Need to Maximize Tourism Budget in the US

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier

Frankly I have never understood the seemingly illogical apportionment of the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) annual budget and the ways it has been spent across our principal tourism markets. The United States stands out as a vivid example. In the five years 2003-2007, we welcomed 654,281 American long stay visitors. For the same duration 2008-2012, that number (661,646) grew by a minuscule 7,365 persons or an increase of just 1.1 per cent, which barely represents an incremental annual average of 0.2 per cent.

During that same second period, our neighbour, St. Lucia, recorded a 4.6 per cent improvement of US arrivals. Hardly spectacular, but with all those throwing their hands up in the air, while shouting APD (Advanced Passenger Duty), recession, global economic meltdown and all the other possible excuses, is nothing to be ashamed of.

What continues to be puzzling is why ‘we’ continue to spend the lion’s share of the BTA budget in the US market, without being able to achieve a meaningful return on ‘our’ investment. More overseas offices, staff, airline subsidies, the legendary per diem and other expenses, than any other major source, but little or nothing to show for it! For instance compare the exact same period with Canada, which grew by 35 per cent (87,339 extra arrivals) or an average of 7 per cent per annum. The imminent withdrawal of American Airlines on the New York route is just one part of the problem. Yes! Our policymakers are scrabbling around trying to find alternative carriers to meet the loss of seats, but what exactly is the plan to fill them?

Is it time to consider closing the prime location Second Avenue New York office to save the considerable operating costs associated with it? The savings could then be spent on hard marketing to drive additional numbers and any displaced, but productive, staff redeployed. Could everything then be centralised in Coral Gables (Florida), where American Airlines continue to operate direct flights from Miami to Barbados.

Also of concern must be the decision back in 2009, following a four month review, to award a Kansas based advertising agency, then called MMG Worldwide, an US$8 million three year contract. Possibly, influencing the final choice was the company’s stated expertise in the travel and hospitality industries. Clearly, at least in the US market, they have not been able to make a substantive difference, and that surely by itself, must call for an urgent evaluation. On reflection it might have been better to have selected a smaller more results orientated agency, rather than a huge multi-location mission statement driven entity, which clearly could not response in the speed necessary to maximize on the many lost opportunities. Of course, there may well be justifiable reasons behind this non-performance, which could include the financial challenges facing the BTA, but that makes it more critical that any promotions undertaken are entirely cost-effective.

For the first eight months of 2013, American stay-over arrivals look even more depressing, recording declines, in every single month, so far totaling 9,933 less visitors and already eradicating any microscopic gains made over the entire last five years.

It would appear yet again, the heady predictions of this year ending flat were woefully optimistic.

17 thoughts on “Need to Maximize Tourism Budget in the US

  1. Since the British market is a large part of tourism here, would it not make sense to spend a large part of the budget there. Barbados remains a hugely aspirational and glamorous destination to the average Brit, and access to the island is no more difficult than getting on a bus. Much easier to build on an established client base than to try and develop a reluctant one.

  2. Adrian

    You address the “Need to Maximize Tourism Budget in the US”

    DD believes there is a “Need to Establish Tourism Budget in the Canada”

    The BU family is probably tired of hearing DD harp about the absence of television and newspaper advertising of Barbados tourism product in Barbados third largest source market – Canada.

    Well it was the same story this past week, no Barbados properties advertised in Toronto newspapers, while Sandals continues its aggressive advertising of its properties in Grenada, Bahamas, et al.

    There was though, some mention of two Barbados properties in travel/tourism supplements.

    In a special Sun Destination section in the Star, Sandy Lane is one of four Caribbean golf destinations featured in a story about golf holidays, the others being in Bahamas, Mexico and Nicargua.

    In another article on cruising (cann’t find it now) the writer discussed, in glowing terms, her one-day stay at The Crane, while waiting to board her cruise.

    The Saturday Globe and Mail included a 26 page glossy Air Canada Vacations promotional magazine featuring 7 Paradisis Resorts properties in Dominican Republic and Mexico. Also, included ws a 12 page glossy Florida magazine.

    DD is not alone in voicing his views concerning of the absence of advertising in Canada.

    Barbados Today reported in its November 27 edition, Page 8, that in his address to a packed Frank Collymore Hall, Barbados Olympian living in Canada, Dr Victor Gooding questioned where Barbados is spending its tourism marketing budget in the North American market. He said “many Canadians do not want to come to Barbados because it is considered too expensive and he did not think the island was being marketed like it should be.” “Sometimes I am aware that there is an active campaign going on but I don’t remember the last time I have actually seen an ad on TV or in the newspapers. So I am not aware of where these event are.”

