Time to Win Back the ‘Middle Class’ Visitor
Submitted by 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.