Bahamas Gears Up for Review

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism is looking for agencies to help it better target Southeast U.S. markets such as Florida in order to overcome a 10 percent drop in visitors as it launches a review for its $10-15 million account, sources said.

The client this week expects to issue requests for proposals to eight agencies, including roster shops Bozell, New York, which works on consumer ads, and Irma S. Mann, Strategic Marketing, Boston, which does trade advertising, said Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, director general of the ministry who is conducting the review. He declined to name the other six agencies that will be asked to provide credentials to client officials next month.

In advance of issuing proposal requests, the ministry began contacting about a dozen shops in recent weeks to gauge their interest in pitching, sources said. Undisclosed agencies in New York and California—as well as in Florida, a key target state for Bahamian tourism—have received calls from client officials, sources said.

The list of eight will be trimmed to an undetermined number of finalists, which will be given a creative project in December. A decision will be made by year’s end, and more than one agency may be hired, Vanderpool-Wallace said.

The client spent nearly $15 million in 2001 and about $10 million on advertising through the first half of 2002, per CMR.

Driving the review is the Ba-hamas first change of government in nearly a decade, as Obie Wilchcombe replaced Tommy Turnquest as tourism minister this summer, Vanderpool-Wallace said. “It’s a good time to refresh, it’s as simple as that,” he said. The desire to combat the decline in leisure travel to the islands was not the overriding cause for the review, Vanderpool-Wallace said.

Following Sept. 11, travel to the region has slipped about 10 percent in the first nine months of 2002, compared with the same period last year, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

The Bahamas last month began a newspaper advertising blitz in the U.S. to attract more visitors, particularly from southeastern states such as Florida.

Interpublic Group shop Bozell, which is lead agency for the ministry, has not decided whether it will defend, sources said. Independent ISM is expected to pitch.