The peak winter season is over.
Ahead of us are eight long softer summer months and every creative fibre throughout our national body should now go into hyperdrive to help maximize our tourism potential until December.
We need our food and wine distributors to become more ardent and see how better they can work with our hospitality industry to jointly enhance value and variety on offer. Perhaps this could be done in concert with the many countries we enjoy diplomatic relations with like Canada, the European Union, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, who all produce wine and may have a desirable product that we can include in our culinary offerings. I know some time ago the Argentinian Ambassador was proactive in this area, highlighting their incredible regional wine producing areas.
Our banks, already knowing there are vast amounts of untapped savings out there acquiring little or no interest, have to play a much greater part with incentives like cash back on credit and debit card tourism purchases. Monthly tourism prizes to stimulate awareness and demand would be an obvious first step.
Both sectors already have a ready-made co-operative marketing tool called re-DISCOVER (www.re-discover.com) where over 50 restaurant partners have been working together with a common objective for years.
The hotel association should also step up and as early as the beginning of next month offer a comprehensive and ongoing StayCation programme which will tempt many locals and long stay visitors to sample our myriad of available accommodation options.
One statistic stays in my mind and that is 67 per cent. Across all our registered accommodation (villas and hotels) this figure of an average 67 occupancy per annual is widely quoted. Frankly, I don’t care if this ‘average’ is typical of the Caribbean region as a whole. This is Barbados and we can do better.
What could possibly justify having up 15,000 empty villa and hotels rooms empty on any given night with a vacant capacity of at least 30,000 visitor arrivals? There must be something we can do to fill those rooms, that we are currently not doing. Personal, my main concentration would be to devise a comprehensive plan to take that 67 up to 77 per cent annual occupancy. I just wonder, if anyone has actually sat down and calculated the financial benefit that would bring to the country?
While we target travel writers and journalists in the hard core departure cities, is there further opportunity to invite those who work on regional and local publications in the environs of our connecting cities? To me it’s a no-brainer, an empty room matched with a responsive travel publication! If a well written destination article can attract just ten first time visitors to Barbados, isn’t it cost-effective?
Of course, there are many more areas we can look at, or take a second look, including enticing frequent flyers, who already have the means to reach us without the perceived hurdle of geographic distance or high air fares.
As the private sector takes greater charge of our tourism destiny, perhaps there has never been a better time, in modern days, to exert that influence.