• Transform magazine
  • June 06, 2020

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Place branding: Bahamas

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The impact of Hurricane Dorian has affected the Bahamas in terms of destruction of life and property. How it will impact the nation’s tourism brand remains to be seen. Brittany Golob reports on the Bahamas’ investment in its place brand and the potential for rebounding and rebuilding post-disaster

This year, the Bahamas invested in its place brand. The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation launched an app for tourists and the director general of tourism, Joy Jibrilu said at a conference earlier this year that a renewed focus on the brand would take the form of a social and digital push. And, though its Duffy & Partners ‘Islands of the Bahamas’ tourism brand dates to 2004, this year saw a new, localised iteration hit the market.  

In a push to work with influencers, the Bahamas Tourism Board enlisted Bahamian Lenny Kravitz as brand ambassador on its new ‘Fly Away’ campaign targeting tourists taking stopovers on flights to Canada. The singer grew up spending time in the Bahamas with his mother and her family, but it was the Out Islands that he came to love most. A video released in February featured Kravitz discussing his favourite things about the Bahamas  and encouraging tourists to seek out an authentic Caribbean experience. 

Similarly, this year, South Carolina-based agency Up&Up focused on boosting the profile of the Out Islands. The agency crafted an Out Islands sub-brand based on the primary tourism logo and colour palette. This focused on differentiating the archipelago from the rest of the Bahamas and the well-known destinations of Nassau and the Exumas. The resulting ‘Real Bahamas’ print and digital campaign used video chronicles and action photography to showcase a different kind of tourism to the Caribbean.

The Tourism Board has also launched the ‘people to people’ programme, which connects tourists with locals, providing for a more authentic experience to visitors. “It’s becoming very popular with multigenerational travellers as well as millennial travellers who are always looking for something more genuine and authentic, as opposed to a contrived, made-up place,” Jibrilu said at the launch. 

But those dreams of clear turquoise seas and white coral beaches were dashed for many when Hurricane Dorian hit the islands in late August, ravaging the Abaco Islands – part of the 700-odd archipelago that comprise the Out Islands, essentially all islands bar New Providence and Grand Bahama – before affecting other parts of the Caribbean. The result has been billions of dollars in property damage and the loss of lives still being tallied.

For the Bahamas, the hurricane was a disaster.

The tourism board has issued two press releases assuaging prospective visitors’ worries about Bahamian tourism. “In short, the Bahamas is open,” says one. The other highlights the jewels of the nation’s 14 lesser affected islands. “Maintaining a robust tourism industry will be vital in helping the country to recover and rebuild,” says Bahamas minister of tourism and aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar. “We are grateful for the outpouring of support and love for our islands, and we would like everyone to know that the best thing they can do for us right now is visit Nassau, Paradise Island and the Out Islands. Our beautiful island nation is ready to welcome you.”

The brand’s strength has reaped over 6m tourists in the past three years, seeing increases in air and sea arrivals, particularly from North America. But the hurricane’s impact may be acute. “Whether you’re a place, a product, or a service, having a strong brand is essential in a time of crisis,” says Ryan Tym, director of brand agency Lantern, which works with place brands, “The spirited attitude of the Bahamas comes through in news reports – whether it’s the government or the islanders speaking. The nation is owning the story, keen to show the world that despite the devastation, the Bahamas are open for business. The response is essential, as without these values or this story, there won’t be the visitors – or the revenue to rebuild.” 

There is hope yet, for the cheerful and welcoming island nation. Indeed, its investment in its place brand has laid the foundation from which to rebuild.