Minister Richard Sealy Promised Barbadians the Tourism Master Plan Will be Delivered by Midnight Tonight
The compilation and research for this submission was done by BU family member Due Diligence with minor edits by BU.
The long-awaited Tourism Master Plan for Barbados is expected to be ready by September this year  Saying he recognized the plan had been promised for a long time now, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy revealed to the annual general meeting – Barbados Today
The author joins with Barbadians who want to see a growing, profitable and sustainable tourism industry; I do not want to be negative; but I have to be blunt. As I see it, there is no way to sugar coat the current state of tourism in Barbados. Some time in 2010, the Government of Barbados (Ministry of Tourism) issued an Invitation for Expressions of Interest for the Development of a Tourism Master Plan for Barbados for the Period 2012-2021. The Expressions of Interest were to be delivered not later than 4:30 pm on June 30, 2010. Full details of the Invitation can be read here on the Barbados Tourism website. Also here is a Press Release which notified Barbadians and others about what to expect from the Tourism Master Plan.It is September 18, ( 3+ years after Expressions were to be tendered and 3 months after the Plan was to be completed). Unless I have missed it there is still no Barbados Tourism Master Plan which Minister Sealy announced in April would be completed by June (2013).
The Plan may, in fact, have been completed; but if so why has this open, transparent and full disclosure Government not released the completed Plan, if only to invite public discussion. The Minister is reported to be in London [last month], doing what? at the taxpayers’ expense, while Rome burns. Even by Barbados government standards this is shocking. If the Plan is not released and deemed to be viable, the IMF will supply a plan.
For the moment though, lets forget about the Plan for 2021, and ask the question – What is being done to promote visitor arrival numbers in what is left of 2013 and 2014, to reverse the downward spiral of the past two years? The last evidence of promotion that I have seen in Toronto in 2013 was the 26 year-old Breakfast in Barbados giveaway promotion, apparently a joint promotion of BTA and radio station 104.5 CHUM-FM. In this promotion BTA/CHUM brings 60 lucky listeners (plus BTA/CHUM entourage) each year for a week of sea and sun in April.
There are obviously some in the tourism business in the Caribbean who believe there is value in advertising. Recently there was a full page joint St. Lucia Tourism/Air Canada Vacations ad promoting 12 properties on the back page of first section of The Globe and Mail . There is a half page St. Lucia Tourism/Westjet Vacations ad promoting 12 promoting 12 properties on the back page of the Business section of the Toronto Star.
In the April 2013 Budget the MOF said:
Government proposes over the next eighteen months to expend an additional US50 million dollars in marketing and promotional activities of the BTA starting with our traditional source markets and working our way into some of the newer growth areas. US $13 million of this will go immediately to settle all liabilities of the Authority with the balance earmarked for a new aggressive marketing and airlift support programme to be unveiled by the BTA in the coming weeks. These funds will be sourced from a proposed US$100 million fiscal Policy Based Loan to be negotiated with the IADB later this year.
That $13 million of the additional $50 million was to go to immediately to settle all liabilities of the Authority suggests the Authority had not been paying its accounts payable. If this the case, it may be that the Authority has been cut off by suppliers; including by the carriers and the media used for promotions. This could account for the absence of advertising; which could at least in part account for the downward spiral of arrivals from Canada and elsewhere. It may also be that, after carrying past due receivables, the carriers and media have put the Authority on C.O.D. payment terms. It may be the case that the funds to pay the bills have not been received from the proposed IADB loan (to be negotiated), have not been received. While much of the promotion and advertising cost may have been borne by BTA in the past; all of the responsibility cannot be laid at the feet of the taxpayers. Where are the hotels own advertising? They are virtually invisible in Toronto newspapers.
On the other hand, Sandals/Beaches advertises properties in St. Lucia, Turks &Caicos, Antigua and Grenada at least weekly, and often more than once a week in Toronto newspapers. Today there are half page ads for Sandals La Source (Grenada) in both the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star. I have to assume that the same is the case with advertising in New York, Chicago, Miami and London. It is almost like the Barbados government and hotel operators are just waiting for guests of past years to call to make a reservation for this year. But the numbers confirm that strategy is not working. They simply must advertise.
The reality is that every consumer who responds to the ads of competitors is one less potential consumer to spend a vacation in Barbados. People who have had less than a stellar experience in Barbados, will look for other places to spend their next vacation. And they will return to those other places if they have a good experience. They will be lost to Barbados. They will return to Jamaica, Bahamas, St. Lucia, Antigua, Turks & Caicos, Grenada, and to Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Belize and Panama. The train is hurtling down the hill and the speed of the downward trip will only accelerate if something is not done to reverse it course.
The solution is beyond DD’s pay grade, but clearly a solution must be found NOW.