The Caribbean Tourism Organisation has now posted the Barbados long stay visitor arrival numbers for the second quarter of this year, and sadly they do not show a pretty picture. Across all markets April was down 6.7 per cent (47,979), May down 9 per cent (37,935) and June down 4.8 per cent (36, 656). The figures in brackets are actual numbers of landed people and it is compared with the same period last year. Overall, it equates to nearly 8,400 less visitors and totally negates any benefits from the small gains made in the first three months of 2012.
Based again on CTO statistics, the last average intended length of stay I could find was for 2010 and indicated 9.8 nights. Unless this has dramatically changed, it translates to a loss of over 41,000 occupied room nights based on double occupancy.
While initially these numbers may not seem vast, its the equivalent of filling every seat in more than 56 Boeing 737’s aircraft, or over 4.36 planes per week during the given period. To put this in perspective, ‘we’ have not been able to sustain even just one flight weekly out of Philadelphia or Atlanta (the world’s busiest airport).
Later this month we also lose what has now become a single weekly Dallas/Fort Worth service, despite its massive metro population of over six million, annual airport throughput approaching 58 million passengers and an almost unmatched hub and spoke offering nearly 200 connecting cities.
In terms of where the numbers have been lost, if you analyse for the entire six month period, the United States is down 3.1 per cent and Europe 7 per cent. Canada, appeared to be the only glimmer of hope with a 2 per cent increase overall, but this gain came entirely in the first three winter months. Canadian arrivals for April were down 9.9 per cent, May 8.8 per cent and June 7.4 per cent.
Probably, I am the last person to be reminded that we are in the deepest recession for nearly a century and the inevitable consequences of the APD (Advanced Passenger Duty), but surely these issues would be having a similar negative effect on our neighbours. In many cases they are not.
So what exactly is going so wrong?
For one thing, this is the first year that I can remember, that there appears to be no national summer marketing promotion taking place, and while you could certainly question how inclusive past ‘national’ campaigns have been, has this really made such a difference? Most of us are aware of the BTA budget restraints, but as the saying goes, if you do nothing, nothing will happen.
What is graphically clear, is that any projected or forecasted increases in arrival numbers or visitor spend will have to be the result of anything that takes place in the last six months of this year.
This includes September and November, traditionally two of the most challenging trading months in the tourism industry. In September, many sector businesses close for annual holidays or refurbishment and some have decided to extend this period for up to six months, as in the case of Discovery Bay Hotel.