    I hope that if anyone from the MOT or BTA was in attendance at the packed Frank Collymore Hall, they were paying attention to what Dr. Gooding had to say about the absence of media exposure in the Canadian media,


    Given that the established client base is shrinking fast (arrivals down 18 consecutive months) it is necessary to replace that base with new clients from all markets including the reluctant ones in USA and Canada

  3. OOPS
    Forgot to mention a 3/4 page article in a Loyalty and Rewards supplement in the Star titled “Pointing travelors to sunny destinations.”

    The first paragraph of the article pointing to luxe Caribbean Air Canada destinations reads “Cuba is beautiful and the Dominican republic is great too; but what about sunny winter getaways a little less traveled and more exotic” The article includes What to dos in Curacao, Saint Kitts and Grensda; and pictures of Cuaracao’s unique colonial buildings in Willemstad and a beach in Grenada.

  4. Adrian the Canadian dollar is dropping, and is expected to drop below 90 cents shortly which will again make currencies tied to the us dollar more expensive. Food, beverages, accommodation will go up. If the American dollar keeps gaining strength it would be better to advertise there than here

    • @DD

      Why should Butch advertise now when Couples Hotel is reputed to be full?

      On 2 December 2013 19:11, Barbados Underground

  5. The complication of having a currency tied on a fixed exchange rate to the worlds strongest currency may help lower import costs but on the other hand it makes it a very expesnive destination to visit compared to other locations, For example, our new supposed source market of Brasil has seen Barbados get almost 40% more expensive than when we started subsidizing Gol to fly to Barbados. just becasue of currency difference. Of course for Americans going to Brasil it has go 40% cheapter to visit. The inbalance of our FX receipts is catching up with us. FX policy has to be addrssed if we are going to be a viable destination for other than the super rich

  6. @ Sith | December 2, 2013 at 6:07 PM |

    You have put a good case for a downward adjustment of the local currency to the US$ or for it to float against a basket of other currencies including the Euro and Canadian and even the T&T.

    However, you should bear in mind that hotel rates, especially those in the all-inclusive sector are quoted in US$ unless these rates remain the same or there are reductions, Barbados would still be deemed to be an expensive destination. Prices in the tourism related sectors and quoted in local currency would also have to remain at pre-devaluation levels in nominal terms in order to appear attractive to those spending foreign money.

    What is more important here is the need to provide value for money for the high prices being charged. People don’t mind paying good money (and a premium) for good quality goods and excellent service provided in a welcoming atmosphere or charming ambience.
    Visitors just don’t like being ripped off and they are quite aware when this is being “pulled” on them especially in a downright rude and uncouth manner.

  7. David

    If Couples could rent the hotel (Casuarina), why did Barbados need to have the keys turned over to Butch for his marketing might..

    BTW, does anyone know if the Casuarina property is, in fact, full; or is it closed for renos?

  8. Due D, I am curently staying at Sandals Casuarina, so will report fully in Tourism MATTERS 16th December. I felt it was important to view the Sandals concept through personal eyes.

  9. Hants dropping of the Canadian dollar is good for Canadian tourism, and manufacturing etc but it will leave less money for vacations abroad and coupled with those that are to be laid off (who will have no money for vacations) Barbados like every other destination for Canadian vacationers may see a drop.

  10. Small observation the tourist market is highly segmented by region and time and as the market is segmented the yield differs in the different segments. I have heard of some countries referred to as dumping grounds seasons.

    In some territories traffic figures are pumped at a cost of deep discounts the long and short is that arrival figures dont necessarity translate to revenue.

  11. The October 2013 long stay visitor arrivals figures have just been published by Bloomberg (but still not on BSS website or August September) and as feared the month recorded the lowest long-stay visitor numbers for that month during the last 11 years.
    19 consecutive months of long stay visitor decline, a new record.

  12. Adrian…..i am currently on the island, and there are quite a bit of tourists…..things should be good this season.

  13. Well Well,

    I sincerely hope you are right. We need at least an additional 10,000 long stay visitors in November and December to end 2013 ‘flat’ when compared with last year.
    And that is following 2012 which ended 31,421 long stay visitors down when compared with 2011.

    Jan-Sep 2013 – American long stay visitors
    St. Lucia – 97,855 – UP 10.9 per cent
    Barbados – 91,532 – DOWN 9.6 per cent

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