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9030: Re: 9023: Mission Groups are Tourists Incognito (fwd)

From: Sean Harvey <seanharvey@juno.com>

> I have long argued that the folks in the Ministry of Tourism
> here are missing out big time by not targeting these groups for
> return trips, providing package programs specifically catering
> to their interests, etc. etc.  

An interesting proposal that seems bizarre at first glance and then
begins to make a great deal of sense. Certainly Haiti will have to work
at the grassroots level -- using its existing links to the potential
tourist pool -- in order to put itself on the mainstream tourism map.
These annoying missionaries seem to hang around preaching the good news
regardless, so why not exploit them? Exposing these people (not to
mention the NGOers) to the best and most beautiful of the country could
potentially generate new buzz. The problem is that it would be hard to
quantify the success of this endeavor, reaching as it does for that
elusive "buzz" goal. 

But something like this will have to be the beginning. I think those that
are trying to skyrocket Haitian tourism numbers by trying to scale the
tower of established mass-package tourist agencies and hotel groups in a
single stunning leap are going to be disappointed. Those corporations
typically require some third-party validation regarding the potential
profitability of the destination. For a destination with the century-long
bad American press of Haiti, they will move in only after the independent
tourists/backpackers have made the country an established "off the beaten
path" destination. This has worked quite well for places as far flung as
Cuba, Goa and Vietnam. Not  to mention the Dominican Republic, where the
quiet little seaside village of Cabarete has gone from cow town to surfer
tent city to independent tourism center to all-inclusive megalopolis in
just fifteen years. 

My personal opinion is that the best strategy would be a marketing
campaign in Europe and the US that targeted the backpackers/independent
young travelers crowd. This group is often sniffed at by Tourism
Ministries with a bit of disdain, but they have worked miracles for
tourism sectors across Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Europe and
Asia. If they start showing up, big business will be right on their

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