Joan Albury and her team at The Counselllors Ltd. (TCL Group) spearheaded the 14th Annual Abaco Business Outlook (ABO) at Abaco Beach Resort on Sept. 28.
Kerry Fountain, executive director for the Bahama Out Island Promotion Board, served as moderator.
The lineup of speakers included: Keynote Speaker the Hon. Dionisio D’Aguilar, Minister of Tourism and Aviation; David Lenoir, director of financial planning and analysis at Silver Airways; Chief Superintendent Kevin Mortimer; Father Deangelo Bowe, rector of Saints Peter and Anne’s Parish; Whitney Heastie, Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) Board Member; Kevin Darling, head of business banking for the North Caribbean at Royal Bank of Canada (RBC); Kristie Powell, senior technical account manager at Google, Inc.; Shaun Ingraham, co-founder and CEO of One Eleuthera Foundation; and Kimberley Castellanos, social media coordinator at Tambourine.
The Hon. Dionisio D’Aguilar
D’Aguilar’s speech bore the same title as the event’s theme, which was “Breaking Barriers: Promoting Success.” He said that the theme held relevance for all Bahamians because our country is engaged in business – Tourism business, which is a feeder to most of the economic activities in our nation.
During his remarks, Min. D’Aguilar referenced catapulting from being a “washhouse man to becoming the Min. of Tourism and Aviation with responsibility for Bahamasair, nine statutory boards including the whole aviation gamut, and interestingly enough, the Gaming Board.”
This position, Min. D’Aguilar said, has been the hardest job of his life. However, he is grateful that he is surrounded by diverse decision makers.
Before addressing the barriers faced by Tourism, he sought to define what they want success for this industry to look like.
“Let us be brutally honest. An effectively run business is about the numbers and the bottom line.”
Annually, D’Aguilar shared that The Bahamas welcomes more than six million visitors to our country, which is the highest number of visitors to visit any country in the region. Seventy percent or 4.5 million of visitors come by cruise ship, while 30 percent or 1.5 million visitors, arrive by air. Although cruise ship visitors spend an average of $70, stopover visitors spend an average of $1,500 during their stay. Comparably, visitors to Aruba or Saint Martin spend an average of $180.
Additionally, The Bahamas ranks as No.1 in the Caribbean region in terms of total visitor arrivals, yet places fifth regarding stopover visitors to trail behind the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Jamaica.
Short term, D’Aguilar suggested that cruise ship guests be encouraged to spend an additional $20 on their visits. This increase in cruise ship visitor spending would net $90 million in additional revenue for the country. He also recommended actively working to convert cruise guests into returning stopover visitors.
He spoke about the introduction of more day trips to the Out Islands, which are offered to guests staying at Atlantis and BahaMar. The swimming pigs of Exuma and Bites of Nassau Food Tour are also popular among visitors. Moreover, D’Aguilar encouraged Bahamians who travel overseas to bring back business ideas that can be incorporated locally. Abaco Neem and Graycliff chocolate were used as examples.
The Ministry of Tourism also has plans to develop a Business Development Unit to assist entrepreneurs with bringing viable, feasible ideas and concepts to reality. The biggest complaint from Bahamian entrepreneurs is accessing tourists therefore Tourism officials will make it their business to connect these entrepreneurs with our visitors to drive this business relationship.
As he continued, D’Aguilar pointed out that there is a global shift taking place in the travel industry: Millennials.
Millennials are people born between 1980 to 1995. They are into high tech gadgets and social media thus star consumers of the travel industry. D’Aguilar said that travel is something they see as a basic right. This type of consumer values authentic experiences that teach valuable life lessons; they are into the culture and heritage of the host countries they visit; and they are into creating long-lasting memories from their travel experiences.
“How have we in The Bahamas retooled our experience?” he queried.
The accommodations landscape has certainly changed with home sharing growing in popularity through networks like Airbnb. Currently, 1,900 Airbnb locations in The Bahamas. In the past 12 months, these types of accommodations have grown by 90 percent. Although hoteliers view this as unfair competition, the Government has ensured that those who benefit from home sharing pay their associated taxes.
