Tourism Officials Need To Listen More, Talk Less

Submitted by Adrian Loveridge

Richard Sealy, Minister of Tourism

Back in the nineteen seventies, after working in Canada, I returned to the United Kingdom, taking two temporary non-travel related jobs to establish enhanced credibility for the purpose of obtaining a house mortgage. Both were important learning experiences which I have never regretted.

The first was working as a salesman in a branch of a high-end consumer electronics retailer selling audio equipment products made by manufacturers that included Bang & Olufsen and Roberts. The manager instilled a valuable lesson that has stayed with me for life. His view was that if you are ever going to effectively sell anything, whatever it was, that you had better know everything possible about it.

I think he sensed a genuine interest and allowed me to take, what at that time, were very expensive pieces of equipment home at night and weekends to familiarise myself with their features. Months when later I formed a tour operator company, this acquired wisdom formed an integral part of the business master plan.

Irrespective of the product or service, intimate knowledge of every aspect is critical, if you are going to fully understand your marketplace and prospective customer. Surprisingly then, even after owning and operating a hotel for nearly twenty four years, I can count on two hands with fingers to spare, the number of senior Barbados Tourism Authority officials, both locally and overseas, Ministers of Tourism, Permanent Secretaries and other leading figures within the public sector that have visited our property.

Some may say, well they don’t have the time. But in reality that means visiting just one hotel each eleven days in a parliamentary term, to cover all 160 plus registered accommodation providers. Any medium to long term planning and policymaking would surely have to take in the destination’s strengths and weaknesses, at every level. In fact without this knowledge, it is difficult to imagine how exactly the stated mandate as ‘the primary tourism marketing agency for Barbados’ could be effectively carried out.

What makes it even more difficult to comprehend, is that we are among a limited number of hotels that have consistently won awards, have one of the highest repeat clientele ratios, a 95 per cent guest satisfaction level, pay all our taxes and have never been forced to claim any government financial assistance. Some properties may not be doing so well, so isn’t it in the national interest to try and take those to a higher level by sharing a business formula that appears to work?

It would be remiss of me not to mention two former Ministers of Tourism, the late Peter Morgan and Sir Harold St. John, who were both frequent visitors to our small hotel. Despite their political divide, they shared a passion for tourism and had that seemingly rare talent of listening, even to us little people.

In subsequent years, it’s almost as if the key decision makers have tried to make tourism more complicated and moved away from the simple things that actually make it work very well.

Could it possibly be as simple as that, ‘we’ talk more than ‘we’ listen?

  • So very true! If more people in the Ministry of Tourism and in the tourism business had watched and listened and learned from those in the know, and one of them certainly was Peter Morgan…Barbados would not be in the position it is today. But….why should we learn anything from anybody on this island…we leave school knowing it all…and we die knowing it all too!

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  • Great to see you start back posting back artice on the blog adrian. Ccorrect we have minister who have not a clue what they are suppose to manage or do.

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  • The majic word is selling. University graduates HATE that word. They study hard and receive stellar results so as not to have to SELL anybody anything, ever. The graduate TELLS, as an advice giver (you know, a consultant) or as an administrator (bossman, sorry, woman these days). So a tourism official or Minister who happens to be from this glamorous fraternity will never see the need to pick sense from the article above. (Not sure how St. John got to be friends with Loveridge, but I guess he was just different …)

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  • @BAFBFP

    Did you listen to Sir Hillary today shouting in a press conference that Barbados owes UWI the largest amount of money?

    It was not too long ago when Barbados was one of the few countries current.

    My how things have changed.

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  • @David
    It appears to me that UWI gets more than its fair share of the national pie. Their idea of cutting is to shorten library hours on a Friday. Perleeze! Time to get real, Sir Hillary, and put the cricket facilities on the back burner. There’s a difference between what we would “like” to afford and what we actually “can” afford.

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  • @Peltdownman

    Not to defend Sir Hillary but he has advised that capital expansion at UWI is mainly financed by private sector arrangement.

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  • Does the UWI Cave Hill spend any money to deliver programs in hotel/tourism management?

    Tourism is our #1 business isn’t it?

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  • I am sorry David but I have developed the habit of changing the station whenever I get the sense that comments from Prof Beckles are about to be broadcast.

    Look, Barbados needs graduates, just not the kind that are being produced from Cave Hill, most of whom are ineffective females …

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  • @BAFBFP… Just thinking out loud.

    Click to access political_promise.pdf

    Do you think such thinking might work?

