Adrian Loveridge Column – Invisible Barbados
This weeks column comes from the United Kingdom where there is time to reflect on what is still, marginally, our single largest source market. Post Brexit, perhaps we can finally expect the value of Sterling to level out at a more predictable rate of exchange against the US Dollar, mirroring of course, our own Barbados Dollar.
Each year the British Post office issues a Travel Money Survey in which it includes a comparative ‘basket of eight tourist staples’ that comprises of 1) a three course meal with wine; 2) a glass of wine; 3) cup of coffee; 4) bottle of still water; 5) can of Coca cola; 6) bottle of beer; 7) insect repellent and 8) sunscreen.
Of the Caribbean destinations quoted, Antigua is priced at GB Pounds 70.51, St Lucia GB Pounds 93.99, Tobago GB Pounds 101.44, Jamaica GB Pounds 103.76 and Barbados at a staggering GB Pounds 135.05.
Across all the destinations that feature in the ‘World Holiday Barometer’ surveyed – prices were down in 33 of the 42 reported, with the biggest fall of 44 per cent recorded in Antigua. While this ‘basket’ perhaps does not totally reflect the overall cost of the holiday experience, comparisons, (particularly with prospective first time visitors), will obviously be made. Especially when they are only 300 miles away with equally attractive year round climatic conditions, beaches, excellent airlift at comparable fares and accommodation options.
Almost two years into a new administration and hopefully economic recovery within grasp, maybe it is time for our policymakers and tourism planners to carefully look again at our levels of taxation ‘we’ impose on this critical industry. If they think for a moment that we are immune or isolated from competition within the region, then just study what is currently on offer. In the past we have rightly thought that we could not compete with the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Cuba and alike, but when you see another close neighbour priced at almost half our everyday charges, a very powerful message is being sent.
Another surprising thing about this particular visit is the number and frequency of paid holiday and destination commercials currently being aired on British television. In the past, TV ‘ads’ have often been considered as too expensive and potentially not cost-effective. On certain channels these ‘ads’ are now occupying almost 50 per cent of the commercial interlude breaks. Maybe it is partially due to the void created by the collapse of the Thomas Cook Group last September, with once rival tour operators attempting to grab lost market share? After a week, I have yet to see a Barbados mention among the bewildering choice of destinations on offer, but just possibly, I am watching the wrong channels.
At this stage it is probably too late to conceptualize and air a compelling Barbados TV commercial that may have any significant positive effect on this winter season. But with the Governments’ windfall collection of additional taxes and levies since October 2018, largely from our visitors, perhaps some thought could be given to stimulating the softer Summer period? This could be achieved by selecting non-peak viewing times with lower cost ‘ads’ in highly targeted episodes or sponsoring a particular series that has a special appeal to our demographics. One programme which clearly stands out is ‘A Place in the Sun’.
This series is targeted towards Brits actively considering purchasing a second home overseas and is cleverly linked to a website, where prospective buyers can further research potentially desirable properties. This would allow for smart partnerships with our real estate sector, adding destination awareness and would create a scenario where Government could re-coup part of the promotional cost in property acquisition and occupation taxes, in addition to all the current levies extracted from increased visitor arrival numbers.