The Adrian Loveridge Column – Barbados Lagging Bahamas, Jamaica and DR with TSA Implementation
The announcement that one of our neighbouring Caribbean islands is shortly going to implement a Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) is an interesting development.
According to the UK Government website ‘a Tourism Satellite Account is a set of tables based around analyses of data, on both expenditure by tourists and on business sectors which serve tourists.
A TSA provides a much enhanced set of statistics which are more accurate than by taking the results of individual surveys alone. This data includes the contribution of tourism to the economy, and the number of jobs supported by tourism, for example. A TSA also opens up possibilities for modeling and analysis.’
For as long as I remember, evaluating the real contribution of tourism to the national economy has always been hit and miss, often involving partners who are reluctant to divulge individual business fiscal details for all sorts of reasons.
And the collection of meaningful and usable statistics for forward planning and policymaking has become increasingly more difficult, partly due to the exploding growth of secondary accommodation including Airbnb and alike, which still remains largely unregulated and unlicensed and therefore almost impossible to monitor their financial contribution. This is compounded by companies who are registered offshore and have no obligation to publish specific accounting details. Obviously in this category I do not include publicly traded entities, which are legally bound to issue annual accounts in a timely manner.
Just over a year ago, the then Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Hugh Riley, reminded us ‘Our first order of business as a region is to stop treating tourism as some sort of casual pursuit. Tourism is a serious business… When we talk about truly engaging our region’s population in the business of tourism, our countries must institute the Tourism Satellite Account systems that allow us to follow the tourism dollar through the economy, so that we can help our countries to truly understand the number of visitors it takes to outfit a school with computers, or a hospital with the latest equipment’. Yes, this business can truly be the lifeblood of the Caribbean, but we have to treat it more seriously’.
Further obscuring the critical data on which to base the spending of millions of marketing dollars is the subject of ‘leakage’. Described by Wikipedia ‘as the leakage effect is the way in which revenue generated by tourism is lost to other countries’ economies. Leakage may be so significant in some developing countries that it partially neutralizes the money generated by tourism’.
Of course we can continue to stab in the dark with data currently extractable, but if we are ever going to maximize available resources, informed factual intelligence is not a possibly achievable luxury, it is an imperative.
The American pioneer in marketing, John Wanamaker, who opened one of the first and most successful department stores in the United States, later to become Macy’s, is quoted as saying ‘half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half’.
What is perhaps most surprising, is that the TSA is already recognized as the international standard for measuring the contribution of tourism to an economy and is presently endorsed by the WTO, OECD, Caricom and United Nations, but we again let a competing regional island steal the thunder.