With changes like this taking place, D’Aguilar urged business owners to wholeheartedly embrace Internet technology and to have a strong Facebook, and an overall, strong social media presence.
Statistics indicate that 87 percent of Millennial consumers are inspired to travel because of social media content; 47 percent book travel on their smartphones or tablets; 85 percent consult multiple travel Websites before booking because they are always looking for the best value for their money; 97 percent of Millennials post photos of their travel experience on social media; and overall, 67 percent of travelers now book their vacations online.
Moving forward, Min. D’Aguilar said that there is enormous growth potential for growing our agriculture, light manufacturing and high end quality crop sectors to meet the needs of our Tourism industry to give rise to a new generation of entrepreneurs and move us closer to spreading the wealth generated by Tourism.
“We hear the constant refrain [that] The Bahamas is too heavily dependent on tourism, and that we must diversify,” he expressed. “There’s a whole lot of truth to that, but until we identify and implement feasible means to make economic diversification a meaningful reality, a very practical approach would be to further capitalize on the tourism platform, which is solidly in place today.
“Tourism by nature is an economically dense enterprise with potential for deep linkages.”
Despite these benefits, however, additional barriers to Tourism are crime and the high cost of Bahamas vacations compared to other destinations.
David Lenoir, director of financial planning and analysis at Silver Airways, spoke on the topic, “Expansion Plans for The Bahamas.” He said that Silver Airways has a good business opportunity in The Bahamas where they see a lot of repeat business, so they are looking to grow these types of customers.
“Abaco continues to be an important market for Silver,” he confirmed. “It’s very strong and ripe for opportunity.”
According to Lenoir, Silver has more flights between the United States and The Bahamas than any other airline. In fact, company employees refer to Silver as the “big, little airline.”
Most recently, Silver Airways has upgraded its fleet, and has acquired 21 of 50 ATR-42 aircrafts so far. During his presentation, Lenoir also shared the airline’s route map with the audience along with fleet plans and restructured fares.
Future developments for Silver mean that they will be adding more flights to their schedule, and more seats to The Bahamas with its ATR-42 aircraft, which is equipped with 46 seats. The aircraft will also allow for shorter flight times.
“How can we partner to allow Silver to be successful in The Bahamas and deliver long-term and sustainable air service to the region?
Lenoir said the upgrades address Silver Airway’s operational issues reliability as a smaller airline. Silver’s formula for success predicts that the company will continue to invest heavily in The Bahamas particularly with the assistance of the Ministry of Tourism and local, island partners.
Additionally, Silver Airways’ codeshare and airline partners account for half of the revenue company makes.
Looking ahead, seasonal flights will be offered to areas like Treasure Cay, and the airline is looking forward to offering more outbound Bahama pricing to make flights more attractive for Bahamians to fly to the U.S. on the weekends.
He was pleased that the introduction of their new lower fares to select destinations has already begun to drive demand. With a focus on long-term industry leading operational performance, Lenoir forecasted that Silver will become a “great carrier for connecting smaller areas to The Bahamas.”
Chief Supt. Kevin Mortimer:
Royal Bahamas Police Force
Chief Superintendent Kevin Mortimer’s topic was: “The Assets of The Royal Bahamas Police Force.”
He shared that the profession he has chosen is his calling because he has great passion for what he does.
“Growing up in the Kemp Road area, I had a choice to make, and I think I made the right choice,” he expressed to the audience. “I feel humbled and privileged because crime is everybody’s business.”
Chief Supt. Mortimer acknowledged that one bad incident has the potential to devastate the entire island of Abaco therefore he and his colleagues are proactive with “stemming out evil.”
As we all know, crime is a hot topic in our country. As he continued his remarks, Chief Supt. Mortimer outlined what is beneficial to us as an island, and what the police are doing to ensure that we live peacefully.
