CI marketing evolves to meet challenges

Evolving advertising and marketing campaigns to promote the Cayman Islands in an ever more challenging global market place was an issue highlighted by Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford at the Annual Tourism Conference recently.

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Acting Director of Tourism Shomari Scott.

Mentioned was a marketing campaign that characterises the special features of all three islands, and the positioning of Cayman as both a summer and winter destination.

Acting Director of Tourism Shomari Scott, in his update on the international marketing plan, noted that air arrivals again increased for August 2008, up 11 per cent, with air arrivals currently standing at 230,000.

Since 2007 air arrivals have increased every month except for April 2007.

‘Last year we were one of the few Caribbean islands to increase numbers year over year and now we are at 230,000 visitors,’ he said.

Within the main target markets, through August 2008, air arrivals are up on the previous year for the US by 10 per cent, for Canada by 15 per cent and for Europe by 7.8 per cent.

The air arrivals goal for 2008 is 300,000, which, he said, they will surpass by year’s end.

The goal for 2009 is to up air arrivals to 320,000 visitors.

Minister Clifford said, ‘Presenting a compelling image globally is vital, but that image must be founded in reality and be in keeping with our promise to our visitors.’

He noted that while Cayman’s identity is based primarily on Grand Cayman and its offerings, all three islands have unique attributes, distinguishing each from the others and contributing to the wonderful multi-faceted destination experience which is the Cayman Islands.

‘A high-quality marketing campaign complete with creative work to characterize the special identities of all three islands is now being tested and utilized in the Canadian market.

‘Under the banner ‘Three islands, one idyllic destination’, Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are being marketed for their individual features, thereby offering our Canadian clients greater diversity within one product,’ said Mr. Clifford.

Mr. Scott explained that after an entire process of branding each of the three islands Grand Cayman came out as the luxury cosmopolitan destination, the Brac as rugged adventure while Little Cayman is tranquil and peaceful.

A colour palette was also created with Grand Cayman taking on blue, the Brac taking brown and Little Cayman taking a green hue in the advertisements.

The Minister noted the current marketplace challenges, such as the economic downturn in the US market, which is the Cayman Islands’ primary market producing just over 80 per cent of visitors, highly volatile fuel prices, which have triggered major layoffs and route reductions by US carriers and severe reduction in service to regional hubs which threatens the Caribbean’s market share, even as it already struggles to keep pace against highly competitive emerging destinations which are attracting airlift.

As a result, the Government and private sector have aggressively pursued mitigation strategies to shore up business, he said.

‘These have included launching new campaigns in secondary markets such as Canada and the United Kingdom; positioning Cayman as both a summer and winter destination; targeting high net worth visitors who are less vulnerable to recessionary forces; utilizing our cultural heritage to better differentiate our destination and making use of e-business as a way to level the playing field for smaller businesses by giving them access to a global, more cost-effective selling platform,’ he explained.

The Minister noted that the Strategic Selling Unit, will be the tool used to help bring smaller properties, including the condo sector, back to the fore. This is a joint initiative between the DoT and CITA and it’s aimed at increasing awareness and bookings for the vast stock of villas, condos, small resorts and bed and breakfasts that are available in the Cayman Islands. A new website providing convenient on-line booking for licensed properties on each of our three islands will be tested this fall and rolled out for the high season. This facility will be enhanced to include airlines and local attractions.

Meanwhile, the DoT’s website, caymanislands.ky, generated over 850,000 referrals this year and saw a 78 per cent increase in unique visitors between January and July, compared to 2007. Foreign language versions (French, Italian, Spanish and German) of the official Cayman Islands website were also launched this year to support marketing within Europe, the Minister explained.

Mr. Scott outlined some other goals for 2009, including continually enhancing the customer experience and increasing the awareness and understanding within the local community of the importance of tourism to the Cayman Islands.

The DoT is also taking on the task of improving and developing the cruise experience to convert more of these tourists to stay-over visitors.

The goals for the Cayman Islands marketing in Europe include: increasing European visitor arrivals and raising awareness of the Cayman Islands as a luxury holiday destination through sustained marketing investment;

Driving traffic to the DoT website;

Addressing the economic and structural challenges affecting growth – such as the US recession and direct airlift from Europe.

In advertising campaigns the creative strategy has evolved to focus on promoting the exclusivity and undiscovered nature of the Cayman Islands.

Although the target market in the UK may already have visited the well known Eastern Caribbean islands, Cayman is trying to set itself apart, and it becomes attractive to its target market in the UK because it’s somewhere they haven’t thought of going to before; and it tends to give people greater bragging rights because their friends have never been there. Therefore the clever print ads tag themselves with the line ‘The other side of the Caribbean’.

Mr. Scott reported a 200 per cent increase in web site visits during the campaign period, with the UK micro-site the most often visited page after the home page.

Some of the strategies in 2009 for Europe include investigating use of television as a more dynamic means to reach the target audience and a campaign to showcase Cayman’s villas and beach-homes.

The main target market for the US is still families and travel trade with dive and romance as the extender markets. All visitors are sun, sea and sand seekers.

In 2008 the Department of Tourism embraced a tiered strategy of targeting visitors on a seasonal basis.

For instance, those coming in high season would have a household income of $300,000, those visiting in summer, when promotions are on, would have a household income of at least US$100,000 while those visiting on an ongoing basis would have a household income of US$150,000.

The US print creative uses the words ‘worth it’ to speak to the experiential value of a Cayman Islands vacation.

Mr. Scott spoke about how children really influence family vacation decisions, and hence the value in the Cayman Islands Sea School with Diego.

When the Sea School started with SpongeBob a few years ago many hotels saw more families than ever before, he said.

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