The Chairperson of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Renee Coppin reacted to the announcement by given support to the increase, BUT, criticized the process. She opined there was a lack of proper consultation with key stakeholders by not giving sufficient time to factor the increase in business planning by those who will be most effected. There was a suggestion the increase could have been implemented after a 90 day disclosure period.
A shared article on a well-known social media platform on May 11/2022 respecting Barbados and the Caribbean tourism recovery progress brought back memories of a posting in the March 23 /2020 edition of Barbados Underground under the caption “We need a new game to promote Tourism”. Both articles offered opinionated suggestions on the development of various sectors of the tourism industry but neither one embodied a program for the way forward. Recommendations appeared to be relying on the induced demand strategy for generating visitor arrivals, but this approach might not produce desired results.
In the post pandemic period, digital technology will be the axle tourism officials will utilize to drive and operate tourism industries. Competition between Caribbean states for tourism receipts will be fierce. To survive, tourism dependent destinations will have to create and implement tourism master plans that are innovative and futuristic.
If a change is necessary, a business model should be put in place that (1) will modernize and keep destination programming abreast of industry technology and (2) develop and introduce diverse collaborative marketing campaigns that are consumer and travel trade oriented. Product distribution and tourism revenue generating initiatives should be incorporated in the program as they will be a Force Majeure in the new era tourism.
THE NEW BUSINESS MODEL
One of the non-publicised benefits Covid-19 provided Caribbean destinations dependent on tourism revenue, was the opportunity to review and upgrade their Modus Operandi. The chance to recalibrate and improve destination programming was apparently passed over as tourism authorities appeared to favour a return to pre covid marketing strategies.
The new model would necessitate upgrading and expanding current business strategies to include rebranding, monetizing tourism activities, product distribution, concentrating on community programming, and depending on resources, the establishment of a” National Destination Tour Company” with Internet Booking Engine (IBE) functionality.
BENEFITS OF A NEW MODEL
1 – Reduced dependence on international tour operators, foreign carriers and their tour companies, wholesalers, and hotels reps for generating visitor traffic
2 – Building a better working relationship between Public and Private sectors in marketing and promoting destination
3 – Establishment of national destination tour company branches in overseas markets
4 – Generate tourism revenue and eliminate need for government subsidies
5 – Better management, control, and distribution of tourism product
6 -The building a tourism industry that is not susceptible to industry partners
“High and Low Season” marketing activities
NATIONAL DESTINATION TOUR COMPANY
The incorporation of a national tour company with a booking engine in a destination’s tourism authority infrastructure will not only level the playing field but lessen third-party involvement. It will reduce marketing and promotional expenditures, open new avenues for generating revenues, create employment opportunities, provide effective industry management, and year-round competitive programming. Moreover, it will generate visitor arrivals.
The internet booking engine concept is also not new. It is an updated, upgraded digitalized version of the reservation/sales function which appointed travel product wholesalers in overseas markets performed for Caribbean destinations in the 1960-1970’s prior to the evolution of tour companies. The booking engine would enable direct destination bookings and revenue earned remains in country.
There is also the precedent of the successful and productive use of the above-type business model in support of a popular Caribbean Island for approximately 30 years. Some tangible destination project benefits include (a) a dedicated airline service, (b) premium marketing campaigns, (c) an out of country licensed sales facility, (d) affordable tourism/hospitality holiday packages, and (e) excellent working relationships with international airlines, travel trade professionals and tour operators. Estimated arrivals at this destination in 2022, approximately 2.5 million visitors.
If Caribbean destinations are seeking solutions for a robust recovery of their tourism industries, an adaptation of this model could be the resolve.
DIVERSE COLLABORATIVE PROGRAMMING
Most Caribbean destinations experienced major tourism revenue losses due to Covid-19. To attempt to rebuild tourism industries in the post pandemic era, programmers will have to create and offer value laden affordable holiday packages “chock-a-block with authentic enjoyable experiences” that are superior to other programs in the marketplace.
To enlighten persons not familiar with tourism programming, the following is a draft blueprint of a diverse collaborative master plan that could be utilized by any Caribbean destination.
A SWEET FUH SO HOLIDAY PACKAGE
1 – Tourism and Hotel Association officials should convene a meeting to discuss the creation of a Public – Private Sector Collaborative “Sweet Fuh So Holiday Program.”
2- Meeting participants should include Tourism and Hotel Association executives, local and international airlines, their tour companies, overseas and local tour operators, wholesalers, travel professionals and destination stakeholders. The probability of including cruise lines should be considered.
3-The appointment of a Special Marketing Task Force Committee to work on the rebuilding project.
4-The Holiday Package components, to mention a few, should include – Visitor Arrival Receptions, Airfares, Accommodation, Culinary & Gastronomy Outings, Entertainment, Water Sports, Exceptional Events, and other memorable Experiences, that would make the destination the paramount location for exciting year-round “Sweet Fuh So Holidays”.
5-Packkage amenities should be chosen by the Special Task Force Committee.
6-Destination Stakeholders should be a combination of Tourism and Hotel Association officials, hotels, tour companies, entertainers, restaurants, taxi drivers, water sports operators, artists, immigration, customs, and police departments.
7-Marketing strategies should utilize social media and traditional platforms
to target market Cultural, Foodies, Weddings and Honeymooners, Diaspora, Snowbirds, Millennials, LGBTQ2+, etc.