The Commissioner of Police by law, he said, has put together a policing plan with seven major priorities that govern them: 1) Prevention and detection of crime; 2) Reducing the fear of crime; 3) Restoring and maintaining public trust and confidence; 4) To safely secure the public; 5) Work with young people; 6) Protection of our Tourism industry; and 7) Efficient management of their services.
Most of the priorities, he noted, apply to Abaco.
Chief Supt. Mortimer said that their crime-fighting efforts are challenged by a number of shop breaking and house breaking crimes. However, they have celebrated great successes in terms of arresting, charging and incarcerating criminals.
The police have also created several strategies with an increase in patrols in target areas.
“We all know the challenges of the Mudd and Pigeon Pea. It’s a safe haven for criminals, it’s a place of laundering for migrants to be smuggled to the U.S.; and while that wait is taking place, anything that they can do to enhance their lives illegally or legally they will do for however short a period of time they will be here.
“The Mudd and Pea is right in the center of downtown Marsh Harbour.”
Last month, several police officers accompanied him to meet with business owners in downtown Marsh Harbour to hear their concerns and address strategies to deal with them.
Despite policing efforts nationwide, however, reducing fear of crime is still of great concern.
Statistical data shows a decrease in crime despite murders, which are only one aspect of crime, he said. Nevertheless, he shared that Abaco and the cays are doing exceptionally well with established crime watches and meetings with local church congregations. They are also utilizing social media through a Whatsapp group formulated to allow constant communication among hoteliers, business owners and the police.
Added to those initiatives, officers who are from Abaco also have a vested interested in keeping their community safe. Presently, the Marsh Harbour Police Station has two superintendents, an assistant superintendent and six inspectors.
During the past three months, there has been a decline in housebreaking and stealing due to initiatives put in place by police like aggressive stop and searches. He said that it is imperative that they carry out these searches, which oftentimes yield illegal contraband and guns.
He advised the public not to feel slighted if a police officer pulls them over during one of these searches because there some among us who do not have good intentions. The police are also targeting night clubs to ensure they close by 2 a.m.
Over the years, boat thefts have also been a great challenge for Abaco and its cays. He was pleased to report that there has been a decrease of boat thefts in Hope Town, Guana Cay and Abaco Beach Resort. The police are equipped with a police vessel, and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) assists them with doing frequent water patrols.
Still, he encouraged boat owners to install tracking devices on their boats. Most recently, the police apprehended two boat thieves, and collectively they have either been incarcerated in The Bahamas or the United States.
Chief Supt. Mortimer revealed that boat thieves operate mainly in Grand Bahama, Bimini, Abaco and Berry Islands because of these islands’ close proximity to the States. The stolen boats are then used to transfer illegal immigrants and drugs.
As time progresses, he said that the police will continue to foster working relationships by maintaining an open door policy to the public to avoid people taking the law into their own hands.
Concerns arising in the question and answer segment addressed recent shooting incidents on the island, and Chief Supt. Mortimer said these cases are before the court and are therefore resolved from a policing standpoint. Another concern was no police presence at the airport; however, he said that is a Road Traffic Department issue, and police officers fill the need when they can.
A final concern was about students wandering the streets when they should be in school, and if there any programs or someone in place to assist them. He pointed out Assistant Superintendent Ann Neely, who is the police liaison for schools on Abaco.
Fr. Deangelo Bowe:
“My Abaco” was the title of Father Deangelo Bowe’s speech. As rector of Saints Peter and Anne’s Parish, Father Bowe said that he has seen the successes enjoyed by Abaco consistently over the past seven years that he has been here.
Unfortunately, one of the challenges he identified was the lack of empowerment offered to young Bahamian entrepreneurs. He reasoned that “sun, sand and sea” has been our mantra for so long that this trio may be the actual cause of the problems we are experiencing.
Throughout his speech, he reiterated that the people of The Bahamas are our No. 1 asset. In our quest to remain successful, he advised that we must find ways to empower entrepreneurs. Sadly, through our system of government, Bahamians are not given what is offered to foreign investors, he said.
“We are not owners, but workers in our own land,” he frankly stated.