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  • millertheanunnaki

    @ BAFBFP:
    “Look, Barbados needs graduates, just not the kind that are being produced from Cave Hill, most of whom are ineffective females …

    Be careful here! Tread slowly and carefully but continue to carry your big stick! Your comment might be brimming with truth and sounding the alarm bell to those who can envisage the static state of an Amazonian Bimshire where young males are treated like “bulls on a dairy farm”.
    The Cave Hill Campus is just a holding pen for the future long-term unemployed. Very few programmes on offer on the hill equip them with the appropriate skills and aptitudes to survive in the coming economic age. The country’s primary goal must be geared towards equipping young people to be able to produce and sell products and services to other people with foreign money to buy. Young Bajans have been brought up in a protective bubble of luxurious consumerism based on imported goods and services paid for by poor people hard work and government borrowings from external sources. Unless they can earn the forex to maintain this cushy lifestyle, they will soon find out, as in the story of the pig and the donkey, that “a sweet life ain’t a long life”.

    We can expect an emotional denunciation from a female talk-show host grasshopper about how great and relevant Cave Hill is to Barbados’ social and economic development. But the HOLDER of this view is definitely not a moron and would grudgingly accept that young males, because of the academic and non-vocational slant of the local educational system, are placed at an obvious disadvantage when ask to compete in an opposing hormone ranging environment.

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  • “The country’s primary goal must be geared towards equipping young people to be able to produce and sell products and services to other people with foreign money to buy ..” millertheanunnaki | October 20, 2011 at 6:24 PM |

    Jesus Christ David, you read that? You see that at least I got some kind ah family ’bout hey? Could it be put any better than that?

    @ Chris

    I hear you and I feel you … In this environment I really think it an excellent idea for a tea-shirt design … You feel me?

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  • @BAFBFP: “You feel me?

    Ah, no. Trust me. Unless you are a female, I will never feel you.

    Sorry about that. Deal with it.

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  • Hey hey Padre I am on your side, don’ get me wrong … (though I wouldn’t mind a little feel up), but you know the nature of the beast …

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  • Hmmm.

    I don’t see what the problem is with selling…it makes money quicker! If more people realized this, the economy would be booming in NO time!

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  • @ BAFBFP….

    Trying to bring down the ire of women everywhere? The males that graduate from UWI seem to be no better…they either go and lime on the block, get the cushy jobs & lounge (not work!), or they go to other unis, so they can come back and become the same politicians who are robbing us today!

    ….Oh wait…women are doing that too, apparently…

    This is interesting…

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  • Does UWI pursue and offer internships to local business with its progams in all areas to ensure work experience of the graduate? Mentoring programs like this are an advantage to the future employer and to the student. Free work for the business, and good real experience with a future job seeker! Although I do think any program like this should screen any candidate to prevent any “feeling up” which should NOT be a focus of the workplace anyway. Maybe that is the true problem.

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  • As a hotel owner would you welcome UWI students to attempt to manage an aspect of your hotel operations?

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  • @Rabia. Check the newspapers. Frequently we see that ” having had no suitable applicants for the post of Chief Cook and Pep bottle washer, it is the intention of XYZ Company to apply for a work permit for a non- national.” This is prevalent within the hotel industry, leading one to think that the UWI,Community College and the Hotel School are not meeting the needs of the industry,since in most cases, I believe that the Immigration Authority eventually grants permission to bring in a ‘forner’.

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  • Where is the Tourism Master Plan?

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  • @enuff

    What do you think of the plan to drum up business from Panama?

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  • Last Year it was Millie that went to Brazil and she donesn’t seem to be coming back. Now Panama? Panama has a tax free zone for shopping why would they come here? FOR WHAT?

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  • @islandga;l

    There is a large Bajan emigrant population in Panama.

    It appears this is the angle Minister Sealy used by appealing to their Barbadian roots.

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  • Yes I am aware of that, but how large is large? Many have emigrated to the USA and I am not sure how many have actually had the interest to come here.

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  • I just read that some Canadians and other investors are developing a resort at FOUL BAY.

    Wunna betta guh an tek pickchas cause all de picnic an excursion spots gine soon be GATED.

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  • @ David
    Drum up business how and in what?

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  • @enuff

    Hence the question because the strategy is understood but whether the size of the opportunity exist is open to question. To be frank as is the case most times we have not had our public officials communicating to the people in a way we are able to understand the nuts and bolts of the initiatives. A pubic discussion can help to leverage the knowledge which is pooled in the public place.

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  • Dear Friends,

    I have just read and signed the online petition:

    “Plea for Barbados to Respect Caribbean Flight”

    hosted on the web by PetitionOnline.com, the free online petition
    service, at:

    http://www.PetitionOnline.com/redjet2/

    I personally agree with what this petition says, and I think you might
    agree, too. If you can spare a moment, please take a look, and consider
    signing yourself.

    Best wishes,

    Ian Bourne

    Like

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