Time to Win Back the ‘Middle Class’ Visitor

Submitted by Andrew Nehaul
Andrew Nehaul

Andrew Nehaul

In the early 1970’s it seemed that the marketing policy of the Barbados Board of Tourism was literally ”Fill Sandy Lane and the other hotels will fall into line”


Whether this is so today is unknown to me, but statements in the press seem to indicate that the tourism gurus are more interested in the front of the aircraft than the back.

In looking at the competition, the opening of Cuba will certainly impact on the rest of the Caribbean in general and Barbados, Bahamas, Jamaica & Dom Rep in particular. It is predicted that Cuban tourism arrivals will rise from 2.8 million in 2013 to 9 million visitors in 2020. Of these 2.8 million about one million were Canadians who spent about $ 750 million.

Today the present structure of Cuban tourism is guest houses and hotels. Most of the hotels cannot be rated at more than 3 star or 3+ star in category which mostly offer bed & breakfast in Havana and all inclusive outside of Havana. If the blockade is lifted, more hotels will be built and in a higher category to accommodate the influx of American tourists.

What can Barbados do?

In the 1970’s Sunset Crest was born and thrived on mainly Canadian tourism. A series of charter flights from Ward Air and especially the tour operator Sun Tours filled this and other Bajan apartment hotels to overflowing. This was the heyday of “middle class” tourism and gave the visitor exactly what they wanted for the perfect holiday. Although there were less restaurants available at the time, the bar-b-que nights made up for it and this was augmented by the numerous nightclubs like Cats Whiskers, Alexandras, The Pepperpot, Belair, Mary’s Moustache, Island inn, etc These entertainment choices seem to be lacking today.

I want to throw the cat in with the pigeons and say that what has disappeared from Barbados is this “Middle class” visitor. So, let us go after these million Canadian tourists and create a concept that steals this business from Cuba before the Bahamas, Dom Rep and others wake up.

First we study this business in detail:

1) Source cities for the flights to Cuba.
2) The major tour operators selling Cuba.
3) The pricing used and the nature of the marketing campaigns done.
4) The type of clientele – singles, couples, families etc.
5) Months of business. Is it winter only? Winter & summer?

I believe that what Barbados needs is another Sunset Crest concept on the south coast. We need to build an environment like Palma Nova/Magalof in Mallorca. This area is well know for middle class tourism and does not in any way detract from the other high class areas of the island.

I am suggesting a location like Long Beach and a size of a minimum of 1500 units comprising of a mixture of studio & one bedroom units as well as 2 bedroom villas. This should be an all inclusive concept but on a little different basis where breakfast and lunch can be buffet/continental. A grill style concept for lunch. Dinner can be offered at a number of restaurants where reservations are necessary and offer themes like Chinese and/or Asian fusion, Bajan, Italian, Seafood, French Creole, British Pubs, buffet, etc.

Bars can be scattered around the beach areas and should turn into nightclubs with music (live and recorded) at night. There should be 3 or 4 areas that offer ATM machines, a convenience store, a doctors office, shops, computer games area, security, etc.

Shuttles (at extra cost) should be running 4 times a day to Oistins & Bridgetown.
Wifi should be free and readily available for all guests. An area for vendors and other entrepreneurs must be available and there must be activity staff that are trained in drama and social interaction as these persons will be the key to the success of the concept as they should activate the kids and others.

The market should be Canadians in winter and Brits in summer.

What will this cost the client? We need an all inclusive price of around USD 80/person in winter and USD 60/person in summer. The success of this concept is in using as much locally produced food and drink as possible. The aim should be not only to make clients feel that they got more than they paid for but to create a sustainable and long lasting economic benefit to the island.

57 thoughts on “Time to Win Back the ‘Middle Class’ Visitor

  1. Is this an Xmas joke?
    The article may make some sense if the focus wasn’t on Canadians. Their currency has ‘gone tru de eddoes’, fell again today as the US fed raised interest rates, and is likely to fall another few cents with oil prices similarly falling.

  2. I would suggest that we target the German-speaking market – i.e. Germany, Austria, and Switzerland also, because these markets have fallen off since the mid-nineties. Germans have 28 days holiday per year, so it would make sense to include them. In this way some jobs can be found for the students studying German at the Barbados Community College (BCC).

  3. I agree with many points Mr.Andrew Nehaul has made. We do have a middle class market, mainly from the U.K. And those visitors spend two weeks as opposed to one from N.A. But until we can put top class security in place for beaches and areas at night where visitors frequent one or two mugging and robberies ruin our business and cost the Tourist Board hundreds of thousands every year. Most of these crimes are not reported in the papers, but somehow get to the overseas press. The Barbados Turf Club has been trying to get permission for night racing to create another nighttime type of visitor entertainment, but with no success to date. Until we get people in Govt who understand the importance of a healthy tourism sector we are swimming against the tide.