Although he is not a businessman, Father Bowe said his position puts him in touch with Bahamians on a daily basis.
“How do we attract foreign investment and empower Bahamians?” he put forth.
The answer he said is to give them some of the same concessions and opportunities foreign investors are given like the leasing of land or tax exemptions as examples.
Another challenge he came across while visiting hotel properties with his wife. He observed that many do not offer the authentic Bahamian experience. As simple as breakfast is concerned, visitors are served pancakes and eggs and not stew fish. Simply put, he said we are giving them what they can get at home.
Again, Father Bowe emphasized that our people are the greatest resource we have because other places have the sun, sand and sea that we boast of. He warned those in power to fix this otherwise we will continue to see a decline.
In his travels to different islands for conferences, Father Bowe also saw where cruise ship workers control everything.
“The problem is we do not think we are sufficient,” he lamented. “However, the empowerment of Bahamians is necessary for the improvement of our Tourism product.”
Equal opportunity was another barrier he identified. Bahamians are living from pay check to pay check, and not truly making a living. He admonished that in The Bahamas it should always be Bahamians first particularly for those who are qualified for jobs.
Father Bowe said there is inadequate distribution of wealth and when money flows one way, slums and ghettos are created. Wealth must move freely otherwise crime will continue to rise. Social media and the Internet portrays that we are entitled to wealth. Wherever there is a lack, though, crime will flourish.
The high cost of living on Abaco is another concern, and it is something that locals and tourists complain about it. He wondered aloud how it is cheaper to buy food in Exuma and Long Island than Abaco.
“Why is that? You walk out of a store with 10 items costing almost $120.”
He cautioned that we must look at Tourism from all aspects including the effects of Tourism on education and sports. He suggested looking at ways to get visitors to partner with us. When you look around our community, Father Bowe said there are very little playgrounds, parks and recreational areas, but we boast of a thriving economy and Tourism industry.
“Where is our youth benefitting?”
He said change will come when we adjust our view of what is most important, which is our people. Inter-island tourism between Grand Bahama and Abaco with nature tours is a viable idea that can be incorporated as eco-tourism. Father Bowe said partnerships with people who are already in transportation and upgrades to their equipment facilities can make ideas like this work.
Bahamas Power & Light
Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) Board Member Whitney Heastie’s speech on “Energy in the Abacos,” addressed BPL, and how it relates to energy on Abaco.
Heastie revealed that there are more than 8,000 BPL customers served on Abaco from the north all the way to the south.
“Bahamas Power and Light Company Ltd. is committed to providing our customers in Abaco with safe, reliable and affordable electricity in an environmental friendly manner,” he confirmed. “Abaco is BPL’s largest Family Island operation with over 60 MW installed capacity, more than 8,000 customers and 80 staff members.”
Over the years, barriers faced by BPL have been low voltage from Marsh Harbour to Crown Haven including the cays, outages localized to cays as well as island-wide outages, and damage claims in terms of consumers lacking knowledge of the process.
The backbone of the electric grid runs from Crown Haven to Sandy Point and is operated at 34.5 kV. Future plans, he said, are to correct low voltage issues by fully commissioning the 34.5 kV substation at the Marsh Harbour Power Station by Dec. 2017, and mitigation of outages to localized cays by upgrading submarine cable to Hope Town within the next 12-18 months pending government approval.
Regarding island wide outages, BPL has completed installation of auto-reclosers. There are plans to complete a Protection Study and Voltage Profile within six months.
Heastie said that BPL provides plenty of generation with 60 kV combined with the power plants on the island.
Regarding damage claims, the plan is to educate consumers on the damage claim process in addition to timely logging and reporting of damages. BPL will also inform the consumer on things they can do to prevent damages.
The introduction of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) will give more control to customers by recording real-time consumption and personal analysis of use and pre-paid metering. He also explained the difference with primary, secondary and tertiary arresters.
Toward the end of his speech, Heastie also spoke about renewables with a review of converting WCPS engines to burn liquefied natural gas (LNG).
