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Unique Selling Propositions in the

Caribbean Tourism
A Longitudinal Analysis with Special Reference to the Role of Attraction Diversity

Babu P George
DBA Candidate
Swiss Management Center University
October 2016

Brief Background
The Sun-Sea-Sand-Sex model of tourism in the Caribbean has begun to face
significant challenges (Weiler & Dehoorne, 2014).

Since the early 2000s, the island nations began to realize that the generic sun-sea-sand-sex
formula doesnt offer them any more competitive advantage (Henthorne, George, & Smith,

Henthorne & Miller (2003) pioneered the scholarly investigations on how the
Caribbean nations have evolved their uniqueness based marketing campaigns

The present researcher joined their research team in 2007.

Our Caribbean focused research resulted in multiple peer reviewed publications and a few
additional grant funded projects.

During 2014, when the present researcher decided to pursue a second doctoral
degree, it was felt appropriate to expand upon the existing research. The
following topics were identified for this doctoral study:

A longitudinal examination of Unique Selling Proposition usage over 2004 2014.

The specific role of destination attraction diversity in the USP adoption.
How the marketing effectiveness of a USP is moderated by attraction diversity.
The nuanced political process that results in the choice of USPs and business responses.

Literature Overview
Since early 2000s, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has been
encouraging member nations to identify elements that make each of them
unique so that marketing dollars are not wasted in competing against one
another (Hill, & Lewis, 2015).
Authors like Poon (1998) and Henthorne & Miller (2003) urged that the
only way the Caribbean can sustain its tourism in the 21st century is by
means of unique innovations in products and processes.

It was hard to identify island specific uniqueness in the Caribbean and the marketing
response was to construct it (Mosedale, 2006).
Interpret and reinterpret the value of tourism resources until that process resulted in the
identification of something unique (Chambers & McIntosh, 2008).

Based on sought and found ideas, these destinations unleashed various promotional
campaigns (Croes, 2006).
Over time, these campaign focus areas emerged into unique selling propositions (Henthorne
& Miller, 2003; Miller & Henthorne, 2006).

The Unique Selling Proposition

Identifying some kinds of uniqueness is a crucial element of the marketing process;
especially, it is essential for successful positioning with a meaningful difference (Frazer,
1983; Kippenberger, 2000; Laskey, Fox & Crask, 1995; Schlegelmilch, 2016).
Unique selling ideas over periods of refinement could transform into the core
competency of a business (Knox & Bickerton, 2003).
The concept of the unique selling proposition and its application to advertising is
generally credited to Reeves (1961).
Richardson and Cohen developed a hierarchical scale for analyzing marketing slogans,
which ranged from Level 0: No proposition through Level 4b: Unique selling
However, success stories of the USP approach in tourism are not many (Deslandes &
Goldsmith, 2015).

Tourism is a highly subjective, interpretative, and experiential product; it does not have an obvious
core, to which the experiences of all customers could be anchored (George & George, 2004).
Many tourism destinations are diverse in attractions, have diverse interest groups, and
overstressing a single USP will obviously create losers (Daye, 2010). It may turn out to be a myopic
strategy, too (Henthorne, George, & Miller, 2016).

A Sample of USP Informed Tourism

Promotional Slogans in the Caribbean

Dominica: The nature island of the Caribbean

Suriname: The Beating Heart of the Amazon
Jamaica: Get All Right
Anguilla: Tranquility wrapped in blue
Antigua: The beach is just the beginning
Aruba: One happy island
Barbados: "Long live life
British Virgin Islands: nature's little secrets
Cayman Islands: Wherever you find your smile, youll find ours
Curacao: Unique Caribbean island paradise"
Dominican Island: "Has it all!
Grenada: The spice of the Caribbean
Haiti: "experience it
Martinique: The flower of the Caribbean

Research Questions
RQ1. As the Caribbean country destinations continue to evolve and
mature, is there still a continuing trend toward the increasing use of
the USP approach?
RQ2. What is the relationship between the attraction diversity of a
destination management area and the level of USP usage in that
destination areas promotional campaigns?
RQ3. Does a destinations attraction diversity significantly moderate
the relationship between the USP usage and tourist arrivals?
RQ4. How do businesses differentiate themselves within the
homogeneity implied by their destinations USP statement?

