‘The region as a whole has regained ground lost in the heat of the global economic depression’.
‘The Caribbean also saw its largest number of stayover visitors in five years, with the region’s overall hotel occupancy increasing by more than seven per cent and room revenues up by nearly nine percent’.
‘About 25 million tourists visited the Caribbean last year, a more than 5 per cent increase from 2011. Its a growth rate that outpaced the rest of the world’.
These and other equally encouraging statements were recently uttered by Beverly-Nicholson-Doty, Chairwoman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation. To the majority of the Ministers of Tourism within the Caribbean, it must be like hearing pleasurable music in their ears.
Sadly, not to Barbados, where instead of recording an almost 6 per cent growth in 2012, we experienced a 5.5 per cent fall in long stay visitor arrivals. A near 11 per cent differential. Any newly elected Government must consider the reasons behind this dismal performance as an imperative, before more hotels close, further lay-offs occur and remaining airlift is further eroded
Also interesting is the tourism spend in the Caribbean for 2012, which was estimated at US$27.5 billion an increase of 3.6 per cent over the previous year and the third successive year of increases. This again, seem to buck the trend on Barbados, where the overwhelming opinion across the industry is that average spend is down.
I was frankly amazed at the absence of dialogue and solutions on the current crisis in tourism leading up to the general election. Perhaps highlighted by when the moderator on the popular Down to Brass Tacks Sunday programme admitted that no-one from the sector’s trade association was available to participate.
Subject to regulatory approval, it would appear that the planned American Airlines/US Airways merger will take place. While there have been some reservations voiced, concerning the possibility of increased fares and curtailment of certain routes and/or cities served, my own view is that it will be largely beneficial for Barbados.
Back in November 2001, I proposed a promotion concept to the BTA and BHTA entitled Second Cities. The objective was to maximise the load factors on the then direct nonstop US Airways service between Philadelphia and Barbados, by targeting at the best and/or shortest connections. I did extensive research, crossing the US border at Niagara and personally driving through New York State, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to gauge the demographics. My proposal included a combined BHTA/BTA roadshow and sales blitz in the selected cities.
A media and travel trade campaign would also run at the same time to help maximise provincial reach and awareness, by inviting both travel agents and travel writers on familiarisation trips to experience, first hand the destination. Sadly, like so many other ideas, it was never adopted or implemented, but maybe its time to look at this concept again once new flight schedules are announced by the combined carriers.
It is a shame that we lost the Dallas/Fort Worth route because this is one of the hubs that would have principally helped us perhaps more than others. Hopefully someone is working in the background to see what additional potential can be harnessed from the merger.