According to Wikipedia, LNG is natural gas (predominantly methane, CH4, with some mixture of ethane C2H6) that has been converted to liquid form for ease and safety of non-pressurized storage or transport. It is odourless, colourless, non-toxic and non-corrosive. LNG is cost efficient to transport over long distances where pipelines do not exist.
In terms of solar power, Heastie revealed that as of March 2017, customers can make application for Small Scale Renewable Generation (SSRG). Prerequisites are: completion of the SSRG application form; having a BPL account that is in good standing; an electrical schematic showing the configuration of the system; Signed Interconnection Agreement; a copy of the owner’s manual for the inverter installed with the system; proof of payment of the associated application fee.
Further outages mitigation will incorporate a loop system where submarine cables will be installed between Matt Lowe’s Cay and Hope Town, so that if the main supply cable fails on any of the cays, customers can be back-fed via the redundant cable. Heastie said a similar setup (loop) already exists between Matt Lowe’s Cay, Man-O-War Cay, Scotland Cay and Guana Cay.
For long-term growth and development, Heastie said that BPL is investigating the upgrading of all of the cays’ feeds to 34.5kV. This will provide adequate capacity for the cays far into the future.
Royal Bank of Canada
Kevin Darling, head of business banking for the North Caribbean at Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), addressed the topic of “Digital Banking.”
RBC has been in The Bahamas for 109 years and plans to continue their service, he confirmed. As for Darling, he has worked in 20 difference communities across the Caribbean and The Bahamas for almost 40 years.
Darling said that RBC is a bank that likes to advance with its communities. With business constantly changing, RBC has chosen to focus on digital services.
Recently, RBC developed a world-class app that enjoys a Google rating of 4.5 so far. The bank has made a further investment to add wire transfers to its app this month. RBC clients can monitor their bank account and do transfers from anywhere in the world. Future upgrades will soon allow applications for loans and mortgages to be processed online without having to come into a bank, he added.
Darling admitted that the expectations of Millennials drive all industries, and even regarding The Bahamas’ population, 84 percent of Bahamians now have access to Internet. So far, 23,000 people in The Bahamas are using the RBC app.
He said that while the majority of the bank’s services include storing money and lending money, other banks are no longer their competitors. Nowadays, their competitors are also Google, Amazon, PayPal and Amazon.
“To be competitive, we have to move where our competitors are moving,” Darling emphasized.
Backtracking a bit, he informed the audience that the first credit card was created in 1946. To date, their newer credit card machines are equipped to process chip cards.
Darling acknowledged that it is important to have technology in place for their merchants to be able to eliminate fraud. Clients also want freedom, ease of access and convenience with banking services.
Darling said that the plan is for RBC to continue to make bolder steps toward providing digital services while maintaining its customer relationships.
One of the main questions from the audience was why it takes so long to open a bank account. Darling said it’s because RBC is governed by multiple government entities, and therefore held to a higher standard as well as international fines. He said to maintain their presence here, they have to follow the regulations put in place for them.
Another major concern was the introduction or increase in banking fees. Darling said for many years, there were no fees issued by RBC. For the most part, he said that when there is not enough lending revenue generated to pay the expenses of banks, this leads to cutting costs inclusive of job losses or closing branches. Therefore, fees were passed on to customers to cover these expenses, and they now have to pay for certain services offered to them.
“How Technology Can Break Barriers to Success” was the title of the speech given by Kristie Powell, senior technical account manager at Google, Inc. Powell is a Bahamian residing in New York, and she spoke about opportunities she has seen while living abroad.
“My message today is entirely my own views, and unaffiliated with any corporation listed on my resume but is however based on my experience while living abroad and my journey as an entrepreneur.”
Living the life of an expat has been exciting and has brought change to her life. Powell said she has developed as a person, learned new skills, enhanced capabilities and created new meanings in life. Gained appreciation for global differences and gain perspectives on new opportunities for The Bahamas.
“Some can argue that we fail to keep up with technology, but where others see failure, I see an opportunity,” she expressed. “The technology revolution has yet to reach and integrate with businesses, households, and the lifestyles of Bahamians.
