We’ve all been there. Jealous of that effortlessly beautiful man or woman across the room whose good looks are like a magnetic attraction. From a distance all you want to do is to meet them. You build up just enough courage, plan the suave ice breaker and make your way over. Then it hits you – that awkward moment when you realize that their personality is not quite as exciting as watching paint dry.
Destination tourism strategies can have a similar feel.
Places like The Bahamas, blessed with natural beauty and a great location, have relied primarily on the 3S model - sun, sand and sea - for many years. Destinations must re-evaluate how they measure up to the competition because of three main factors changing the hospitality industry:
1. Travellers have more disposable income
2. More destinations are becoming accessible and amenable to mass tourism
3. The demand for memorable, authentic travel experiences is increasing
The key competitive advantage to fend off the threat of substitutes is differentiation. Cultural tourism offers a sustainable differentiation strategy using existing resources such as heritage sites, authentic local markets like Potter's Cay Dock in Nassau, traditional folk arts and crafts, visual arts, theatre and culinary arts. Moreover, with local buy-in, it can develop human capital and diversify economic development.
For a destination used to relying on its good looks, integrating local perspectives and cultural value into the tourism product is a critical step to not only sharing tourism dollars but also to preserving and, therefore, increasing the perception of the destination’s value. It takes vision to develop and to implement but there is empirical evidence that the returns are undeniable.
Ultimately, beauty and substance can be a winning combination.
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