This week’s column marks a personal milestone, 520 weekly or ten years submissions amounting to around 260,000 words and entirely dedicated to a single subject, tourism.
The objective was never to suggest that there is any one particular ‘holy grail’ solution to the challenges that continually face the industry, either in good times, let alone the unprecedented demanding current period, but more to throw out questions and ideas that may encourage our decision makers to take all possible considerations into account, before formulating policies.
In my humble view, the single biggest present obstacle standing in the way of short to medium tourism recovery is the perceived or real lack of travel confidence in all our traditional markets.
Potential visitors are still reticent to sit on a plane for up to nine hours until they are absolutely sure, there is little or no risk of being infected by Covid-19.
Until mandatory pre-flight testing is a universal requirement, whatever we do at a local level is going to be at least partially negatively impacted.
Secondly, rumours abound across the social media arena that at least one or more major tour operators have cancelled all previously booked package holidays to Barbados for the rest of this year.
Attempts to seek clarification from those companies regrettably have met with no response and until they make it absolutely clear that this is not the case, speculation will linger.
We must also move away, at least for the next few months, from our dependency of being primarily a travel trade driven destination.
A higher percentage of direct bookings could well aid economic recovery, both at an individual property and national level.
A whole combination of events has led to an all-time low in the travelling public’s confidence and trust in sections of the operator and airline companies.
These include the ongoing delay in refunding holidays and flights booked prior to the pandemic, particular tour operators who have delayed payment to hotels and other accommodation providers for stays already completed and continued uncertainty regarding the restoration of airlift.
The return of British Airways on a daily Heathrow service is very encouraging from October, but incredibly disappointing, that it appears, neither of the two involved Governments have lowered or eliminated excessive taxes on the fares, including the United Kingdom Advanced Passenger Duty (APD) plus both VAT and not one but two departure taxes in the case of Barbados.
Of course, ‘we’ have not been told about any possible taxpayer seat subsidies that the airline may have negotiated, to ensure viable capacity, so this may have some bearing on ‘our’ Government’s decision.
One day, our policymakers will have to finally realize that there are only just so many ways you can extract taxes from potential visitors, even in ‘normal’ times, let alone during a prolonged recession across all major markets.
If price deters people travelling to a certain destination, then Government clearly cannot collect VAT, room and all the other levies on a stay that does not actually takes place.
Our population is not naïve enough to understand that post Pandemic they are going to have to pay for all the measures that have been put in place during Covid-19 through increased tax collection.
But let us not cook the golden goose before they even reach here.