The Adrian Loveridge Column – Boutique is the Solution
While I can see all the merits of attracting big brand named hotels, I still feel the destiny for us and at least partially differentiating Barbados as a destination lies with our smaller boutique hotels. Of course I will be the first to admit being biased, but as my personal time as an hotelier is almost up, I think I am able to maintain reasonably objectivity. And certainly the TripAdvisor hotel ratings which are posted by guests, who have stayed, certainly support that conclusion with this part of the sub sector getting as close to right in delivering the best possible level of satisfaction and highest product delivery possible.
To demonstrate these findings, please study for yourself, as these are the current top ten rated properties. 1) Little Arches; 2) Beach View; 3) Yellow Bird Hotel; 4) The House; 5) Inchcape Seaside Villas; 6) Sandy Lane; 7) Sugar Cane Club; 8) Fairmont Royal Pavilion; 9) Crystal Cove and 10) Sugar Bay.
Only four of the hotels mentioned exceed the official definition of a ‘small hotel’ which is classified as 75 rooms or more and in the case of Royal Pavilion by one room (76) and Crystal Cove by 13 (88 rooms) with Sugar Bay (138) and Sandy Lane at 112 rooms.
Ironically, newer kids on the block, even with all their unique concessionary advantages which could also have been used for training or upgrading service standards, plus despite all the associated hype, with over 2,087 guest reviews since acquiring and upgrading the property, have actually fallen in their rating when compared with the previous operators, from #16 to currently #18.
While many hotels have received various awards, accolades and recognition from trade bodies, travel agents and tour operators, the final say that counts the most has to be the actual opinion and rating of the guest who has actually stayed.
Of course a lot has happened in our accommodation offerings over the last ten years. It was interesting to read in Terra Caribbean’s famous Red Book, according to data provided by the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) that between 2011 and 2016 villa occupancy had increased by an average 22 per cent monthly during this five year period. Then, what only can be described as an explosion in alternative accommodation, notably Airbnb, HomeAway, Flip Key, VRBO, Tripping and the many others has helped transform our overall lodging offerings.
As the Red Book points out, ‘The Barbados Tourism Product Authority has begun to recognise this shift in the importance of non-hotel accommodation, and is moving to put a benchmark for standards in this sector. This will not only allow visitors to evaluate options on the basis of a universal standard but is also a valuable step in ensuring that the villa sector has a seat on the table going forward when discussion of our tourism product takes place’.
In my humble opinion, this only makes sense and could possibly take us a step closer to anything that could be conceived as a level playing field, even if this sometimes appears, an impossible goal.