As Grenada turns to the International Monetary Fund for a debt reset, tourism officials launched Pure Grenada, The Spice of the Caribbean, earlier this year as a way to rebrand and refresh the destination during tough economic times.
Skift caught up with Rudy Grant, CEO of the newly formed Grenada Tourism Authority during Caribbean Week in New York, and he spoke about the organization’s new strategies and its efforts to both attract tech-savvy travelers through social media and to appeal to niche markets such as yachting.
Skift: I understand you recently created a new tourism body in Grenada. So how did that come about and what are you hoping to accomplish?
Rudy Grant: For a number of years there was discussion about creating an entity that was more autonomous, a tourism entity that was more private-sector driven, and not be bogged down with all the bureaucratic rules that come from the central government.
Skift: So before it was a governmental organization?
Grant: Yes, it was the Grenada Board of Tourism. But, on Dec. 31, that was the last day of the existence of the old Grenada Board of Tourism and on Jan. 1 the Grenada Tourism Authority started. We do have a board of directors which reports to the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation. But the mandate for the GTA is a lot greater than it was for the GBT. The GBT would have been focused principally on accommodation, mainly hotels, dealing, for instance, with licensing and having standards. But the GTA now has been expanded to deal with licensing and standards for water sports, taxi operators, amenities and attractions. The Act speaks of enterprises, and in fact any enterprise that the Minister deems to be a tourism enterprise will therefore be confined to functioning under the Act.
Skift: How is all this going to change how you market Grenada?
Grant: I should point out that on Feb. 14 we launched a new brand, Pure Grenada, The Spice of the Caribbean. What has been happening in the marketplace is our trade partners have been loving that new brand. But, we recognize there was the need to create a brand to create greater brand awareness, an identity for Grenada. What we are seeking to do particularly in these very challenging times is to ensure that we utilize our marketing funds specifically looking at where we know our visitors come from.
So presently the GTA is engaged in an exercise where we will be able to tell you exactly who is a Grenadian visitor. We have a lot of data, and we are using that data to identify exactly where our visitors come from, to identify exactly the age group. We have found out that an increasing number of visitors are coming from an area like California. California doesn’t have direct air lift. The traditional thinking is that people like to fly point to point. But most of it is coming through Miami. But we are looking at what is the real message from that as to why we are seeing increasing numbers of persons coming from California.
Skift: And what about the demographics? Is it younger people or older people?
Grant: Older people, 40-plus, the majority of our visitors are in that age group, mid-40s to 60, with a significant percentage over 60, as well. We are looking to target those persons who are very tech-savvy because there is the type of visitor who doesn’t use anything but technology. Our marketing budget is very limited. The country is going through a home-grown structural adjustment program. We want to better utilize public relations, better utilize social media tools in order to reach our target.
Skift: Are you active in social media?
Grant: We have been placing quite a bit of emphasis on social media. We have an e-business department. We are utilizing Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram. We are actually running an Instagram program. We are collaborating, too, quite a bit with St. George’s University. We have about 6,500 students. The majority of those students come from the United States, And the majority of those students also come from those areas of the United States that are major markets, where our visitors come from, like the northeastern corridor, for instance. We are doing specific target-marketing and utilizing social media.
Skift: You said you are focusing on the tech-savvy visitor. Why would they want to come to Grenada?
Grant: Grenada is exceptionally beautiful. Grenada has a number of the first world kind of attributes, but there is also that authenticity. So you can go on a white, sandy beach and within moments you can walk into a rainforest. Grenada is very safe, it is secure. Persons are very warm, very friendly. They are a number of natural attractions, Annandale Falls, Grand Anse Beach and other beaches, as well. Persons who are technologically savvy they can relax, they can have fun, they can relax off the beaten path.
Skift: So you are focusing on tech-savvy people because they are easy to reach. It is not because when they come to Grenada they’ll find tech features they’ll be happy with?
Grant: We do have some tech features that we are looking at. We are looking, for instance, when persons get to the airport you’ll be able to get a message when you turn on your cellphone. This type of thing is now in the works. One part of the airport has free Wi-Fi but we have to work on expanding that.
Skift: What would you say your biggest challenges are?
Grant: The country’s going through a home-grown structural adjustment program. We are going to be signing off with the International Monetary Fund to restructure public debt and to look after the overall financial condition of the country. While that represents a challenge, it also provides an opportunity because it has required us to look at how we spend every single dollar, to assess what benefits we are getting for that dollar. And, we are actually about ready to look at our revenue returns must be. For every dollar we spend, we need to say look, we need to have five to one, or six to one [returns]. We are now going through that process.
But, at the end of the day, what we are seeking to ensure is that we don’t just go through the traditional way of doing business as we would have done in the past. We carefully analyze and assess, and we identify how we are going to achieve significant gains on the limited money we spend.
In November, there is going to be the launch of the Royal Ocean Racing Club race. That is a transatlantic race. The area of yachts is an area we focus a lot of attention on. We have identified a number of niche markets that provide specific benefits to Grenada. Yachting is one of them. We have given support to the RORC event. The benefit that we get from that is a multiplicity of things. In terms of our contribution, we provide a small donation. You are talking about thousands of dollars, but the overall benefit to the country is in the region of $5 million U.S. dollars.
We are looking to partner with entities. We are bringing in a number of our stakeholder partners and are collaborating with them to ensure that at the end of the day we are all on the same page. We are working together, but also to ensure there is not a duplication of good marketing dollars so that we are not all doing the same thing with the same moneys. But we are able to partner together in a more effective, productive way spending marketing dollars for the overall benefit of the country.