“This deficiency has created an alignment where we as a nation can seize this opportune moment to take a lesson learned from our neighbouring countries, and ensure that it is better in The Bahamas.”
She foresees technology playing an integral part in two industries: education and finance. Powell said there are many affordable technology initiatives that can be started to provide affordable technology to children in developing countries to help them become successful especially in the wake of natural disasters like Hurricane Irma.
“Why should students on Family Islands fall behind in their classroom curriculum? Why should students on Family Islands not be able to write any BGCSE examination in any subject area that they choose?” Powell asked. “The teacher shortage problem and the teacher’s physical location should not impede a student’s progress or stand between them and their dreams.”
She instructed them to imagine a world where constituencies invested in technology for their students in our schools. She said that students should be able to prepare for BJC and BGCSE examinations from their desktop computers or mobile web using past examination papers, access to online tutoring and integrating video conferencing in classrooms.
Powell highlighted a study from Stanford University, which discovered that when technology is implemented properly it produces significant gains in student achievement and boost engagement particularly among at-risk students.
There are significant disparities in technology access and implementation between affluent and low-income schools. Low-income students are less likely to have computers in their households or have access to the Internet in schools and classrooms. They are less likely to have digital tools to help with homework assignments, so their education outside of the classroom is limited.
“These technology tools help to improve the quality and access to education for all and remove the barriers to success.”
On the financial side, she said there are financial services that can be accessed as a path out of poverty, and technology has made great strides in creating economic sustainability. Technology has also created great opportunities to gain access to finances, she added.
However, in The Bahamas, Powell found out firsthand that there are barriers to accessing finances through our banking system.
“Why is it is easier to get a loan to purchase a car or for a vacation, but not for a business idea?”
She said countries plagued with the same epidemic found ways to build entrepreneurship by introducing a micro-funding technology platform. She called on the audience to once again imagine a platform where anyone in The Bahamas or anyone in the world to make a $25 contribution to a local entrepreneur.
Powel explained that micro lending originated in third world countries as a way to help very poor people launch small businesses, and now thousands of U.S. entrepreneurs are turning to micro credit as an alternative to traditional lending.
“The goal is to alleviate poverty and grow economies,” Powell affirmed. “Here in the Caribbean, we can create an online platform to connect online lenders to entrepreneurs.”
Although technology has the potential to have a huge impact on our lives, she admitted that it is not a silver bullet.
However, with a view of empowering entrepreneurs, Powell said two tools must be invested in them: mentorship and sponsorship from government and enterprises.
She challenged Bahamians to become a major innovation hub in this region adding that success will depend heavily on solid collaboration and bipartisanship within and between our organizations and government.
“When you think there’s a better way to do something, find it. Let’s get creative Bahamas and change the way people think by giving them new ways to operate. Once we have an idea, it’s time for us to stop being afraid of what can possibly go wrong, and start being excited about what will go right,” she envisioned.
“It is important for us to push the boundaries of what we know and what we feel we can achieve. Somewhere something incredible is waiting to be known, waiting to be discovered, and waiting to impact our lives.”
One Eleuthera Foundation
Shaun Ingraham, co-founder and CEO of One Eleuthera Foundation, delivered a presentation on the “One Eleuthera Foundation: “A Model for Socio Economic Development.”
He first gave a simplified definition of social enterprise, which is a business that fixes a social problem.
The One Eleuthera Foundation developed out of a need to provide an alternative development plan that would offer sustainability while preserving the aesthetic and historical value of Light House Point.
It was also observed that other organization and social enterprises that existed on the islands, there work was ineffective because no one knew what the other was doing and in many cases the same work was being duplicated. Therefore, there was a need to connect these organizations and form partnerships. Ingraham, said there were also donors who were seeking a more streamlined way to give and gauge progress.
After listing numerous founding partners of OEF, Ingraham talked about the shared vision that was created, which was to “ensure that Eleuthera has a sustainable future and develops in scale with their resources.” The vision was then backed by action through various projects, programs and partnerships.
