Marketing Mangustica Island as two or five stars?

This dilemma was developed by 2011/2012 master students at the European Master in Tourism Management  www.emtmmaster.net

Tropical Mangustica Island relies heavily on tourism. It is a small place that has developed rapidly over the past two decades. It was ‚€œinvented‚€ by backbackers who came over in small local boats. In more recent years investors have been invited in, and the development has become more diverse. However, economic crisis and increased competition from other islands and resorts in the area has led to a decline in the incoming tourism. The Tourism Board is the official organization is trying to find an innovative and long-term solution, in order to help increase the numbers of incoming tourists on the islands. So far, the main target groups were the Australians, the New Zealanders and only the richer travelers from other countries. The Board decided that, in order for the country to stand strong during the economic crisis, there is an immediate need to attract more budget tourists from all around the world.

The CEO of the board, Manuel Mangulia, is a very charismatic person. He has been in charge for many years and he is a ‚€œchild of the island‚€. When younger, he studies in the US, and he has travelled intensively. He is very fond of the culture and nature of the island, and he makes a big effort to make sure that the qualities are preserved and that the tourists get to know them. As far as he is concerned, the small scale, funny and touching details are important for the marketing.

Manuel wants to make an experimental turnaround of the marketing. He convinces the Board to launch ‚€œthe perfect blog‚€, a really innovative marketing tool. Since the Tourist Board is very short of funds, there are not enough funds to run the project alone. Manuel has to look for sponsors all around the country. The only businesses that agree to help by investing on the project are two large 5-star hotels that belong to the same business group. The only thing they ask in return from the Tourism Board is to promote one of their assistant managers, Alan, to the position of the official blog‚€™s editor in chief. Alan has been working for the hotels for more than 5 years, and he is an Australian national.

A plan for the blog is set up, and the Manuel convinces Alan to storytell about the local sights and to use the interactions with the local fishermen and crafts people in his stories. In addition, the blog shall also bring stories about the backpacker community and the great fun that young have on the beaches, where they camp, swim and surf etc. Alan and Manuel have a good time when they are planning this new blog.

The project starts running, and all the money the hotels offered is spent on the design of the blog, the salaries of professional photographers and Alan himself and other operating costs. As it turns out though, the blog is not as successful as anticipated. Only a few users have registered or written comments under Alan‚€™s blog posts.

The Tourism Board notices that Alan‚€™s posts are not really objectively written, nor are they following the initial intentions of the Board and Manuel. Instead of focusing more on budget travelling, small scale activities and the local culture, Alan keeps promoting the kind of lifestyle that the hotels he works for promote, thus writing a lot about expensive activities, such as spa treatments, sailing, snorkeling etc. To make things worse, when the Board chair, Sir Henry, addressed Alan about this matter, he denies promoting the hotels‚€™ interests and claimed that these are the only kind of activities available for tourists in this tropical area anyways. Apart from that, Alan has so far been a good blogger and informatics technician, so the members of the Board are confused, as to what they shall do to solve the problem. Alan is called to attend a board meeting. He seems to be ill and tried to avoid questioning. The board turns out to be in disagreement also. Manuel knows from his aunt that two board member were recently invited to the splendid annual birthday party of the CEO of the hotel. The board meeting has to be cancelled after some tumult.

Manual is a dilemma. With new communication methods he aims not only to attract more tourists, using the blog as a method of promoting the destination, but he also must not get the Tourist Boards‚€™ relationship with the two hotels ruined, since future cooperation with them might be important.

Poll: How would you solve this dilemma?

Manuel and the Board should try to persuade smaller local businesses that this blog can get them some long-term profit, so that they would be more eager to finance the project alongside the two big hotels. This way, the more budget options would be equally advertised and the Board would solve the problem of financing they are facing, without depending too much on the two hotels.

Manuel and the Board should convince the hotels that Alan should be removed from the post, restrict him to his old hotel assistant manager duties and ask the two hotels to replace him with Steve, a local islander who works in one of the hotels as an IT specialist and has been raised on the islands, thus knowing way more about the local culture and traditions. Furthermore, Steve has been a budget traveler himself and he knows what the new target group is looking for better than Alan.

The blog should be divided into two parts, one aimed at luxury travelers and one aimed at budget visitors. Alan keeps his post but only for the luxury-targeted half of the blog and there will be a need to find a main blogger for the other half. Since the Board faces economical problems and cannot afford to experiment too much, a competition will be held among the local businesses and the people involved in the industry, to find Alan‚€™s counterpart for the budget area of the updated blog. The competition will only have one winner, and he will sign a contract to work for the Tourism Board. The Board can afford to pay one extra salary.

A slightly more expensive competition will be held among foreign visitors, looking for the best blogger that will sign a contract with the Tourism Board. Participants will have to keep some sort of diary with their views, opinions, memories and pictures from their trip to the island and submit them to the Board. The competition will be expensive to promote and organize, thus Alan will have to be sent back to his old job as an assistant manager, once his successor is found. The good thing is that this competition can easily turn viral through the internet and maybe get the Board some new sponsors.


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