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Assess the view that Caribbean festivals are essentially part of the tourism marketing strategy to attract visitors.

By: Natasha Goddard

The Caribbean has the fortune – and misfortune – to be everybody’s idea of a tropical paradise. Selling its sun, sand, scenery and even festivals, the region attracts millions of visitors each year as a part of the world’s fastest growing industry. As defined by Falassi (1987) a Caribbean festival is: “a periodically recurrent, social occasion in which, through a multiplicity of forms and series of coordinated events, participate directly or indirectly and to various degree, all members of a whole community, united by ethnic, linguistic, religious, historical bonds, and sharing a world view.” There is numerous evidence found in literature stating the benefits of festivals to destinations and reinforcing the idea that they are an essential part of a country’s tourism marketing strategy. It is also noted that festivals contribute to a cultural renaissance and rejuvenate the prosperity of the destination. This is because it generates new employment opportunities (Prentice and Andersen, 2003; Smith, 2004) and also encourages the development of a kind of infrastructure which is visitor friendly and sustainable. Authors Bachleitner and Zins (1992) assert that festival tourism enhances the local populations’ ability to learn of its culture, increases pride in their community and brings about the opening of small and medium sized family enterprises. There is also the belief that cultural events can foster cross-cultural communication that can promote understanding between the host and their guest (Sdrali and Chazapi, 2007). A region can bolster its worth by targeting specific demographics thereby increasing its competitive position amongst other countries through tourism (Smith, 2004). With the current economic climate of the Caribbean, festivals as a result, are playing a greater role in generating foreign income. Generally, festivals have the potential to generate an increase in tourism and grants, or sponsorships, (Getz, 1997) either by direct or indirect intent. Festivals are identified as one of the fastest growing forms of leisure- and tourism-related phenomena (Dimmock & Tyce, 2001). According to Yeoman (2004), festivals can lengthen tourist seasons, extend peak season or introduce a “new season” to a country and do not only serve to attract tourists but also help to develop or maintain a community or regional identity.

The main goal of any marketing strategy for any type of product is to identify the customer and his or her needs and inclinations. Tourism is a leisure occupation and is mainly focused for those who can afford it. The major sources of such tourists are the three richest regions of the world, viz. the US, Western Europe, and Japan. And in those regions, the target groups we have to attract are people who have the time and the money. These are usually people who have retired and can afford to explore the world outside their own immediate reach. The younger backpackers or student-type tourists are not sufficiently well funded.

The Caribbean region has developed various tourism products, however for many years, the product of particular emphasis was on natural assets (sea and beach): sea-sand-sun and cruise tourism are the main tourism products supplied by the region. However this emphasis on natural assets as means for marketing for tourism has been over exhausted and is an extremely competitive asset, as all Caribbean islands offer it.

Due to the exhaustion of natural assets, marketers are now looking towards expanding on the less developed tourism products (such as health sports and more so culture and festivals). Cultural products such as festivals in the Caribbean are receiving increasing attention as a means of attracting tourism and media attention. Popular events, such as festivals, are the reasons travelers visit a destination and often plan an...
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