As facilitators, OEF members support non-profits, charitable organizations and business entrepreneurs by connecting them to funding, expertise and resources. They also have to be accountable by tracking the progress and results of the organizations they support to their donors and constituents.
Ingraham said that social enterprises are guided by the three Ps: people, profit and planet. However, in a normal business environment, there is one bottom line – profit. OEF helps with structure, planning, finance, governance, marketing, fundraising and evaluation. Social enterprise is supposed to ensure that everyone benefits across the board.
Ingraham also addressed social entrepreneurship and what makes it different from other types of entrepreneurship, its importance and effectiveness in providing social change and how innovative social enterprise are. He also showed the growth experienced by social enterprises globally and locally.
Since 2008, OEF and its partners have invested an estimated $20 million in cash and in kind donation to the local economy. Collectively, OEF employs more than 60 staff and apprentices.
Ingraham said there has been an increase in new and emerging partnerships for OEF.
“OEF’s operation is highly dependent on maintaining strong partnerships with government agencies independent of party affiliation, educational institutions locally and abroad, business leaders globally and locally, religious leaders, community groups, nonprofit organizations nationally, and of course, residents.
Some additional initiatives they have undertaken is their 3-for-2 program where people work for three days and volunteer for the remaining two. OEF also developed its own credit union as well to teach young people to save money.
There was a break for lunch and fun giveaways before the social media workshop took place.
Bahama Out Island Promotion Board
Facilitated by Kimberly Castellanos, social media coordinator of Tambourine, the social media workshop was sponsored by the Bahama Out Island Promotion Board.
Before Castellanos came onstage, Fountain informed the audience about the Promotion Board’s investment in paying for education for college students as well as an initiative to identify high school students Grades 9-12 who are interested in creative writing allowing them the opportunity to become contributing writers.
The Promotion Board will pay for a student to travel along with a travel writer while they are on assignment, and pay for an online writing course for them. For professional writers, they will be able to attend a conference in the United States or Canada to enhance their writing ability.
Finally, Fountain turned the session over to Castellanos for Part 1 of the workshop labeled “Let’s Get Social.” She began with social media initiatives namely Facebook versus Twitter. She questioned the audience on what they thought was the best social media site for businesses, before pointing out that engagement is up on Facebook.
Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, combine as the “top dogs of social media,” she said. These platforms offer higher engagement with content therefore she instructed them to think of these platforms as mini tourism boards for their business.
Castellanos informed the audience that Instagram has a feature whereby you can search geotags (the process of adding geographical identification metadata to various media such as a geotagged photograph or video, websites, SMS messages, etc.) at the top of the page, and if the profile is public, it will automatically be seen in news feeds. She highly recommended geotagging because it is more accurate in pinpointing exact locations.
For off property user generated content (UGC), you would look for anything that showcases the guest experience. So how do you access that content? She offered a link – https://downloadgram.com – where users can easily access photos through Instagram.
Once there, you would search for the specific photo and copy the Instagram photo URL. She advised them to pay attention to the username in order to give photo credit to the person who took the photo.
Next, they would download the photo under the username, upload photo, type in a Facebook status and include the photo credit. Finally, they would be ready to publish or otherwise schedule or save the photo as a draft. Castellanos explained that Facebook business pages give users numerous options.
Castellanos then spoke about reputation management. When interacting with their fan base or guests, it is important for business owners to respond to messages in a timely manner. Facebook shows the response rate therefore a positive response rate translates to a positive guest interaction. In the event of a hurricane, she also offered some dos and don’ts of posting messages.
In Part 2 of the workshop, Castellanos covered Social Advertising. She said there were two pillars of this type of advertising. First there is Fan Growth Advertising, which deals with growing your fan base. She noted that Facebook is really helpful with doing this. Then there’s the target advertising where you observe your competition’s recent Website visitors or recently traveled past guest database.
Under e-mail acquisitions, Castellanos said that with these two sets of visitors you can grow email marketing channels with email advertisements on the Facebook network.