TOURISM and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Minister of Tourism is hoping The Bahamas’ new Lenny Kravitz-inspired advertising campaign will help drive stopover visitor growth “in the teens or low double digit” percentages for 2019.
Dionisio D’Aguilar told Tribune Business that the promotional campaign, formally launched in New York late on Thursday night, would have an “exceptional” impact in raising “brand awareness of The Bahamas” in its core US markets and beyond.
Disclosing that the roll-out is being financed from the ministry’s 2018-2019 budget allocation, Mr D’Aguilar said it had already received “rave reviews” from the advertising industry upon its launch.
Acknowledging that it will be “very challenging” for The Bahamas to this year maintain the momentum of a 17.1 percent stopover visitor increase for the first 11 months of 2018, the minister added that he would be “very happy” with a further “double digit” rise for the full 2019 - something it is on pace to achieve for the first quarter.
“Obviously I think it’s going to be exceptional,” Mr D’Aguilar said of a campaign that features the American-Bahamian rock icon, and is set to the lyrics of his Fly Away hit song. “Lenny Kravitz is a world-renowned celebrity and his song, Fly Away, was conceived of and written in The Bahamas.
“He has an enormous following, over 40m on social media, and all the additional work he has done for The Bahamas in relation to this ad really conveys a certain level of passion on his behalf for the destination. He has a residence in Gregory Town, Eleuthera, so he’s able to convey a certain level of authenticity about the destination.
Born to a mother with Bahamian roots, Mr Kravitz has also created a Junkanoo version of Fly Away with the help of an Eleuthera group. Mr D’Aguilar said The Bahamas’ promotion also tied into other ads filmed in The Bahamas using Mr Kravitz, while there were links to his daughter, Zoe, who the minister described as a “star unto herself”.
Given their combined celebrity status and social media followings, Mr D’Aguilar added: “We think it will have an incredibly positive effect on raising brand awareness of The Bahamas. Certainly in New York it received rave reviews from the marketing and advertising professionals.
“We’re going to have literally taken over a major subway station at a major intersection in New York City, and have been up on digital billboards in the city for a couple of weeks during that extremely cold snap. We know when you develop an ad you have to put resources behind it, and sustain a heavy roll-out, and we’re doing as much as our resources allow.
“The Ministry of Tourism has an annual budget of $50m, some $30m of which goes on salaries, and $20m is left for everything else. Embedded in that is $10m for this type of marketing, and this will be accounted for by that budget. We’ll stay within the confines of our budget.”
The New York sales teams for Atlantis and Baha Mar were also present for the unveiling, along with Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board representatives.
With 76 percent of The Bahamas’ tourism base generated by the US, Mr D’Aguilar said the campaign’s focus will primarily be there and its core eastern seaboard markets, although Europe, Latin America and Asia will all see a glimpse.
“Last year we had an incredible year,” he told Tribune Business. “Visitors were up 7.5 percent for the first 11 months, and stopover visitors were up 17.5 percent. It’s going to be very challenging to sustain that, so anything in the teens or double digits I’d be very happy with coming off 2017.
“For January we expected a bump of 15 percent, February to be up 12 percent, March to be flat, and for April we’re expecting a bump of 12-13 percent. We’ll take it a quarter at a time.”