programme initially just including some of our many and varied restaurants to entice ‘locals’ and residential long stay visitors to eat out more often.
Restaurant owners we asked to offer a ‘value-for-money’ three-course dinner at the same attractive price with all taxes, service and a bottle of wine included.
Whilst ‘take-up’ varied, one particular establishment of the West Coast reported serving 1,392 re-DISCOVER diners over a three-month period.
In the words of the owner, full employment was maintained and the additional revenue generated kept them in business.
After a year or so, arrivals numbers started recovering and the restaurateurs largely lost interest, so the promotion went into a period of hibernation.
At the request of the national marketing body, then called the Barbados Tourism Authority, we were asked to resurrect it last year, which we did with around 25 restaurant choices, and best estimates indicate between 13,000 and 14,000 persons, both locals and visitors, took advantage of the offer between May and December 2014.
This year, we took it a step further, by including lunch options and now have over 60 dining choices across Barbados.
To us it’s a role model example of how, mostly small businesses, can work together to make much bigger things happen.
If one or two establishments attempted this kind of venture the involved costs would prove inhibitive, but by sharing the expenses and looking for smart partners, it has become the most successful promotion of its kind anywhere in the Caribbean giving us as a destination, a powerful marketing tool to influence potential holidaymakers.
Understandably, in these challenging financial times there has been a marked increase in sponsorship fatigue, so it has become even more critical in securing support that where ‘smart partners’ can see a measurable benefit , whether in terms of cost-effective return or increased brand awareness.
Simply put, if it does not work for them, they are extremely unlikely to support any future project that we might drive.
This year we have also included a prize draw where two persons who have either lunch or dinner at one or more restaurant partners can complete and mail in a competition entry form with a real chance of returning next year completely free of charge with flights, 7 nights at the Crane Resorts, a week’s Courtesy Rent-a-car and Atlantis Submarine adventure all included.
This will also provide valuable data in terms of voucher redemption.
We have also partnered with Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. as the restaurant component of the Brilliant Barbados promotion which is intended to drive early booking business.
So hopefully a win-win scenario for all involved.