Published On: Sun, Oct 16th, 2022

Cdr. Bud Slabbaert and the search for St. Maarten’s unique selling point

PHILIPSBURG — In his article ‘Positioning a Caribbean tourism destination’ Cdr. Bud Slabbaert basically points out that a destination must have a unique selling point; in other words, offer something competing destinations do not have.

“Smart positioning will make one destination stand out from the rest,” he wrote, adding that positioning should come before promotion. “The Caribbean marketplace is cluttered with twenty-plus territories positioning themselves much in the same way and offering similar benefits.”

This is of course true: Caribbean destinations are all in a market fighting for tourists looking for sun, sand and fun. St. Maarten is no exception and the question is therefore: what does St. Maarten offer that others don’t?

Slabbaert comes back to positioning: “The position a destination has in the mind of the consumer can be more important to success than the destination itself.”

Here is another accurate observation: “Often disproportionate sums of money are spent in overseas promotions with a ‘being everything for everyone’-model in the hope that with a nuclear attempt that destination will be the winner.”

Budget size is not the winning element, Slabbaert argues: the smart use of the money you do have in combination with serious marketing research is more important, even though marketing research will obviously take a serious bite out of any budget.

Destinations must satisfy needs and deliver promised benefits, sounds like another logical observation. And again the question is: up to what point does St. Maarten deliver? And what exactly are the expectations visitors have of our island?

There is an easy way to find out and it does not even have to cost all that much. Just ask timeshare owners about their experiences. Some of these people have been coming to St. Maarten for thirty years or longer and they keep coming back. So the simple question is: why are you coming back? The answers will tell you all you want to know: the good and the bad.

Slabbaert brings another interesting issue to the table: perceptual mapping. He describes that as a technique to display the perception of tourists instead of the opinion of destination marketers.

A perceptual map helps to find out how tourists see the destination in relation to others.

That marketers must know their tourists, as Slabbaert points out, is rather obvious. They cannot figure this out behind a desk in Amsterdam or New York: it requires considerable research of tourist perceptions and competitor activity.

So what does all this add up to? Slabbaert: “Not capitalizing on unique strengths of a destination is missing out on the business opportunity that specialization offers towards efficiency and profitability. Spend the budget funds wisely. Don’t spread the efforts because you cannot have them all.”


Related articles:
Positioning a Caribbean tourism destination
Rethinking tourism; change is better than more of the same