Social media travel in Caribbean island destinations
Tourism fundamentals are changing worldwide as visitor knowledge evolves. Already, mobile technology has reshaped the way we communicate and travel, and easy access to online resources is now elevating the authority of fellow travelers, who are deemed more credible than official agencies. But, many global destinations, including several Caribbean island nations, have yet to respond effectively to these evolving trends or to capitalize on the shift in user demographics and preferred information sources. This deficiency is especially notable in regions where tourism, leisure, and recreation are significant contributors to the local economy, such as the Caribbean. Collectively, tourism jobs provide more than 15% of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP), and employment for nearly 20% of the available workforce. Caribbean tourism proponents are, therefore, strongly urged to consider the growing effects of social media on destination marketing. If overlooked or disregarded, only a few negative guest comments may outweigh any positive remarks, even if more numerous and correct in their depiction of a place and its people. Done right however, promotions shared through personalized fan pages, bookmarks, and destination profiles can effectively counter such (mis)information and thereby, stimulate greater awareness and visitor interest. The challenge for many travel providers and operators is how to do so affordably and successfully, given the financial and human costs to first ascertain which marketing tools and venues are cost-effective and trusted by their targeted audience, and to then maintain the relevancy and accuracy of the selected options over time. To assist in this endeavor, this paper evaluated multiple online sources to assess social media’s role in shaping travel choices to the Caribbean, including the websites and personal blogs most utilized by prospective and past visitors. Dominant trends are also highlighted to document the increasing dependence on mobile technology by travelers. With this data, the author’s intent is to enable tourism leaders to effectively capitalize on the region’s strengths, while recognizing and thereby, remedying features rated unsatisfactory by Caribbean guests.
- Ringer, Greg