Vacation Planning

In 2002, more than 3 million visitors in total flocked to the Car ibbean’s most popular islands—the Bahamas, Jamaica and Puerto Rico. That number represents a significant drop from 2001 levels; in the first nine months of 2002, tourist arrivals to the Bahamas and Barbados each de clined 6 percent from the same period in 2001, to 1.1 million and 365,000, respectively, according to the Carib bean Tourism Organization.

In response to the decline, three of the area’s top ad spenders, the Baha mas, Barbados and Bermuda, are pre paring to launch separate campaigns. All will break their first work from new agencies in up coming weeks, with an emphasis on targeting high-income travelers from the eastern and southeastern U.S.

The sluggish economy, the tense situation with Iraq and lingering post-9/11 travel concerns have contributed to these declines in tourism volume for most Caribbean islands. Tourism dollars account for an estimated 25 percent of the region’s GNP, said CTO rep Richard Kahn.

“There’s been a very clear pattern of close-to-home travel; that hasn’t changed since 9/11,” said James Cammisa, a travel analyst and editor of the newsletter Travel Industry Indicators. “The more remote islands [will probably] continue to be victims.”

The Bahamas spends $10-15 million annually on ads, according to CMR, making it the biggest spender of all nearby destinations. The Bahamas’ Ministry of Tourism is poised to award its account to Fallon in New York, following a review, sources said. Driving the search was the recent change in the islands’ government, with Obie Wilchcombe replacing Tommy Turnquest as tourism minister, said tourism director general Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace.

The client plans to abandon the typical Caribbean imagery of beaches and bikinis, shown in ads from incumbent Bozell in New York, and focus on the islands’ culture, Vanderpool-Wallace said. Bahamas’ competitors include Barbados and Bermuda, which hired ISM in Boston and Arnold in New York, re spectively, following reviews last year.

This year, the Barbados Tourism Authority plans to expand its “Best of Barbados” effort via ISM, building on 2002’s TV work from now-defunct D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles. The ads touted beaches and nightlife, encouraging viewers to contact travel agents for discounts. The message was particularly effective given the economy, noted Bill Silvermintz, BTA vp, marketing for the Americas. “People will be looking for deals throughout 2003,” he said.

Barbados spends about $10 million annually on ads, according to CMR.

Bermuda—which in the first six months of 2002 experienced a 3 percent drop in vacationers, from 141,000 to 137,000, from the same period in 2001—is also taking a new tack, said Michael Zuna, evp, group account director at Arnold in New York. New ads will focus on Bermuda’s “timeless glamour and charm” and its proxim ity to the East Coast, said Kristen Volk, evp, chief marketing officer at Arnold in New York. Two TV spots will debut by month’s end, followed by print in February; work will feature Bermuda landmarks. Bermuda spends about $10 million annually on ads, according to CMR.

The region as a whole spent $70 million on ads from January to October 2002; in 2001, it spent about $60 million on ads, according to CMR.