Up until submitting this column, the Barbados Statistical Service had not yet posted either the August or September 2013 tourism arrival figures, so I suspect it will be sometime before figures for October this year are known, via this important agency. Fortunately, news agencies like Bloomberg extract the information from the Central Bank of Barbados and publish online, albeit some weeks later.
What we do know is that September 2013 recorded the lowest long stay visitor arrivals for any month during the last 11 years. October 2012 welcomed the lowest stay-over visitors for that month during the last decade and unless October 2013 exceeds 36,071 persons, that also will set yet other record, sadly not one we want to boast about. I don’t think a single individual on Barbados is not aware of the current Government’s fiscal challenges, but surely there is no better time to channel all available human resources into areas where a positive difference could be made.
Over the last few weeks I have been viewing tourism from a different perspective. That of a potential first time investor into Barbados and sadly, if ‘we’ are honest and objective, there are many areas we are sadly lacking. Some may even say, deficient. Bearing in a mind, a non-national considering investment in Barbados, at least initially, may not be familiar with the various agencies and their names mandated to smooth the process. So the first port-of-call is likely to be the website of the Ministry of Tourism (MOT). In a seriously competitive sector with dozens if not hundreds of destinations seeking to attract the all-important foreign venture capital, that introductory impression is critical.
Frankly, the MOT site is hopelessly out-dated, to the point that a 2007 newsletter still highlights a previous Minister of Tourism. I have pointed this out in another forum previously, yet weeks later, despite the combined resources of one of the biggest spending Government agencies, no improvement has taken place. It graphically demonstrates, what can only be described as a cloud of malaise that currently seems to have enveloped the industry, largely from a public sector perspective.
Personally, I believe mission statements are an absolutely waste of time, unless they are clearly understood and implemented. And there we go back again to that dreaded word, implementation, or perhaps better described, the lack of, as being a far better description. So should ‘we’ consider scaling down the objectives listed on the MOT website, to become more realistic and achievable? Or would it be more advisable to create a new one-stop-shop where investors can source everything they need to make informed decisions.
In defence of what already exists, the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc., website has an excellent section on Legislation and Incentives, but if the investor is unaware of this organisation, it is almost academic. Perhaps this is an area where real estate agents, financial institutions, lawyers, BTA, BHTA and other vested interests can play a greater part, by ensuring that they have complementary links on their websites.