  4. Cuddeah Angela. You don’t know how many big up people would be found with their pants down on Garrison Hill during night racing? That’s the only “night time visitor entertainment” that will be allowed down there!

  5. In the 70’s, Fred Laforet offered the little cottages in Sunset Crest at prices starting at Bds$ 20,000, giving Barbadians a chance to invest and participate directly in the tourist industry. A rental agency administered the area for the property owners and it yielded them handsome returns. Here’s a chance for Government to launch a bond offering and establish a similar resort with the added feature that it would include facilities for elderly and infirm holiday makers – FROM EVERYWHERE. This traveller is not going to go adventuring in Cuba or even looking for loud entertainment; they’ll spend more time on the island, be gentle on the environment, attract medical and spa services . . . . . .and bring their younger family memebers for annual reunions !! Local participatory investment in health and wellness tourism is the way forward for the entire Caribbean. Don’t be left behind, Barbados !

  6. to WC
    “American has been flying to Cuba the longest of any U.S. carrier, starting charter service to the island in 1991. Today, it runs nearly 1,200 charter trips a year to Cuba, or 23 a week”
    Southwest and United do not fly to BGI.
    Delta and Jet Blue do, but in terms of flights, Cuba is a hop, skip and jump from their existing US bases.
    BGI is a long haul flight from most NA destinations, and a potential staffing nightmare if they cannot go and return in a narrow time window.

  7. Ottawa direct to varedaro 800 hotel and flight in jan. go to Barbados you have to go to Toronto first, takes longer and it costs a lot more. Why are there direct flights to st martin st lucia and cancun from Ottawa but not Barbados?

  8. @Lee December 17, 2015 at 11:14 AM #

    You would be amazed at the number of for rent signs at Laforets dream destination.

  9. I want to throw the cat in with the pigeons and say that what has disappeared from Barbados is this “Middle class” visitor.
    Are these the same people, who a former Tourism Minister referred to as “fish and chip tourists?”
    Such statements do come back to haunt us.

  10. I am your fish and chip tourist ….all my friends back home think I am rich but you treat me like shit because I don’t stay at sandy lane or sandals . I find it very funny in a way I don’t stay there because I find the people there too uppity and I don’t like them and you treat them better than me because if you grovel enough uppity people will like you

  11. I concur with the author on many points. Just yesterday I was speaking to some American tourists who as much as they love BIM are shocked how we survive given the high prices of most things. One thing I think we really need to improve on is our customer service, which is still lacking in many areas.

  12. @David indeed. Another thing we need to work on is the language skills of our people. We have Puerto Ricans galore and French speakers coming in on cruise liners like Carnival, Costa, Royal Caribbean etc and one is still hard pressed to find persons like myself who are multilingual and who can assist them in their native language. The myopic among us would say that it is incumbent on guests to learn a little English but if we seriously want to rise above the competition we really need to start catering to these people. Have bilingual and trilingual signs not just in some areas but throughout Bridgetown. Recruit more people who are bilingual and multilingual and train officials. In Trinidad some of their customs and immigration officials speak Spanish and they are not even a major tourist destination.

    • A good point Alicia and when you factor the GOL/Brazil initiative one has to wonder. What about joint venture promotions with the emerging Cuba? We are so passive in how we plan.

  13. The paucity of language skills among Barbadians is another perplexing aspect of our educational policy.

    The Government is introducing a CXC certificate in all schools called the CCLSC. The academic level is just a step above that of common entrance. It is a worthless certificate but it is hoped that it will facilitate a political agenda to ensure that every child leaves school with an academic certificate no matter how useless.

    In its original form (as conceptualized by CXC) there was a foreign language component to the CCLSC. The Barbados education authorities however deemed foreign languages too “difficult” for Barbadian students and so amended the CCLSC to exclude any study of French or Spanish. The foreign language component was replaced with a requirement that students do 30 hours community service. The organization, facilitation and monitoring of this community service is to be left to parents with little or no assistance from schools or the Ministry of Education.

    Once again “we jonesing”.

  14. Why would the unions question the decision? they probably suggested it…

    It is PARENTS who should worry about having their children waste their time in school learning shiite …just so that semi-retarded Jones could claim some statistic- that 90% of students now leave with ‘certification’ …and Sir Cave can have another excuse to include more losers in his roll at Cave Hill at taxpayers’ expense….. or sorry… that done and he gone nuh? 🙂

    • @Bush Tea

      The unions represent the collective intelligence of the body? Where there are fault lines in the system isn’t it a reasonable expectation for parents to look to the body to step up? What is the purpose of Teacher’s Professional Day every October?

