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Why music lovers should visit the Caribbean

By MARK ROGERS From TravelAge West

For many travel agents, Caribbean music is probably considered to be a “value add” to a Caribbean vacation. For millennials, this isn’t necessarily the case. A new eye-opening survey shows many millennials note music as the determining factor in where they choose to vacation.

An April 2018 survey of 13,000 adults ages 20 to 29 from Europe and the United States was conducted by online travel agency eDreams. In the survey, a third of U.S. millennials noted that music is the motivating factor behind their vacation decisions. This percentage spiked to 40 percent when the question was asked whether a regional music festival would inspire travel.

New Orleans’ jazz music and Nashville’s country music topped the list of music styles that inspire vacations, primarily due to being singled out for domestic travel by U.S. travelers. Jamaica occupied the third spot on the list, due to the appeal of reggae, while calypso music earned the fifth place on the survey, as a musical form that can be enjoyed throughout the Caribbean.

The celebrated Saint Lucian poet Derek Walcott had this to say when he was asked why there weren’t more Caribbean poets: “That may be because the Caribbean is more musical; every culture has its particular emphasis, and obviously the Caribbean’s poetry, talent, and genius is in its music.”

While reggae and calypso are singled out on the survey, the Caribbean is rich in other regional styles with the potential to influence travel decisions. These include salsa and reggaeton in Puerto Rico; merengue and bachata in the Dominican Republic; soca in Trinidad and Saint Lucia; zouk in Martinique; and son in Cuba.

Many of the most popular music festivals in the Caribbean — such as Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and Saint Lucia’s Jazz & Arts Festival — are annual events. This positions music festival-based travel in the Caribbean as being a reason for repeat business, year after year.

Music festivals aren’t the only way to access music during a Caribbean vacation. Clients will probably notice that island music is a backdrop to almost any activity, whether it’s sitting at a beach bar, relaxing by the pool or listening to a tour buses sound system as they travel around a destination.

Clients with an adventurous streak will want to track down live music in local bars and nightclubs. As a seasoned traveler myself, I’ve had memorable off-the-beaten-path experiences exploring the nightlife of an island. For ultimate enjoyment as well as safety, suggest your clients explore an island’s musical scene accompanied by a trusted local.

In years past, music-loving travelers would return home with CDs of the music they enjoyed during their vacation. In the digital age, with sources such as iTunes and Spotify, this has shifted to travelers downloading music on their own devices, a shift that is especially true for millennials. The eDreams survey showed that 26 percent of millennials download music from local Caribbean artists before embarking on their trip; while on their return home, 22 percent of these travelers create playlists of the tunes they heard during their vacation. These homemade soundtracks from a trip have the potential to call up lots of pleasant memories of clients’ vacations, which could lead to thoughts of repeat travel.

What is the survey’s takeaway for agents? It’s probably as simple as including a music component when pitching the charms of a potential Caribbean destination. Music could be the tipping point for your millennial clients in deciding on whether to vacation in the Caribbean.


Reggae came in third for top music styles that inspire vacations; pictured is the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, Jamaica.
Credit: 2018 Jim Smith

A recent survey shows a third of U.S. millennials report music as the motivating factor behind their trips.
Credit: 2018 St Kitts Music Festival

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