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Caribbean Tourism

R.O.A.R.: The darker the night, the brighter the light

Bevan Springer  Mar 30, 2009

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados - If I were to leave the planet for two months and return from my outer space experience to catch up on news in the travel and tourism business, I might come to the quick realization that the industry will soon be eliminated and even that the world may shortly come to an end.

The local and international headlines and stories I perused over the past few days speak to the perilous condition in which the travel and tourism industry finds itself - from the negative fallout in the business and conventions market reportedly due to Washington's warnings to big business about the use of bailout money on junkets; to warnings from a Caribbean government about nationals in New York who are trying to hinder tourism; to the news that a regional carrier will soon discontinue service to a popular Caribbean destination.

These examples are perhaps mild compared with the other depressing stories of doom and gloom that have recently dominated the media landscape at home and abroad. More are surely on the horizon.

I am thankful for having been taught that every cloud has a silver lining. The late Edwin Louis Cole, an American pastor, believed that the darker the night, the brighter the light. He reasoned that the brightest light cannot be seen in daytime, but the faintest light radiates in the dark of night. A lighted match in the night is better than the brightest searchlight in daylight.

As darkness encircles our world, I am also reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:2: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

As the tourism industry appears to be heading for collateral damage from the credit crunch and Caribbean nationals brace for the accompanying social setbacks that are associated with economic downturns, we should not to be tempted to retreat, but rather to instead research market opportunities and new consumer behaviors more diligently so we can put hands to the winepress to make the best of the new season.

We don't drown by falling in the water, we drown by staying there. It takes faith to pull ourselves out of the water and embark on strategies that lift us to a new place in our thinking - do not to whine about our current condition, but rejoice in the recovery process.

Critics of Air Jamaica's recent overnight schedule to the Eastern Caribbean say the new flights were never designed for the tourist market but for the VFR market segment comprised of Caribbean nationals since tourists want a schedule that places them first on and last off the beach.

Having experienced the service on my current visit to Barbados, I ask "why not for tourists"? With hotels experiencing low occupancies, a 4 a.m. early morning arrival should guarantee an early check-in with even more beach time, not to mention a great night's sleep in the darkness of night! And while I may feel shortchanged by returning for the United States at 5 a.m. in the morning, maybe the compensating factor is that I took advantage of a free night hotel offer, similar to other deals which abound in the marketplace. All of a sudden, the schedule - while not ideal - starts to look that more appealing.

One sure recipe for disaster in today's economy is to do nothing. Making the most of tough market conditions requires a change in mindset so that we can boldly tackle the challenges of the day.

More Caribbean jobs are on the line, the economy is in a downward spiral, but we must keep on moving.

Brothers and sisters, to everything there is a season, so these tough times too shall pass.

Let us get out of the water, dry ourselves off and chart a new course, offering a bright light in today's sea of darkness.

Yes we can!

Bevan Springer, who writes frequently on Caribbean travel and tourism issues, is the President of the New Jersey-headquartered Marketplace Excellence LLC - a full-service, integrated mass communications agency committed to excellence in the fields of public relations, marketing and media coaching. He also produces the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism - CMEx.)

R.O.A.R.:  The darker the night, the brighter the light
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