In the global tourism industry, the traditional concepts of good customer service and picture perfect scenery are being partnered with high technology to penetrate new markets and segment customer groups. In the Bahamas, internet and customer relationship management (CRM) technologies are being combined with security controls to take this approach a step further.
“One big development is the ability of the Ministry of Tourism to capture pre-arrival information as well as post-visit satisfaction data, which is collected via immigration cards on arrival and departure,” says Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization and former director general of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.
The move follows a decision by the Bahamas government to improve national security by processing immigration cards faster. It also wanted to have a way of linking immigration searches to international security sources and stop-lists and to co-operate with international security agencies. “If this could be accomplished, the data gathered from the immigration cards could also provide the country with intelligence in predicting future visitor trends and helping it develop visitor programmes through personalised, incentive-based, multi-channel marketing,” says James Ram, president and CEO of IT firm Indusa Global.
“Security is better than before: immigration officers can now pull out information on travellers from the database and cross-reference details far more efficiently than in the past,” says Mr Vanderpool-Wallace.
Immigration cards provide specific data for the immigration department and aggregate data for the Ministry of Tourism, which is then fed into a back-office system for data entry, quality and business edits, data warehousing, business intelligence solution implementation, maintenance, hosting and training. “Our interest was in speeding up the turn-around time for information so we could improve our market spending,” says Gary Young, senior director of research and statistics at the Ministry of Tourism.
The solution is based on the Microsoft platform, and can be used to generate various reports for industry partners. Hotels have been brought on board and now have access to information on what tourists think of their whole travel experience. “Using a system known as VISITREND, hotels have an opportunity to see where they sit in terms of what they’re doing and where the destination fits in with the whole country,” says Mr Young. “And we’re also using a system known as Visiconnect, which enables us to do the analysis and define customers who fit a particular profile, so we can target marketing campaigns directly at them.”
The technology also enables the government to monitor how changes such as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative could affect travel to the country. “We’re able to tell how many US citizens who visited us last year had passports. We have been able to do a lot of analysis showing that, based on various segments, around 20%-30% of the people who came here last year did not have passports,” says Mr Young. “That kind of information helps us to make an estimate of the economic impact in terms of lost jobs if people don’t come.”
Implementing the technology has required a series of partnerships. “The main lesson is – under the right conditions – to put public-private partnerships together to take advantage of the things that the private sector can do more efficiently than government,” says Geoffrey Lipman, under secretary general of the United Nations World Tourism Organization. “But, in so doing, it’s important that those things that governments do rightly – and are responsible for, such as security and controls – are not rescinded in the process.”