  15. What is the purpose of Teacher’s Professional Day every October?
    ..get another day off from teaching those little losers;
    ..extract a free lunch if possible;
    ..fine tune plans for the next strike action (just before CXC exams);
    ..discuss the fees to be charges for dealing with SBAs;
    ..and comparing notes on private lesson fees….

  16. The BSTU has attempted to bring to the attention of the Government the increased workload of teachers vis-a-vis the heavy SBA aspect of the CCLSC. The BSTU is agitating for remuneration for the marking, collating and transferring of marks to CXC with regard to these SBAs. The BSTU has not come out against the CCLSC per se.

    I do not want to distract from the theme of this thread, which is the capturing of the middle income tourist market. Caribbeantradelaw has raised an important aspect of a country’s ability to succeed in tourism industry, which is the general language skills of all persons dealing with tourists. Like so many other aspects of our educational policy, there continues to be a deficit in our human resource development matrix which our education authorities explicitly refuse to address.

    I have also noticed that many of the workers on the cruise ships that come to Barbados are Asiatic eg. Philippines. I wonder what motivates these cruise lines which are based in the US or Europe to seek out Asians to work on ships working in the Caribbean? The Barbados Community College’s Hospitality programme is an excellent course of study which not only does good industry relevant training but is getting internships for its students in the US and Canada. Shouldn’t we expand this programme and introduce similar ones in areas that Barbadians have historically excelled such as agriculture, marine systems operation and maintenance, IT and furniture making?

    Another concern is the number of decrepit buildings which blight the Barbadian landscape, the general untidiness of the island and the level of noise pollution which many tourists find disturbing. If we claim tourism is our business, then we should do as much as possible to ensure that we can get tourists to come to Barbados and keep coming back.

  17. @Ping Pong
    I have also noticed that many of the workers on the cruise ships that come to Barbados are Asiatic eg. Philippines. I wonder what motivates these cruise lines which are based in the US or Europe to seek out Asians to work on ships working in the Caribbean?
    Ah…. cheap labour? That is one of the factors but perhaps these workers have a better work ethic than others from the Caribbean but I don’t think that the Cruise lines hire workers from a particular region because they happen to service that area. The exception is if their clientele on certain cruises speak a particular language they may assign crew that have a facility with that language.

  18. Sergeant

    When one lives under the democratic principles, he or she is at liberty to hire as he or she so desire. One could also make the argument here that one often sees more Jamaicans employed by the Kentucky Chicken Franchise than Hispanics for example, or more Africans employed by the Dollars Store franchise here than West Indians, but what does that really concludes?

  19. @ Anthony Davis December 17, 2015 at 4:28 AM #
    “I would suggest that we target the German-speaking market – i.e. Germany, Austria, and Switzerland also, because these markets have fallen off since the mid-nineties. Germans have 28 days holiday per year, so it would make sense to include them. In this way some jobs can be found for the students studying German at the Barbados Community College (BCC).”

    You have a point there my friend A D. But these same ‘European’ sun-seeking visitors would like to ‘sun-bathe’ in the buff. BTW, most Germans and Europeans can speak English much, much better than most Bajans.

    Are Barbadians prepared to accommodate such an expectation or would they behave as they did in the late 1970’s and travel (after attending their Sunday morning church services) from all over their culturally cocooned island paradise of hypocrisy to Long Beach and the small beach enclaves of the old Hilton Resort?

    No thank you, Baje! Let us, sexually liberated irreligious ‘white’ Europeans looking for an overall tan for the winter travel to more welcomingly exotic locations in the Caribbean like St. Barts, St. Maarten and the French overseas Departments. You can keep the Brits who growingly are finding Bim a bit too ‘unexcitingly and hypocritically staid and filthy’ and are looking for more fun not in the wishful thinking of a Caribbean Ibiza but in quaint Havana and its growingly popular outposts with their cultural diversity, cheap food and drinks just like an old Spain abroad.

    • Have to admit Miller that St.Marten for example appear to offer a more attractive product compared to Barbados. Attractive is defined as the city being clean as one example.

  20. @David December 18, 2015 at 11:34 AM #

    The attractive product on the Dutch side includes,licensed prostitution,a nudist beach,smoking of ganja,clean environment,casinos,night clubs,a lack of nhomophobia and yachting…..may have forgotten some…..on the french side gourmet food and easy access to gun purchasing.

    Can Bim match that?

    I see USA and Cuba have re-established air links…..poor Bim.

  21. @David December 18, 2015 at 11:58 AM #

    Yup……..and one of the best Bazaars outside of the middle east,where one can haggle and get prices knocked down on quality items on Front street……something the cruise passengers love.

