Operating a small hotel, clearly I have to declare a bias towards this sub-sector. But from a national point of view in terms of revenue and employment generation, have we ever analysed which type of our diverse lodging offerings proportionally delivers the highest net income to the country year after year?
What type of accommodation provides the most jobs per occupied room night and highest percentage turnover that remains in Barbados?
And this should not include just the bed nights, but secondary spending in restaurants, attractions activities, car rental, shopping etc. We should then ask which sub-sector consistently achieves the closest to published rack room rates, without having to dramatically discount to attract tour operators.
Then question which properties solicit the highest levels of guest satisfaction and repeat guests. If the world’s largest travel website, TripAdvisor, can be used as a barometer does the fact that every one of the top ten rated hotels in Barbados are small have any significance?
This really goes back to ensuring our national marketing organisation, advertising agency and public relations company, all fully understand the product.
Perhaps many persons reading this column would be surprised to learn that there is no portion of the annual budget of the Barbados Tourism Authority dedicated to this niche. Nor is there a small hotels committee or product club and that the only trade body dedicated to this sub-sector, Intimate Hotels, has had it’s Government grant either severely pruned or eliminated altogether. Add to this, that out of our total of almost 160 registered hotels, nearly 120 are defined as small.
Most people, whether inside the industry or not, understand that government is under severe fiscal pressure, therefore previously approved budgets have not been able to be implemented to allow the full allocated funds to be used.
I recently attended a general marketing meeting. Members were asked to put forward suggestions to combat, what at this time appear to be imminent softening flight loadings over the next couple of months. Call it naivety if you wish, but I believe there is always something that can be done, even if the overall effect might not redress the total problem. The stumbling block was, if solutions were proffered, the monies to implement the ideas were not necessarily available, at least not from the public sector.
It’s a catch 22 situation for government. If you don’t fill the rooms, you cannot collect the VAT payable, not only on the accommodation, but all the secondary spending. Add up all the other taxes the administration collects, like departure and income tax, NIS contributions and the benefits resulting from the redistribution of employee earnings into the economy. Without these, it makes it even more difficult for government to pay the bills.
Almost reconfirming the concerns about air lift, as this column was going to press, Virgin Atlantic launched a new Rewards offer for it’s Flying Club members called Two for One. For travel up to 31 May, two people can travel from Manchester or Gatwick to Barbados for 47,500 miles return. While taxes are still payable, it literally halves the normal cost of a ticket and I hope that our tourism planners make full use of this opportunity.