14 DEC 2011: Trip Advisors and other online social media networks big on customer feedback will have a new contender once the Caribbean Tourism Organization gets its Total Visitor Satisfaction Surveys (TVS) done, said Hugh Riley, the CTO’s secretary general who proudly admitted no other region in the world is currently offering this rating.

Riley is secretary general of the organization representing 33 destinations, and once this new online tool becomes available it’ll take nanoseconds to find out what everyone thinks of them.

The TVS says Riley will serve to help improve service in its largest employment sector, the tourism industry.

“TVS is a work in progress. We want to start getting people excited. There’s a lot of science in getting it right,” he said explaining the intricate process which will involve pooling existing programmes from other sources citing the Hospitality Assured Standards from the Institute of Hospitality as an example. “We will not be reinventing the wheel here.”

Riley who spoke at a press conference revealed some other points we already knew but it’s always nice to hear it loud and clear from the source.

Canadian Arrivals

For starters, Canadian visitors are the biggest arrivals to these palm fringed sun spots.

“Canadians seem to like us more than anyone else. There are more Canadians per capita that visit the Caribbean than any other place on the planet. Out of the 35 million we get 2.8 million visitors from Canada a year. That percentage doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world so on behalf of the entire Caribbean thank you for the business,” beamed a satisfied Riley.

Repeat Visits

Another statistic the CTO is proud to deliver concerns the repeat visitor factor. “In Canada you have tremendous loyalty so the number of Canadians that keep coming back is a significant factor.”

More marketing + more lifts = More arrivals

Riley explained 12 Caribbean countries saw an increase in Canadian tourist arrivals in 2011. “Some saw really substantial increases.” Historically Ontario has been and will continue to draw the lion’s share but the CTO is observing other provinces across the country, which have encountered increased traffic. “There is a concerted effort to get visitors from out west... and the Maritimes.”

Anecdotal thoughts

“We haven’t collected this yet but it is very much on our mind,” said Riley describing the importance of quality service with quality products. “If we do our job right you will come again,” he noted about the significance of customer feedback. “The more difficult task is getting people to recommend destinations to others. If you are willing to place your reputation on the line and say, ‘take your hard earned dollars and come with me or go to the place I have been visiting,’ that’s the kind of recommendation every destination is looking for.”

“We are aiming for this,” he said observing that the Caribbean destinations wish to maintain and grow market share.

Helping agents

“One of the things we have started to do is to give agents the inside scoop, because they know more of their clients are going on the Internet at 2 am to find out information about their destination and that’s fine; that’s why the internet is there,” said Riley who noted providing information to travel agents is key.

“That is the most important tool to travel agents. But finally we let travel agents have access to the decision makers, the policy makers in the Caribbean and to the accommodation sector so that travel agents know instantly what is happening to a particular island or to a particular hotel property so they can use that information to effectively advise their clients.”

Clients might already have noticed some destinations have started offering the TVS surveys upon exiting.

For handy tools, the CTO has its latest tourism statistics available at www.onecaribbean.org

For updated news on the Caribbean Diaspora check http://onecaribbeandiaspora.com/

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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