The Adrian Loveridge Column – Potholes and the Possible Effect On Tourism
It would be interesting to hear from our car rental companies to see if there has been a detrimental consequence as a result of the current and quickly deteriorating condition of our roads. Personally, as an ageing driver I am now very reluctant to drive after dark, especially if it is, or has been raining, as the potholes are so numerous and seem to be appearing almost everywhere.
So unless you travel on particular roads frequently they often take you by surprise.
Purely from a tourism perspective, there is also the cost consideration. Has there been a reduction in overall rentals or average duration of hire? Have companies experienced increased costs in maintenance and repairs to wheels, tyres and rims?
As virtually all the components have to be imported, with the extra cost in doing business caused by the increased rate of the almost insultingly called ‘National Social Responsibility Levy’ (NSRL) and surcharge on foreign currency usage, this must have had a considerable effect on the bottom line or profitability for many vehicle hire operators.
Then there is the cost to the country that if indeed more visitors are not hiring cars or reducing the average duration that directly relates to VAT collection, driver permit charge and all the taxes and excises associated with petrol or diesel purchases.
Add that to the possibility of the 50 plus car rental companies listed in the current local Yellow Pages directory, reducing their fleet size or deciding not to purchase additional new vehicles and the losses to the administration could well run into millions in lost taxes and duties.
And of course, it does not end there. Less car rental or shorter hire periods directly impacts on our attractions, activities and restaurants for both lunch and dinner.
Initially when we launched our re-DISCOVER lunch initiative, it was conceived and implemented for one of our largest vehicle hire operators. The thinking behind the concept was with a fleet of around 130 cars, each rental averaging seven days and at least one driver and a passenger. This alone equates to over 13,000 people per year from a single provider.
They all have to eat.
Many might be visiting Barbados for the first time and want at least to experience one or two of our places of interest like Harrisons Cave, Hunte’s Gardens, Animal Flower Cave etc., and explore various sights on the island.
Then consider those visitors staying in self-catering accommodation like villas, apartments and the ever increasing lodging choices offered by entities like Airbnb. They would also use the car to stock-up on consumable supplies like food and beverages at one or more of our supermarkets. This could result is more potential revenue and tax loss.
Many of us are left to wonder exactly what the mandatory annual road tax collected by Government is actually spent on and why at least a proportion is not seemingly used to at least try and maintain our roads in a serviceable and safe condition. And this is especially relevant to car rental companies who pay a much higher (almost 34 per cent more) rate per vehicle yearly than private motorists.
I believe it is long overdue that our private sector trade body, the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, undertake some meaningful research among its vehicle hire members to try and calculate the true national cost of our rapidly crumbling roads.