Published On: Mon, Sep 16th, 2013

Holy Mary Apparition

dekker_0In tourism, an island like Curacao needs to set itself apart from competitors by uniqueness. Yes, our weather is nice year round, but there are thousands of such tropical destination locations within easy reach. Yes, we also have sea, sun, sand, sex, coral, beaches, smiles, service, music- and film festivals, or name it, but how is our island different from the rest? What do we have, that nobody can match in the cut-throat competitive market place of visiting tourists?

Now, mind you, a nice large portfolio of many lesser unique selling propositions, usp-s, will also do. No doubt, our sister island, Aruba beat Curacao with such an attractive package. Although the island of Aruba has very little that can be called , unique, its attention to service, detail and a mature professional product, made it stand out and conquer, most successfully, the USA market.

Nevertheless, nothing beats a divine apparition at an obscure tourist destination.

I witnessed such an event a few years ago. On a Friday in Sinop, a small harbor town at the north coast of Turkey, a family man sliced up a large water melon for this family. His 8-year old son, who was eagerly studying him home work, spotted the written name of Allah in the pattern of black watermelon seeds in the juicy red meat. It was a miracle. After family and neighbors marveled in holy astonishment, soon television crews from all over the Middle East crowded the little living room to witness the little boy's divine apparition. "Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar", muttered the flabergasted and almost immediately thousands of pilgrims flocked to Sinop, filling hotels and restaurants, and everybody was very happy with Allah's merciful blessings.

Europe is full so such supernatural incidents. Lourdes, a small market town in the foothills of the Pyrenees, had Bernadette Soubirous, who saw the Holy Mary in 1858, not once but at least eighteen times. Today, the town of only 15,000 inhabitants, welcomes 5 million pilgrims per year in 270 hotels. Celebrity, religious or otherwise, is the magic magnet for tourism; Jerusalem had Jesus, Rome Peter, Mecca Mohammed, Graceland Elvis Presley etc.., and if you, as a tourist destination, do not have such a holy or famous person, you better create one. Copying others with "me-too products ", may work a little for a while as second best, but the real thing works wonders.

So, how do we create a " Holy Mary Apparition" for the island tourist industry of Curacao???

Let's look at a few success stories nearby. Jamaica had Bob Marley, who became the Saint of Reggae music and the High Priest of the Rasta movement. Marley became immortal for millions and millions around the world and did more for the PR of Jamaica than any agency could have done. A grand drama acted out in Aruba with the beautiful, young, naive and innocent, Natalee Holloway, who disappeared while vacationing on the island. She was probably brutally murdered by the ultimate villain, Joran van der Sloot. It was a drama written in heaven of global appeal that echoed through the media worldwide for years and made Aruba famous and infamous, at the same time. Aruba would seal Natalee's fate for eternity as an island saint by renaming the airport, "Natalee Holloway Airport." Fidel Castro of Cuba is already a living legend, as the island's Messiah or Antichrist, depending on your preference. Faro a Colon, the Lighthouse of Christopher Columbus In Santa Domingo, is a must for all visitors. Curacao has not been lucky, identifying its leading role model. Peter Stuyvesant, undoubtably the best known islander of great reputation amongst Dutch as well as Americans, was rejected. Andruw Jones, a Curacao born, major league baseball player in the USA, was nearly declared persona-non-grata, when he tried to leave his mark on the island. The first Prime Minister of the island as an autonomous country saw himself as the great potential peacemaker between Venezuela en the USA, and dreamt of a mediator role with Hillary Clinton and Hugo Chavez on either side of the table, but it was not to happen. It may take a bit longer before Curacao will have its avery own apparition, and in the meantime, it will have to live with its me-too label.

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