Null hypothesis H1.0: There is no significant difference in the levels of unique selling propositions
used by the Caribbean nations in their marketing programs, across the period of study i.e., 20042014.
Alternate Hypothesis H1.1: There has been a significant increase in the levels of unique selling
propositions used by the Caribbean nations in their marketing programs, across the period of
study i.e., 2004-2014.
Null hypothesis H2.0: There is no significant relationship between the attraction diversity of a
destination area and the level of USP usage in that destination areas promotional campaigns.
Alternate Hypothesis H2.1: There is a significant inverse relationship between the attraction
diversity of a destination area and the level of USP usage in that destination areas promotional
Null hypothesis H3.0: Attraction diversity of a destination area does not significantly moderate
the relationship between the level of unique selling proposition used and tourist arrivals.
Alternate Hypothesis H3.1: The relationship between the level of unique selling proposition used
and tourist arrivals is significantly moderated by the attraction diversity of a destination area.
NOTE: Research Question 4 was addressed exploratatively and qualitatively.

The Idea of Attraction Diversity

Investigation of RQ2 & RQ3 demands that attraction diversity be
conceived and a valid measurement scheme of the same be
In this research, attraction diversity is constructually defined
Also, an index to quantify the diversity of attraction types in a destination area Attraction Diversity Index - is operationalized.

Measuring Attraction Diversity

Common approaches to measure business diversity include:

Categorical approach (Wrigley, 1970).

Count approach (Jacquemin & Berry 1979; Varadarajan & Ramanujam 1987).

The categorical approach subjectively classifies businesses into the categories

such as single business, dominant business, related business, and unrelated
business (Rumelt, 1974).
Two ratios were calculated:

Specialization ratio (Rs = revenue attributable to the largest single business / total revenue),
Related ratio (Rr = revenue attributable to the largest group of related single businesses / total revenue).
The values of these ratios were then used to determine the category of diversification.

The count approach, on the other hand, counts diversity.

In its simplest form, diversity can be modeled as D = N 1, where D is a measure of diversity

and N represents the number of distinguishable products.
Thus, in the special case of a tourism destination with only one attraction, D = 0.

Modelling Attraction Diversity after the

Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI)
The HHI is a time tested and well respected operationalization of the
count approach (Hirschman, 1964; Matsumoto, Merlone, &
Szidarovszky, 2012).
Used by courts and international arbiters in multiple anti-trust litigations
Extensively used in the scholarly literature, too.

The HHI measures the size of firms in relation to the industry and is
an indicator of the amount of competition among them.
In this research, a single type of attraction in a country is proposed to be
equivalent to a single firm in an industry
the size of that attraction type in a country is equivalent to the size of a firm in an


H = Si2

S is the market share of firm i in the industry.

Typically, an H below 0.01 indicates a highly competitive, no concentration index.
An H below 0.15 indicates a largely un-concentrated index.
An H between 0.15 to 0.25 indicates moderate concentration.
An H above 0.25 indicates high concentration.

The inverse of concentration could be a valid measure of diversity

Thus, Attraction Diversity Index (ADI) could be operationalized as the inverse of a
tourism industry adapted form of HHI.
ADI = 1/ (MSi)2
For example, MS1 represents the market share of attraction cluster 1.
Market share for a cluster = Revenue generated by the cluster / total tourism industry
revenue for the country.

The Research Method

Mixed method study
Key data sources
Tourism statistics data drawn from CTO
Jamaican cruise tourist arrival data
Archived data on web based tourism promotional campaigns
Especially, taglines used by national tourism websites during 2004, 2009, and 2014.

Qualitative, open-ended, interviews with select Caribbean tourism industry

Interviews carried out during the CTO annual conference 2014

User review data on Caribbean attractions, accessibilities, and amenities

TripAdvisor reviews, tweets, etc.

Software Used: SPSS / PASW, IBM ManyEye, IBM Watson, MS Excel

Data Analysis
Word Cloud Analysis
The word Caribbean appeared highly prominent across all slogans, across
the entire, study period.
Most destination countries in their official campaigns recognize that this word
is the truest representatives of the spirit of the Caribbean.
Mood analysis on user reviews using IBM Many Eyes indicate the word
Caribbean generated the greatest positive mood, across the years.
Countries may be at a loss, if them stressing their uniqueness means abandoning the
shared spirit of the Caribbean!

Heightened stress on Nature is evident, since 2009.


TripAdvisor User Review** Vs Official USPs

** Data accessed using IBM Watson Analytics softwares social media module

Most Common Words across Official Tourism


2004 2009 2014

Caribbean 12
Island 6

Experience 2
Secret 2
Little 2
Explore 2
Paradise 2
French 2
Nature 2


Note: These numbers represent the number of slogans in which each of these keywords occur.

