A recent article in Business Insider entitled ‘The 25 Economies most Hooked on Tourism’ made interesting and in many ways, surprising reading and reinforced my firm believe that we must evaluate our industry product, and what it delivers much more. Taken from data compiled by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) it listed the countries* followed by the tourism receipts per capita (TRPC) and average tourism spend (ATS) in US$.
Greece: $1,209 – $965; Egypt: $1,275 – $245; Hong Kong: $1,313 – $660, Switzerland: $1,417 – $1,405; Lebanon: $1,433 – $4,230; Croatia: $1,523 – $865; Austria: $1,876 – $790; St. Lucia: $1,985 – $1,090; Malta: $1,990 – $1,090; French Polynesia: $2,076 – $2,610; St. Kitts and Nevis: $2,652 – $875; Cyprus: $2,904 – $960; Cook Islands: $3,396 – $865; Palau: $4,842 – $1,020; Antigua and Barbuda: $4,947 – $1,375; Anguilla: $5,319 – $1,280; Bermuda: $5,451 – $1,305; Bahamas: $6,288 – $1,205; Luxembourg: $7,909 – $4,170; Cayman Islands $12,042 – $1,995; Turks and Caicos: $12,420 – $1,885; US Virgin Islands: $12,466 – $2,495; Aruba: $14,771 – $1,445; Macao: $16,797 – $900 and British Virgin Islands: $17,621 – $1,285.
As the most tourism dependent region in the world, it’s perhaps not unexpected that eleven of the twenty five states are within the Caribbean. But do some of the often firm beliefs on which ‘we’ base critical planning decisions, occasionally need to be questioned? Take the perceived attraction of sun, sea and sand for instance. Yet the tiny land-locked European country of Luxembourg, covering less than a thousand square miles, can boast an average visitor spend of US$4,170.
If, the information provided is accurate, then we must start to ask reasons why? What are they doing that we are not? Hopefully this is one of the topics included in the long waited Tourism Master Plan.
We know that the average visitor spend on Barbados has gone down over the last two or three years, but what would be interesting is to compare with other destinations, both within the Caribbean and extra-regional competitors, and ascertain if this is typical across the board.
As someone that has made a living out of this sector for most of my life, long ago I learnt the critical importance of demographics, especially when marketing funds were limited. As a tiny example, when, as tour operators in the UK, we installed our first custom-built computer system, more than three decades ago, it was programmed to search by last name and postcode. It wasn’t long before we realised that a higher percentage of our clients came from certain residential areas, so of course that is where we targeted our advertising budget.
I firmly believe that we have to better target our markets and look for more reasons why our cherished visitors either, chose Barbados for the first time, or return year after year.