recently had two separate conversations with industry leaders that started with the same question: How are you doing? The answers, from Bill Silvermintz, vice president of marketing for the Americas with the Barbados Tourism Authority, and Paolo Mantegazza, president and CEO of Globus and Cosmos tour operators, are intercut below:

Bill: "We had a great year -- nothing short of a miracle."

Paolo: "The past 12 months -- this was not a good year for us."

Bill: "We did a textbook marketing operation. Our broad goal was to come back strong from Sept. 11 by increasing name recognition among those who don't know us and break the perception that we're overpriced -- I mean, high-priced -- among those who do know us."

Paolo: "We took a defensive strategy. We bought into the arguments made by the financial side of the operation. They said, 'Cut costs to end up with a reasonable year.' "

Bill: "We spent $2.3 million over and above our normal budget to create top-of-mind awareness. We made wholesalers our partners with co-op money and training. We went to retailers, through trade shows and agent receptions. Then we went to the public and drove them to travel agencies."

Paolo: "We cut our sales staff from 16 to eight."

Bill: "Our goal was to create a high-value program. We called it Best of Barbados. We subsidized air fare to the island, and hotels, car rental companies and local attractions all pitched in with discounts."

Paolo: "The end result was that we lost market share. And, in my opinion, our wounds were self-inflicted."

Bill: "We introduced Best of Barbados in June. Our numbers were up more than 20% each month after that. August was up 23%. September was up 57%, but, of course, that was [compared with] Sept. 11, 2001, so we went back to 2000 and found we were up 35%. October is up 45%, or 23% over 2000. We'll have to see if next year holds up. But I believe that if we do nothing, nothing will happen."

Paolo: "In our planning last year, marketers were subordinate to the bean counters. In a way, I'm glad we went through it because ultimately it showed who's the tail and who's the dog. Sometimes the tail thinks it's the dog. But it's going to be different next year. We will be the undisputed No. 1 company in our markets. We're upping our sales force from eight to 36."

Bill: "I'm a marketer -- I don't go in like a bean counter. And it has paid off. The Harris survey people asked Americans where they would go on vacation if they could go anywhere, to determine the top 15 destinations. We made the list for the first time this year -- we were tied at No. 9 with Jamaica."

Paolo: "What I've learned is: First, position yourself in the marketplace. You can't look at the financials, and according to that, find your place in the market. You need to look at the market and develop your strategies from there. Financials tell you what impact your marketing is having, but they can't direct your strategy."

Bill: "I believe what happened was a direct result of our marketing. Look at the CTO Web site, look at the numbers. This was not a Caribbean phenomenon, it was a Barbados phenomenon. We are it."

Paolo: "You can't sit there and plan for the worst, or you will get the worst. That's what we did last year. Yes, have contingency plans, but they shouldn't be your primary plans. Going forward, we've invested a fair amount of time and money in marketing, targeted marketing. We're understanding the dynamics of the market and what drives our customers. We're investing heavily in marketing the right product to the right market."

Two conversations, seemingly parallel, starting off in opposite directions, arriving at the same conclusion.


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