Overall Changes in the Levels of USP Used

Level 0: No proposition
Level 1: Proposition equivalent to Buy our product"
Level 2: Proposition equivalent to Our product is good"

Range of USP Values in 2004, 2009, and 2014

Level 3a: Proposition gives a product attribute, but virtually any [tourism destination]

USP Level




could claim the same attribute





Level 3b: Proposition gives a product attribute, but many tourism destinations claim









Standard Deviation




the same attribute

Level 4a: Proposition gives a unique product attribute which is not a product benefit

(i.e., does not sell)

Level 4b: Unique selling proposition
Source: Richardson and Cohen (1993)

USP Level as a Function of Attraction Diversity

y = 0.117128x + 1.972817
y = 0.161789x + 2.477685
y = -0.126659x + 2.864197

Attraction Diversity, USP, and Tourist Choice: A

Combined Model





Standard Error of Estimate













Note. * = ADI predicting arrivals; ** = USP predicting arrivals; *** = ADI x USP predicting arrivals

Hidden Undercurrents in the Determination of

the USP
Theme 1: The Power of Networks
Networks of small businesses to gain power
Also, sustainable, responsible business practices

Theme 2: Media Relations

Better media management to manufacture consent

Theme 3: Politics of Populism and Nepotism

Political decision making according to the popularity (a.k.a. vote winning
potential) of an idea

Theme 4: Survival of the Fittest

Align with the national USP campaign, unless you are strong!

Recapping the Findings

RQ1: As the Caribbean country destinations continue to evolve and
mature, whether there is still a continuing trend toward the increasing
use of the USP approach?
Answer: Initially YES. 2009 data shows significant increase in the number and
level of USP slogan used; Yet, 2014 data shows decline in both.

RQ2: What is the relation between the attraction diversity of a

destination management area and the level of USP usage in that
destination areas promotional campaigns?
Based on 2014 data, higher attraction diversity of a destination country
generally meant using only lower levels of USP in its promotional slogans.

RQ3: In the context of cruise tourism in the Caribbean, does the choice of
USP used in the destination marketing campaign or a destinations
attraction diversity impact tourist choice?
Both impacted. However, the interaction effect of these two produced a significantly
larger effect.

RQ4: How do businesses differentiate themselves within the homogeneity

implied by their destinations USP statement?
Businesses whose products and services align with the USP slogans were the gainers
Align with the national tourism promotional thrust, unless you are strong or,
extremely unique to be able to attract a significant niche.
Lobbying and politicking was common
Cooperative formation of small businesses helped them to withstand the powers
that be.

Implications for Theory

This research made a unique contribution to understanding how the
choice of USP slogans is influenced by the diversity of attractions in a
destination area.
The moderating role of attraction diversity in the effectiveness of USP was
To this extent, it introduced the construct of attraction diversity into the
nomological network constituting tourism knowledge.
Also developed a valid methodology to measure attraction diversity in tourism
destination areas.

This research helps in clarifying our understanding about the nuanced

political process involved in the USP choice in tourism destinations
The pressure to align with national tourism promotional focus
Network formation for lobbying, for community based tourism development
Role of mass media

Implications for Practice

Government support for a particular USP is a key determinant of the
direction in which tourism growth happens
Aligning with the official USP helps businesses leverage the benefit of national
tourism marketing

It could be myopic to stress any single USP in diverse destinations

Unless the inherent contradictions among the stakeholders in a diverse destination
can be resolved with a higher order harmonization

USP use in the promotion of attraction diverse destinations might lead to

disconfirmation of tourist expectations
This could lead to dissatisfaction, complaining behavior, and behavioral disloyalty.

A notable gap exists between what destination marketers consider as USPs

and what tourists consider are the key values of destinations
Governmental determination of USP statements could do better by drawing from
tourist expectations and experiences.

Limitations of the Study

Reliance on secondary and tertiary data
Primary qualitative data only minimally used for triangulation
RQ 4 was examined using qualitative data, but theoretical saturation was not

Data gathered at just three snapshot points (2004, 2009, 2014) were
used to derive generalized conclusions about events on a continuous
Use of non-experimental data to test hypotheses that propose causal
Significant subjective judgements in the classification of USP slogans
on a hierarchy
Issues in translation from Spanish to English

The Next Phase

What are some of the other alternatives, now that the USP use is
Advances in information and communication technologies have led to
firms finding ways to reach different customer segments with
different USPs (Ashley & Tuten, 2015).
Indications from the qualitative interviews are that private tourism
business in the Caribbean are moving to Individualized Selling
Propositions (ISPs).
Web usage data and social media analytics aid them in this effort
A natural progression of this research would be to understand how these ISPs
interact with various government sponsored USP campaigns

Thank you!