As we prepare to enter another new year, Christmas and the festive season gives way to traditionally the busiest holiday booking period in many of our major markets, notably the United Kingdom.
I would like to designate 2020 as the Year of Opportunity. With a new head of our national tourism marketing agency shortly in place, perhaps we could use these next months to better evaluate where we are missing potential opportunities, which can be turned into increased arrival numbers, extended length of stay and higher individual visitor spend.
Yes! There are those who believe that the majority of our guests stay in high end hotels and villas, but the reality is quite different.
Despite, the introduction of the last few years of over 550 rooms across two properties, who now boast annual occupancy levels of 90 plus percent, our total registered hotel room stock, struggles to achieve a yearly average occupancy of 67 per cent.
This is even more concerning, as recently released figures indicated that we are claiming record numbers of long stay visitors.
So the only logical conclusion is that there has been an even higher growth in the alternative lodging sector than either anticipated, or in fact, planned for in terms of marketing and licensing. It follows that this market is far more likely to look for travel bargains to reach us and they are out there if a little research is undertaken.
As an example, the current Virgin Atlantic sale is offering return flights from Gatwick to Barbados for as low at GB Pounds 407 including all taxes, even in peak months like March. Quite remarkable, in itself, when you consider the taxes and add-ons on that fare alone are GB Pounds 171.02 per ticket.
Book through bonus benefit websites, like TopCashBack, and you can get another GB Pounds 7.50 off. I was also able to book an overnight room at a large chain hotel within sight of Gatwick Airport at just over GB Pounds 18, for certain nights of the week.
And for the more adventurous, who maybe want to break their journey in the United States for shopping or sightseeing, can fly one way with Norwegian Airlines from Gatwick to Miami at GB Pounds 160 and then use miles on American Airlines for as little as 8,000 miles and taxes of US$7.10 from Miami to Barbados. Obviously these are the lowest fares available with certain luggage and other restrictions, but as they say ‘the price is right’.
While Barbados is continually perceived as a high cost destination, it is only in our interests to ensure that every potential visitor has the greatest choice of reaching us at the most affordable fares.
While we extract some of the highest airport departure taxes payable within the Caribbean, the real benefit is gleaned to Government from the taxes, VAT and levies paid on accommodation, car rental, dining experiences, shopping, attractions and activities and surely that should be where we concentrate our efforts on getting them here?