While a handful of hotels on Barbados have been very proactive in reaching out to locals and residents for Staycation options at attractive rates, despite some recent discussion, there appears no national initiative driving this important tactic to help the path of tourism recovery.
Perhaps equally discouraging is that our banks and financial institutions seem to be unaware of the potential to grow credit and debit card usage by offering enhanced cash back incentives to promote local tourism, which in themselves are self-funding.
What is abundantly obvious is that many would-be overseas visitors are delaying future booking, until some sort of normality returns to definite flight possibilities, rather than again risk going through the prolonged refund process that thousands are still trying to extract for previously confirmed flights and holidays.
Obviously, it is largely out of our control to secure airlift in the current ever changing circumstances from traditional markets, until infection rates are significantly reduced or eliminated, and the general public has the confidence to travel again.
The LIAT debacle has virtually ruled out welcoming back any possible early return of significant numbers of intra Caribbean visitors, despite the relatively low risk of Covid-19 spread within the region.
Many also find it difficult to understand how Governments, over decades, have ploughed hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into supporting the airline, only now to see it liquidated with all the consequences that brings to those involved.
Therefore simply put, perhaps the only meaningful source of business which presently remains, is the domestic market. It is not just about our accommodation providers, but across the entire sector.
From my feedback, people are questioning if Government sincerely wishes to avoid further closures of tourism partners and enable these businesses to re-open and protect employment, that the administration has to play their part in removing room levies and VAT (value added tax), at least in the short term.
The British Government obviously considered this policy was critical to aiding the hospitality industry recovery in the United Kingdom by announcing days ago the lowering of the VAT rate from 20 to 5 per cent until January 2021on restaurants, pubs and other leisure outlets and introduction of specially priced meals, rather like our 19 year old re-DISCOVER initiative.
Ultimately there are so many ways Government can wrest taxes and if those businesses remain closed and unable to meet their financial obligations, then clearly, they cannot contribute to national recovery.
While, thankfully, one closed restaurant was recently re-opened, under new ownership, no mention has been made of several others that have already been forced to close their doors ‘indefinitely’, resulting in the loss of dozens of jobs. This closure trend will inevitably continue unless some corrective measures are put into place urgently.
Over the last years ‘we’ have spent a fortune rightly boasting we are the culinary Capital of the Caribbean. Let us now, not lose this hard earned reputation, simply by failing to respond to the immediate needs of those who have made it possible.