42% of Bahamas Small Hotels Lack Websites

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Small Bahamian hotels must embrace technology in order to stay competitive throughout this nation and in the region, the Ministry of Tourism's director-general said yesterday, while the Bahamas' 1-800-BAHAMAS call centre is scheduled to move back home sometime in 2010.

Vernice Walkine said 42 per cent of small hotels in the Bahamas did not have a website, while on the consumer side 40 per cent of vacation purchases were made online.

Ms Walkine said the Ministry has made a concerted effort through Bahamas.com and its various marketing affiliates to highlight those hotels on the Family Islands which may not get exposure via the Internet.

"We are in a technological age," she said. "The Internet affords everyone a perfectly level playing field."

Ms Walkine said visitor testimony has branded Bahamas.com a successful destination site. And she cited rich media, such as video, pictures and audio, as the dynamic experience that visitors are looking for in a virtual visit.

These things, she argued, were necessities in the ultimate decision made by online vacation destination shoppers.

"However, Bahamas.com cannot be all things to all people," said Ms Walkine.

She said online credit card bookings were becoming an essential part of any hotel's booking platform, and insisted that Bahamian small hotels take advantage of the opportunities opening up on the Internet.

While the development of virtual media was a top priority for the Ministry of Tourism, its highly-regarded toll free call centre, located in the US, is moving back to the Bahamas next year.

According to Ms Walkine, the placement of local Bahamians in the call centre will enhance the authenticity of the experience for guests.

She said because of the Bahamas' online presence and open communication links to the outside world, this is one of relatively few countries that consistently knows what its visitors are saying about it.

And she said that while the Bahamas may have a geographic advantage compared to the rest of the islands in this region, it can not always be assumed that it will always be the advantage.

Many have been concerned that when Cuban dictator Fidel Castro dies, Cuba will become a tourism mecca and absorb the Bahamas' market substantially.

Ms Walkine alluded to the diversification of Bahamian tourism through the development of niche products, such as sports tourism and medical tourism.

She added that placing much more emphasis on connecting with the customer and delivering a high quality of service, as well as increasing airlift to the Family Islands, will assist in increasing small hotel occupancies and overall success.

Source: The Tribune