  22. The article is more sentimental than logical and out of step out of today’s tourist economic reality.It assumes we have the convenience to concentrate on one market segment with exclusive forms of entertainment.Those days are over.

    Barbados needs a potpourri concept including visitors from our sister islands into a mass based concept.The foundation is there with places like Oistins, Martin’s Bay , Baxter’s road,Pelican Village, Temple Yard etc.Tourism needs to be built as extensions of those places and not around the swanky hotels and golf courses.

    You will find the B&Bs emerging and might even as far as Barbadians getting into the short stay market for their small apartments.Dont let the big numbers fool you, Apes Hill and the like are on life support and are about to go tits up.

  23. Addendum*

    Consider tens of thousands of cruise ship tourists pass through this place and have nothing to do other than duty free shop and sight-see.Fact, they are not shopping and sight-seeing is free.

  24. Many Europeans in the future ,may well be taking their ‘tropical vacations’ right at home.
    Take the Holy Land Experience in Orlando Florida. With the state of affairs in the Middle East, more and more Americans will opt to visit the Coca Cola Holy Land, instead of the Water -into-wine bibical one.
    The mushrooming alternative theme parks and cruise ships, may very well make large landed hotels obsolete.

  25. Also the middle class comprise of baby boomers who have a large block of homosexuals and bisexuals .barbados carries an image of being anti gay and such an allegation was demonstrated recently in a USA court on behalf of Kim Watson a transgender to win her case against being deported back to barbados .
    If barbados is serious in achieving large numbers of middle class tourist across the international market to this island there must now be very diligent an convincing in their effort as to how Barbados image towards the gay community is perceived worldwide, as negative influence can do irreversible harm to the country in this 21st century of enlightenment where one voice can produced a barrage of destructuve stigmas associated and hold barbados economy to ransom
    the removal of anti gay laws on the books would be a great place to start

  26. I agree with AC some of the ministers have to go on a fact finding mission to the US at tax payer expense and blow a few guys to prove Barbados is open for business

  27. Does this potential middle class tourists include those from our sister Caribbean countries? Over the years I’ve stayed in hotels in various red neck states,and as far as these establishments were concerned, the important factors were the colour of my dollar bills and credit cards. Could we say the same for other Caribbean people who come to Barbados on holiday?

  28. Andrew Nehaul needs to have his head examined. Having described the intense and ever-increasing competition for the North American “middle class” tourist dollar, he then proposes that we re-enter the segment in a big way. Is he insane? Cancun, Dominican Republic, and now Cuba are all CLOSER to North America than Barbados, have lower labour costs, enjoy economies of scale Barbados does not have, and have better connections and more entrepreneurs than we do. Also, never under-estimate the R Factor. Other things being equal, most middle class North American tourists prefer “white” countries — the whiter the better.

  29. Pingback: Guyana – An Emerging Travel Destination | Guyanese Online

  30. Oistin, Bridgetown, Holetown, and Speightstown are not particularly interesting places to visit during the day,and certainly not at night, with such poor lighting ! Nightlife is extremely limited. Oistin Bay Garden and St.Lawrence Gap do not offer much. Moreover, travelling at night can be a scary experience for any visitor…the police are not too visible, taxi operators often overcharge,an driving can be a real “nightmare”. In a nutshell, crime and the high cost of living will deter the “middle class “causing them to opt for much cheaper destinations…e.g Cuba, Dominican Republic, St.Maarten etc…. where they get much “more bang for the buck” .

  31. pieter pieper December 26, 2015 at 7:48 PM #
    The things you see when not wearing your rose- tinted spectacles.

  32. We better hope this does not reach Barbados’ shores. From BBC http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-35162395

    “But in tourism-dependent Antigua, a deadly disease has wiped out almost half of the island’s majestic coconut palms – leaving unsightly headless trunks littering the landscape.

    Lethal yellowing, the same condition that devastated the iconic trees in Florida and Jamaica, also strikes at the heart of this 280sq km (108sq mile) island’s culture and economy.”

  33. The late Sir Arthur Lewis, Nobel Laureate and distinguished economist, posited that any aspect of economic development of any nation, must take into consideration, the agricultural development of that nation. We have embraced and become fixated upon tourism,and ignored the importance of agriculture. We have developed a taste for imported foods and have become dependent upon imported foods, in the mistaken belief that imported foods are the sine qua non of the viability of the tourist industry. While international cuisine may be important in tourism to some extent, let’s focus upon local production of THE MAJORITY of what we feed ourselves and, by extension, the tourists ! The majority of what Cubans… and “the middle class ‘visitor’ “… eat, is produced in Cuba so that this impacts the overall cost of living !


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