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There’s a new Tourism stage in town.

Last week, I wrote an article titled ‘Reopen but Reposition’, consider this an update to my last article. During the last few days something amazing has happened within regional tourism, which officials should all be excited about.

In my last article I urged Caribbean tourism officials to “Take it away from the Beach” in an effort to attract the younger crowd who will now likely make up the bulk of the air travel population. I argued that experience based tourism and “instagrammable” moments would become more important as this younger set will not be content to lay on the beach and sun bathe.

Now a major announcement in technology may certainly give rise to the experience aspect of tourism like never before. The commercialization of virtual tourism and virtual experiences is finally here. Meet Amazon Explore! This is a platform that will allow for the monetization of experiences. Let me explain. This platform allows customers to book a multitude of live virtual, truly Caribbean experiences led by local experts in all kinds of areas and industries.

For example, you could book a virtual rum tasting experience at Demerara Rum in Guyana; learn how to make jerk chicken in Faith's Pen Jamaica ; take a virtual tour of Barbados’ Harrison Caves, St Kitts Brimstone Hill or a virtual sail on a traditional Carriacou sloop. Think of the possibilities! People from all over the world can log on to a virtual hike of the Pitons, or to Sandra’s Kitchen in Roseau, to learn how to make the best Christmas Cake. And how about partaking in the virtual, visual experience of restoring an endangered coral reef off Virgin Gorda or remarking a trail deep in Suriname’s rainforest! Finally, hidden gems and the beautiful attractions of our small Caribbean islands have a global virtual stage!

If this were not enough, customers can also buy a bottle of rum used in the rum tasting, or the Christmas cake from Sandra’s Kitchen. The virtual experience is not the only thing being marketed, but the products which surround the experience. It is the perfect marriage of commerce, product development and experience.

So what should we do? Amazon Explore is set to become the “Expedia” of the virtual travel world! It will also play on emotive marketing and consumer behavior to stimulate the real travel market. These experiences will cause people to shop and actually travel. It is set to be the technology and online hub for visual merchandising. This type of marketing will place products as part of the experience in a way that creates demand, not just for the product, but for the associated experience and lifestyle.

Caribbean tourism planners should now take this opportunity to get listed early by:

  1. Firstly, planning and coordinating the most attractive, authentic, and unique Caribbean experiences. Make a list and get as many experiences as they can on the Amazon Explore platform.

  2. Ensuring a proper story is built around each experience. Taking the time to develop historical and cultural context, community anecdotes, and other relevant information. Selling this product is not simply about putting together a montage of beautiful scenery with a catchy soundtrack. Historical and cultural significance will matter and authenticity and uniqueness will be key. Meaningful experiences which improve the quality of life for communities or the environment will be big sellers.

  3. Focusing on buy-in from the tourism stakeholders. This virtual platform could be the one that helps get some of our industry stakeholders back to work. Tourism planners need to have massive engagements with the owners and operators of these experiences and products.

  4. Thinking outside the box. The way these experiences are run at the moment, may not be the way that they are presented for the virtual platform. Be aware that tweaks and changes may be required. Also the product placement in the experiences will need to be positioned in a way that the products have appeal to the viewing customers. The consumption of the products as part of the experience will most likely be a key factor.

  5. Finally use this to market your islands. This Amazon Explore opportunity is not just about the experience, but about the culture and lifestyle of the region. Use it to portray the best visual experience and of course, link the virtual to the actual. Make people fall in love so much that they are compelled to visit. Above all, make it a platform for commerce in goods and services for the region.

Amazon Explore is the personification of something I have theorized on for a long time. The greatest export of the United States is not any of its goods and services, it has always been about its culture. The USA has been able to cement itself as the greatest country in the world because it has been able to, among other things, have cultural dominance over the rest of the world. US ideals, aspirations, dreams and values have permeated themselves into almost every corner of the world. We too now have a chance to export our culture and way of life. The Caribbean’s greatest export has always been tourism. Now we may have a chance to export this not just to people who admire us, and visit us, but to people who aspire to.

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