I fundamentally believe that any new planning or policy directive must be based on fact and thorough research. This becomes even more critical when allocated budgets are under severe pressure while ‘we’ as a country are looking to maximise our tourism earnings. Gut feeling, intuition or speculation may work for some small enterprises but it surely cannot be a prominent factor when spending an annual budget close to $100 million.
What prompted these thoughts was after reading an article in this publication last week entitled ‘Night shopping can give boost’. Store owners in Bridgetown have been urged to consider opening their businesses to allow night shopping. It was indicated that ‘such an initiative would be a fillip for tourism, especially the cruise ship industry’.
In theory it’s a laudable idea, but wait a minute. Using February as an example and carefully going through cruise ship schedule, so ably posted on the Bridgetown Port website, a small amount of research indicates there is not necessarily the opportunity portrayed. In fact the vast majority of ships leave Barbados between 5pm and 6pm. These include the following vessels with the number of visits, during this month and passenger capacity shown in brackets:
Carnival Victory (2,758 passenger capacity x 5 visits) , Serenade of the Seas (2,490 x 2 visits, Celebrity Constellation (2,034 x 2 visits) Celebrity Summit (2,034 x 2 visits, Crystal Symphony (933), Massdam (1,258) and Noordam (1,924 ) at 5pm. Norwegian Dawn (2,224 x 2 visits), Emerald Princess (3,080) , Thomson Dream (1,132 x 4 visits) , Mein Shiff 2 (1,886 x 2 visits), Celebrity Equinox (2,850 x 2 visits) , Aida Luna (2,100 x 2 visits), Caribbean Princess (3,080 x 2 visits) and Costa Mediterranea (2,114 x 2 visits) at 6pm.
Joining passengers would certainly not leave it to the last minute, so further time has to be given to journey from the centre of Bridgetown and undergo any security checks before disembarkation. The ships that tend to stay longer, with very few exceptions (Braemar, Azura, Ventura and maybe Kristina Katarina (450 passengers) are the much smaller vessels that include Sea Dream 2 (112 passengers), Silver Cloud (296), Wind Spirit (148 ), Club Med 2 ( 386) and Royal Clipper (227). One other ship, the Marco Polo (800 ) departs at 8pm.
So when you eliminate all the passengers that leave Barbados late afternoon, then discount the remainder that may not be prepared to forgo their included dinner or dine very late, I wonder exactly what sort of numbers are left that would be attracted by ‘late night shopping’?
Please let me add that I am totally for revitalising Bridgetown. Frankly I was ashamed last Sunday when leading an early morning walk with 25 of our guests. However we have to start with the basics and known facts rather than speculating of what could be. Clean up the capital, get the homeless people off the streets and give some simple incentives to property owners to maintain and enhance their buildings.
These first elementary steps just might give real reasons for visitors and locals alike to frequent Bridgetown at night. If this happens then just maybe longer trading hours would follow.