STEVE BORNN, FORMER MARKETING DIRECTOR OF THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM, went from working for one of the Caribbean's most popular destinations to one of its least known when he took on his new role as CEO and director of tourism for the Discover Dominica Authority this summer. Bornn tells Travel Agent that he's looking forward to Dominica's challenge of emerging as a major Caribbean destination, something he describes as a "David versus Goliath" match-up.
So how does he expect to compete against other Caribbean destinations? Well, he doesn't. As Bornn sees it, the other islands don't have what Dominica does. Not your typical fun-in-the-sun destination, Dominica is an adventure travel and ecotourism spot. Instead of competing with its neighbors, he says, Dominica could find itself up against South and Central American ecotourism giants like Belize and Costa Rica.
But before consumers realize what Dominica has to offer, they first need to know what and where it is. Despite past efforts, many consumers and even travel professionals still confuse Dominica with the Dominican Republic. (In all of Dominica's press releases, the word "Dominica" is followed by the phonetic spelling "Dom-in-eek-a.") The 290-square-mile island lies just north of Martinique and a full 500-plus miles south and east of the Dominican Republic.
Bornn, a 28-year veteran of the tourism industry, has some experience positioning a destination amid unfavorable circumstances. For the Virgin Islands, he implemented the "No Passport Required" campaign and led promotions of St. Croix as a stand-alone destination with a distinct brand and advertising program, as part of the U.S. territory's post-9/11 recovery.
Focus on Younger Travelers
Bornn says agents should target two age groups for Dominica: 18- to 25-year-olds, or "the new backpackers," and sophisticated travelers 25 to 60. Although the average income of Dominica visitors falls around $65,000 to $85,000, the younger travelers have a place in the market. "There are a lot of group opportunities for travel agents—a lot of students who will travel with their schools," Bornn says. "And who do you think pays for those trips? The students? No. Mommy and Daddy do. And Mommy and Daddy don't want to book online. If they're spending good money, they want to go through travel agents. Agents should really contact schools, go after schools for group travel opportunities. There is money to be made there."
On December 13, American Eagle will add a second nonstop flight from San Juan to Dominica. The new service will operate on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, in addition to the airline's current daily flight from San Juan to Dominica.
Agents can contact the tourism authority to learn more, 866-522-4057. All the phone representatives are from Dominica and able to answer questions regarding the island.