Family Island Branding Off To Bad Start

Monday 27th, February 2012 / 11:05 Published by
in Travel

Hoteliers on Cat Island are scratching their heads after taking a first peak at the new logo intended to represent them to the tourism world.

The logo, part of the national campaign to put the Family Islands on the map, has been met with confusion by the local community.

Tony Armbrister, the owner of Fernandez Bay Village, said none of the residents of Cat Island were consulted about its creation.  As a result, reviews have been mixed.

“Cat Island is skeptical,” he said.  “It doesn’t mean anything to anyone.  It’s all about Rake and Scrape.  We aren’t known for that.  Cat Island historically is known as being the home of Voodoo.  It’s only in recent years they are promoting the Rake and Scrape Festival.  It’s not some huge historical moment.”

The hotelier also expressed doubt as to whether the campaign will put the remote island on the map, saying “what needs to happen never will”.

“Cat Island will continue to live in the shadows,” he added.

Frank Wolff, the owner of Shanna’s Cove, told Guardian Business the logo is “a little bit strange”.

“It’s not clear.  You have to explain it.  I am a foreigner, but it is very difficult with the locals.  I think the general feeling is the logo is not properly explained.”

Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, the minister of tourism and aviation, officially announced the Family Island initiative at Caribbean Marketplace 2012 in January.

“These island groups need their own logo and feel,” he said.  “Sometimes the differences between the islands in the country are as different as other English-speaking countries.”

Despite the confusion, hoteliers on Cat Island aren’t complaining about the level of business.

Armbrister, whose hotel contains 19 units, said the hotel is seeing a 10 percent rise in occupancy since November.  He felt the level of business recently has been very encouraging since the financial downturn started in 2008.

“I think the people we appeal to are tired about the recession.  Most are recession proof as well.  For a while people were cautious, but I think people are tired of it and deciding to just travel,” he said.

Specializing in outdoor activities such as kayaking, snorkeling and bone fishing, he told Guardian Business the venue stays alive through repeat customers and its pristine setting.

Armbrister credits consistent and dedicated service from SkyBahamas as a major reason why hotels and other stakeholders on Cat Island have kept their heads above water, and up until recently, have actually seen a rise in business.

Sun Air has also begun service to Cat Island, although on a much smaller scale.

Wolff has expressed satisfaction about occupancy levels for the 2012 season thus far.  While his property only consists of five cottages, he reported near full occupancy until the end of May.  Similar to Armbrister, he said November proved to be a turning point – a trend also experienced throughout New Providence.

He also credited SkyBahamas with helping the hotel prosper.

“I think SkyBahamas is doing a good job,” he explained.  “They are very reliable.  We talked with them about our business plan, and they called us.  For our little resort, they are very helpful.”

Exposure remains a challenge, he admitted, although “that is also the charm of Cat Island”, he noted.

More than two-and-a-half years ago, Wolff visited Cat Island from Germany and fell in love.  He was offered the property, and he and his wife pounced on the opportunity.

“I don’t regret it for a day,” he said.

Jeffrey Todd
Guardian Business Editor

Marketing experts have criticized the idea of branding the individual family islands, saying that the budget for Bahamas tourism marketing should not be disected in such a confusing manner.   While certain elements of the campaign seem to reflect good graphic design, the marketing message is muddled and inaccurate.

“The entire campaign is really just an exercise in graphic design and shows the naivity of Bahamian tourism officials as they once again get talked into an uneccesary and ineffective campaign that will do little more than boost a U.S.  agency’s bottom line,” says a 40-year veteran of the advertising profession.

“The truth is, all the family islands of The Bahamas are remarkably the same and most offer very similar experiences.  The differentation isn’t enough to create separate marketing campaign or brands,” says a Bahamian marketing and branding expert.

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