Last week the global communications agency, Finn Partners, released a fascinating, well researched and insightful report, entitled Domestic Tourism-Recovery Starts at Home, which highlights 25 of the world’s most innovative and creative campaigns that show how domestic tourism is helping destinations recover until international travel substantially returns.
In their words ‘As travel restrictions around the world remain in flux, the impact of the global pandemic on tourism and hospitality continues to weigh heavily’, while ‘domestic tourism is returning faster than international tourism and is proving to be the critical lifeline for the global travel industry’s recovery’.
While a concerted national domestic tourism campaign is clearly not the sole answer to Barbados’s challenges, it is a critical integral part of the solution until some sort of controlled normality returns. As well as seeking to entice the substantial percentage of the population who have not been economically significantly affected by the pandemic, including tens of thousands of Government workers, it also gives some sort of positive assurance to the hundreds of small businesses trying to hang-on until meaningful overseas visitor arrivals return.
It begs the question, are we really all in this together?
So far, our single largest generator of foreign currency and employment has not received any financial relief, many of which were already under severe fiscal pressure, even before Covid-19. The promised reduction, months ago, in airfare taxes has not yet taken place, despite our policymaker’s success in enticing other airlines to fill the LIAT gap within the region and the establishment of a ‘safe’ travel bubble between certain regional territories.
State owned Trinidad and Tobago subsidized Caribbean Airlines (CAL) recently announced cost-cutting measures that will include the temporary trimming of staff by 33 per cent and the reduction of salaries brings home that it is not just major international carriers that are fighting for their very existence. The inevitable consequence will be a further reduction in route frequency and loss of seat availability.
While CAL’s job losses, temporary or otherwise, may seem almost paltry when compared with airline giants across the globe, we have to bear in mind that at least four of the largest carriers that currently service Barbados, (American, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and the Lufthansa Group will have collectively cut over 104,000 jobs by the end of this month.
Contrary to a minority view across some uninformed industry observers, tax reduction is not yet another perceived way of propping up our tourism industry. Rather it is a manageable tactical tool for making what is often accepted as a largely overpriced product, more affordable to locals, residents and attracting first time visitors.
Unless Government has a master-plan, yet to be revealed, with an objective to resurrect the many failed tourism partners who have already bitten-the-dust, or may do shortly. We have to learn to work with what we have and what is here and now.