Bahamas at Heart: A Shared Mission to Rejuvenate Bahamian Culture
In the fall of 2016, enso met with Howard Karawan — the new and visionary president of Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas — who wanted to relaunch the resort with a new purpose. What came forth as a north star from that conversation would be a first:
Elevate a mega-resort from purely a tourist destination to a positive impact platform for a country, its people, and its environment.
Atlantis has been known worldwide as a place of wonder and awe where you can do amazing things; from swimming in the world’s largest open-marine habitat to sampling celebrity chefs’ cuisine to enjoying the world famous “sun, sand and sea”. What it wasn’t known for was an authentic Bahamian experience. This created a shared challenge and opportunity for Atlantis and the Bahamian people: First, guests were not experiencing authentic local culture, which is increasingly a core driver for today’s traveler. Second, the employees were not sharing the culture that they are so proud of with the guests; they were not expressing their true selves.
Recognizing the shared opportunity, we embarked on a Shared Mission to nurture a Bahamian renaissance by supporting the local economy, cultural traditions and the fragile marine ecosystem of the Bahamas. Our goal was to connect positive impact and business growth in a virtuous cycle.
“The world has changed since Atlantis first opened. Businesses must now partner with their communities to achieve shared sustainable success.”
— Howard C. Karawan, President and Managing Director of Atlantis
Research validated our intention. Atlantis’ target audience, millennial families, were increasingly looking for vacations that integrated both purpose and deeply authentic local experiences.
We knew that by lifting the antiquated advertising campaign format into an impact-oriented Shared Mission, we could accomplish so much more:
- Positive cultural and economic impact for the people of the Bahamas
- Drive and distinguish our marketing with a real and compelling story of purpose and impact
- Elevate Atlantis above new competitors arriving in the market as the conscious choice
- Create a dramatically higher new level of engagement with the local community and the 7500 Bahamian employees
- Inform new products, experiences, and supply chains to grow local entrepreneurs and economy
To make sure we addressed the real needs and issues of Bahamians, enso architected a coalition and design sprint on property with revered and local cultural, business, civic and environmental leaders. The objective of the coalition and sprint was to narrow in on the core objective and initiatives of the Shared Mission we would develop. What emerged was this:
Shared Mission Atlantis: Create Flourishing Bahamian Futures
“Bahamian futures” were defined as both land-based — the culture and economy, and sea-based — the surrounding marine ecology of this island country. We got to work on direct impact initiatives with local businesses and entrepreneurs, generating new and authentic resort experiences, and developing a purposeful marketing platform and advertising campaign that aligned and celebrated the shared mission while promoting the resort.
The marketing platform included the first ever community-led campaign in Bahamian tourism history. It featured more than 30 local artists, creators, and cultural leaders, including Piaget Moss, Allan Wallace, and Steffon Grant, to serve as an unprecedented celebration of contemporary Bahamian culture.
The larger vision, however, transcends a marketing evolution—it is informing every aspect of the Atlantis guest experience and providing a new model for local partnerships and shared success.
Impact to the Bahamas spans three pillars: economy, culture and ecology.
Atlantis is actively supporting Bahamian entrepreneurs who are bringing authentic Bahamian products to the resort experience. For example, there is already a new outpost of a beloved Bahamian restaurant from Harbor Island called Sip Sip on the Atlantis property. They are also replacing a Quiznos with a well known local restaurant, Frankie’s Gone Bananas. Local ice cream and pressed juices are being sold. There is an new outpost of Pirate’s Republic, a local brewery. There are many more examples where supporting local entrepreneurship also creates higher guest satisfaction.
Atlantis now considers its 7,500 employees as cultural ambassadors to the guests. All employees engaged in a heritage project tracing their family lineage. They’ve swapped out the old name tags listing a job function with new name tags showing which of the 14 “Family Islands” their family hails from, sparking opportunities for conversation with guests. Out are the employee “scripts” for interacting with guests. Now the message to staff is a Bahamian expression, “Be who you is”.
Atlantis has made a commitment to storytelling, preserving the oral and visual history of the country and creating a platform for Bahamian makers to share their works with the world. There are now weekly Junkanoo celebrations, a sacred tradition of costumes, drumming and dancing, for guests to experience. Art Walk, a rent-free artisan showcase has been installed in the resort’s Marina Village. Sculptor and collaborator Antonius Roberts is creating a sacred space installation on the property.
Atlantis is also continuing its work to preserve endangered marine life and to protect coral reefs with its Blue Foundation. It is also a leader in marine mammal rescue and education at Dolphin Cay, a 14 acre marine habitat and rescue facility.
All this is creating a powerful virtuous cycle of impact and business growth.
Summer bookings increased more than 30% year-over-year after the marketing launch. New local partners are coming on weekly, from new on-property restaurants to off-property excursions to continue to bring more Bahamian experiences to guests. Importantly, the shared mission is also reinvigorating Atlantis’ own employees. It has created a renewed excitement that’s palpable among the property’s staff. Industry partners and travel agents applauded Atlantis for the pivot towards authentic connections that consumers crave with Uproxx saying, “Above all things, this move — by a tourism powerhouse — underscores what so many travelers have always known: There is nothing cooler than actually connecting with the community you’ve flown across the world to visit.”
“We have just completed the highest occupancy summer months we have ever had. Success is not defined in one season, but we are beginning to see the results, even with lower promotional and marketing costs. We’re making great progress at changing the resort itself, including both the product and culture.”
– Howard C. Karawan, President, Atlantis (Jeff Fromm, Forbes, 8/30/17)
By elevating a traditional brand-building approach up to an impact-oriented shared mission, we create a powerful mechanism that unites and aligns cross-sector partners through values, generating both positive impact and unprecedented business success.