It is vital that businesses within Dominica’s tourism industry understand the benefits of online technologies. Regionally, too many small firms are still plagued with continued operations of only traditional means of communication, and have yet to be convinced of the desperate need to get online, with special focus on Dominica. By comparison, several larger enterprises have been successfully using the internet and basking in the glory of their success. Our competitive edge must be an effective online strategy that puts our local companies head to head with those established dinosaurs who have become too comfortable with their positions in the industry (they lead, but they don’t innovate, they don’t do strategy, and they are open for a takeover)
The internet is changing a range of business practices. More and more tourism businesses are operating online for convenience and cost savings (take a look at our international competitors). And though we are not ready (infrastructure, legislation, support, skill set), online transactions can be 90 per cent cheaper than our habitual fulfillment methods and electronic mail-outs can lead to similar savings (costs for 50 faxes and posted letters to US – compare – 100 emails to the same destination factoring time and costs DO THE MATH PLZZZ) . Cost reductions can also be achieved with real-time inventory management and stronger market penetration. It is the preferred way of doing business for some, and its use will increase as issues of security and privacy are further resolved.
It is my belief that our businesses are faced with three simple choices about the internet: ignore it and be forced out of business (your business soon if not already will cost you more just for not being online than being online); procrastinate as sooner or later you’re forced into using it (not embracing it you’ll use it only because you have to) ; or jump in today, learn the skills related with this exhilarating new marketing medium, and make your business a smarter, sustainable and more competitive company.
If the number of internet users rises as predicted (1.96billion users currently for 2010 – a 444% increase from 2000 source: “Internet World Stats”) then half the world population will be internet users in the next half a decade. Businesses which have not implemented online technologies will find fewer industry contributors to deal with. This may be particularly true for business to business communications where savings can be very attractive. Our businesses must be fully aware of the consequences of their decisions about using, or not using, online technology. They must also be attentive to how the internet can improve productivity. The average Dominican enterprise sees the internet as email & chat or accessing information platform. Instead we should see it as a complete approach to doing business, and can be used in production, promoting and marketing, forging strategic alliances and conducting transactions.
Important for our local industry is an understanding that, having a web site and an email address is not enough for a successful internet strategy, but it’s a start. Internet activities must be fully integrated with a company’s strategic objectives, including how funds will be raised (for example, through direct sales or sale of online advertising space) and what support measures (skilled web technicians or added staff for support fulfillment) will be put in place. Our tourism industry requires a highly skilled workforce in order to make effective use, and realize the potential productivity increases, of online technology.
The Dominican government has a central role to play in raising the consciousness and demonstrating the benefits of doing business online by showcasing success stories and providing information about how online technologies can improve business processes.
A concern frequently raised in dialogue in the industry is the need for a single site for businesses: a one-stop shop for online tourism. A humble recommendation; Dominica’s very own Tourism Online Resource Center, which would facilitate this need. The objectives of such a center would be to improve relations, forge partnerships, and to provide information (for businesses and consumers) for; online training courses, best practice guidelines, legal issues, relevant statistics and trends, Government initiatives and case studies. Big question, is there any organization that has been mandated for this? No, but several of them fall under that directive. Dominica’s Achilles’ heel here is “COMMUNICATION” (some might add more), an expression that is crystal clear, yet not fully understood and certainly won’t be grasped soon, well unless…..
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