Adrian Loveridge Column – Beyond the Crisis!
Of course, it is almost impossible to accurately predict exactly what is going to happen, as to when the global effect of the Coronavirus crisis is anything close to a foreseeable end. What is pretty much assured though is that nothing will be quite the same again, at least in the imaginable short to middle term future.
What we have to remember is that not only will tourism as we currently know it on Barbados change dramatically due to the devastating financial consequences on the industry locally, but for all other than a fortunate few the very visitor heartland of our major markets will have also been negatively affected. They too will have severely depleted spending power with the time to really consider or perhaps re-consider where they can spend what remains of those hard earned monies to obtain the very best value-for-money.
Our Government will lack the financial resources to plough into subsidizing the sector, having not been able to collect the estimated taxes and levies that ordinarily would have been paid over the tail end of the winter and early summer season.
My personal opinion is that our tourism industry will recover and flourish over time, but initially to aid that rebound will mean a radical re-think of how Government extracts so many additional taxes from our cherished visitors. Airlines which fly to Barbados will only restart services if they can see an attainable and reasonable profit on the route.
Almost certainly the British Government will be forced to remove the Advanced Passenger Duty (APD) and it would appear almost inconceivable that our administration could possibly justify one, let alone the two, airport departure taxes, Valued Added Tax (VAT) and all the other add-ons.
What can we do in the interim?
Well clearly there is a great deal of scope to clean-up the island, install recycling bins, paint and restore buildings, both public and private. The available labour and materials are already here together with the support of responsible civic-minded private sector partner companies. I also believe that our national marketing agency should dramatically ramp-up our destination visual presence throughout all the social media outlets.
Tempt people back with incredible and alluring images of our beaches, places of interest, attractions, activities and dining possibilities, so that when we re-open for business, a demand has been created.
While I do not fear the future for our land based tourism the cruise sector is a whole different story. It will take some time, together with prolonged fire-sale passenger fares, to once again entice substantial numbers onto ships which are capable of accommodating up to 6,000 passengers in severely confined spaces.
As the Caribbean remains the single largest cruise market by far, operators have a herculean tasks to persuade potential cruisers after incidents like the five ships flagged under the Princess brand (Carnival Corporation) experienced will not be repeated. And that safety and screening standards have been dramatically improved which will no longer remain a possible threat to the island destinations.