The Adrian Loveridge Column – Play Your Part, Place Your X
As you have probably noticed the name of this column is Tourism Matters and I make no apology for trying to fixate on this subject and desperately try to avoid what many consider the tribal pit of party politics.
Just days away from a delayed general election, which is the only chance for those entitled to vote, the opportunity to have any influence on how we are governed, I am still amazed that there has not been more constructive discussion on tourism by all the political wannabe’s and private sector leaders that have major interests and investment in the sector.
Despite those sceptics who frequently repeat ad nauseam that we cannot put all our eggs in one basket, they repeatedly do not offer any credible alternative to take us out of our current precarious financial state. If the published or announced arrival figures are even vaguely credible, even taking into account the reduced admitted average stay, this does not fully explain why there appears to be a fall in foreign exchange foreign.
We know that there has been a virtual explosion in alternative accommodation, with one of the largest OTA’s (online travel agencies) recently reporting a staggering 45 per cent growth in this form of lodging last year alone for Barbados.
Of course, as a destination, we do not actually know the full extent and number of rooms in this previously non-traditional type of accommodation offerings. Without the long awaited registration and licensing promised by successive administrations, we probably will never have an accurate room count.
And that means there is no effective method of calculating the fiscal benefit, both in terms of lodging rental or any taxes collected to the country.
Over decades many of us have called and vocally lobbied to have this worrying situation effectively dealt with, seemingly in vain. Initially, a self funding and regulating system could be simply implemented and only those who comply, would directly benefit from the tens of millions of taxpayers monies spent on destination promotion and marketing.
We are also currently walking a tightrope of protecting a destination reputation that has taken two generations to grow and build, but seem to be content to risk losing this iconic status by not invoking minimum standards of safety, health and accountability.
The other area of great concern to me is the perceived reluctance of our many financial institutions to lend to tourism projects at affordable interest rates. A recent full page print ‘ad’ offered 100 per cent mortgages at 3.40 per cent annual percentage rate. Try and get that for a tourism related business and certainly from our experience you will be met with an almost overwhelming demand for 4 or 5 times the loan required in guarantees.
Is a residential house really a lower risk, as against a growing business that will hopefully expand to provide jobs, taxes and generate local consumer demand?
There is a real timely need to look as our bankers spread, when they are currently paying miniscule deposit interest rates, while at the same time introducing regular higher charges for reduced levels of service.
While I would not dream of even attempting to influence who to vote for, I sincerely hope that those tens of thousands of disillusioned voters make the effort to place their X, as it is the only way we can play any part in the democratic system.