THE ORGANISATION OF Eastern Caribbean (OECS) held a soft launch of their newest tourism project, ‘Soulful Caribbean Escapes’ at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s Caribbean Week in NewYork City earlier this month. Soulful Caribbean Escapes offers bespoke, authentic, immersive, unforgettable travel experiences on more than one Eastern Caribbean island, a release from the sub-regional grouping states. This umbrella brand contains three key elements – the culinary tourism niche, branded as Feed your Soul; the wellness niche branded as Heal your Soul; and the digital nomad niche branded as Free your Soul.The packages, launched on June 8, are designed to be multi-destination so that visitors selecting any niche can have one vacation on multiple islands.
This OECS Niche Tourism project, funded by the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) Regional Integration through Growth, Harmonisation and Technology (RIGHT) programme was derived from the recognition that as the global tourism industry continues to evolve, there has grown a need to focus on niche tourism marketing in order to diversify the OECS tourism product and attract discerning travellers seeking unique and immersive experiences.
The Revised Treaty of Basseterre mandates protocol Member States to establish mechanisms for joint marketing and promotion.To this end Member States agreed to focus on niche markets and an OECS Niche Marketing Strategy was drafted. Participating in this EU funded tourism project are eight Member States of the OECS, whose collaboration has been key to the project’s success, the release adds. They are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Niche tourism refers to the targeted marketing of specialized tourism segments that cater to the specific interests and preferences of travellers.
Therefore, instead of pursuing mass tourism, which often leads to overcrowding and the deterioration of natural and cultural resources, the OECS has recognized the need to differentiate itself by developing niche tourism products. Research undertaken in the initial project phase found that “there is a renewed emphasis on food-focused travel, wellness and self-care on vacation, and travelling off the beaten path”. Surveyed travellers say they “want to shop at small businesses and spend more during a vacation if they know it supports the local community”. From the thorough desk research and extensive consultations with Member States three niche markets were prioritised and developed – culinary, wellness and digital nomad.
Based on the selection of niches, product evaluations were conducted in the participating destinations and from this a series of sample itineraries for the potential travellers were developed. To generate awareness and demand for the packages, the project also supported the development of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy targeting consumers, the travel trade and the media.
The first of these marketing activities was a soft launch at the CTO’s Caribbean Week Media Marketplace which allowed this new brand an opportunity to be unveiled to influential travel journalists within the North American market. It also provided the opportunity to foster long-term connections and partnerships with key media.
Speaking on the launch of the OECS Niche Tourism project, director general of the OECS, Dr Didacus Jules said: “We are proud to introduce this OECS tourism project to some of the most influential travel media in the US market. We know that visitors are looking for experiential, authentic and meaningful vacations. The Eastern Caribbean is renowned for its picturesque landscapes, diverse cultures, and warm hospitality and we believe that this brand will have a positive impact on the region’s rebounding tourism industry.”