8-A Public Relations campaign should be launched to notify consumers the destination is open for business.
9-Training seminars should be conducted by destination’s overseas offices in respective markets to educate travel professionals in small groups of 25-30 on the new program.
10-Planned destination educational visitations for travel agents, overseas journalists, travel writers and travel press should be an integral part of the program.
11-The Holiday package should be available for immediate implementation in the event the pandemic comes to a quick end.
Not all the components of the tourism master plan are listed in this draft document. One such item involves “Incentives”. If incorporated in the program, a three-year platinum incentive promotional campaign could be developed that would enhance the destination’s brand globally.
As most Caribbean islands are airline dependent destinations, they will require air connectivity from carriers, preferably those who own and operate tour companies, to kick start their tourism industries. These partnerships could generate a variety of visitors – package holiday’s vacationers, F.I.T travellers, M.I.C.E, and Sports groups – that would result in better utilization of the destination’s hotel rooms inventory. Negotiating such support services is another feature of the plan.
Project success and results will depend upon a destination’s Private and Public sectors joint efforts to develop effective collaborative programming. Willingness to discard yesterday’s marketing techniques, in favour of utilizing innovative digital solutions, would make the recovery resilient. To facilitate planning and development of strategies for future master plans, Caribbean destinations should consider establishing permanent Private and Public sectors tourism marketing committees. In the digital era, the Caribbean needs to transition to the new technology or continue to experience declines in visitor arrivals.
A two-week circuit-breaker lockdown could be introduced in England after Christmas to combat the rise of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
Following the advice of scientific advisers, The Times has reported, government officials had prepared draft regulations that would reintroduce restrictions similar to those in step two of that country’s roadmap out of lockdown last spring.
The UK is one of Barbados’ primary tourist markets. The tourism and hospitality sector is greeting the Brits and their pound with open arms after the island’s tourist season officially began on Wednesday, December 15. This week also saw news of striking nurses, members of the UWU, become the centre of national attention. What is the genesis of the impasse?
A former Minister of Health (a Government Senator) has chided the head of the Unity Workers Union (an Opposition Senator) but … how many of the nurses’ longstanding issues were allowed to fester under his ministerial stewardship? What insight of the genesis of the impasse would Dr. Walcott have?
What we will lament is the inevitable importation of the Omicron variant – in exchange for foreign exchange. Thirty pieces of silver?
What the government should do is spell out the condition of the nation’s finances and explain how desperately we are in need of the tourist arrivals.
Not the IMF.
Not the BERT Monitoring Committee.
Not the “Social Partnership”.
The Prime Minister recently chastised industrialised countries for their role in climate change. The PM lamented their lack of consultation with small island developing states. Climate justice is needed but the PM has to appreciate her government’s failings where consultation and social dialogue matter. How much dialogue was there before an agreement was brokered for a bail-out for the manufacturers of school uniforms? The private sector seems to have greater access and success with dialogue.
So is the Social Partnership one of George Orwell’s lost works? Or is the new republic sans Constitution?
DLP Tourism spokesman Richard Sealy is mistaken. He leaked the report from the Hilary Beckles led committee to come up with a new tourism slogan in the hope of embarrassing the Government; however the committee has actually done an amazingly good job.
I actually feel that I owe Professor Beckles and his committee an apology because I stated publicly that they were not up to the job, having little relevant expertise among the unwieldy membership of 18. Sorry Dr. Beckles.
They came up with three alternatives; “It’s A Bajan Thing”; “ Live Like A Bajan” and “Barbados: Feel Free”. This reminds me of the oldest consultants’ trick in the book: make three suggestions of which two are so obviously garbage that the client has no choice but to select the third.
The third suggestion, “Barbados: Feel Free” is a better tourism slogan than any we have ever had in the past. In fact, it is one of the best I have ever encountered globally. Let me explain.
A slogan needs to follow the the guidelines below and be:
Allusive (because it needs to mean subtly different things to different segments of your audience)
An appeal to emotion (because buying decisions are all made with the emotions and then rationalised intellectually afterwards)
A call to action
If you doubt me just take a look at the most successful marketing slogans of our lifetime:
Nike – Just Do It.
Apple – Think Different.
Wendy’s – Where’s the Beef?
Coca-Cola – Open Happiness.
Each one follows the guidelines that I pointed out.
“Barbados: Feel Free” is better than any tourism slogan that we have ever had. “Feel Free” is an explicit invitation to drop by for a visit, and it is the sort of relaxed invitation you extend to social equals: to family or close friends. The feeling of freedom appeals to every psychographics and demographic because everyone invests it with what feels like freedom to them. It can appeal to locals as well as visitors because that feeling of freedom is aspirational for every human being.
My name is Nathan ‘Jolly” Green; I am a Caribbean journalist, and a freelance acting on the instructions of a well-known international TV company.
Between August and December, my five-person team will begin surveying and inspecting a mixture of 150 hotels and cruise ships to test for sterilization or non-sterilization of bedrooms and bathrooms. We will be specifically inspecting bedding, linens, including pillow covers, pillows, blankets, bedspreads, and sheets. We are not only looking for laundering evidence; we are looking for sterilization.
Many Caribbean hotels will be part of our scheme, and we will book in as clients and carry out forensic tests to see if you are both laundering and sterilizing the bedding between each new guest at your hotel. If we have a severely negative result, we will notify the hotel management, and in every case, our findings will become part of an international TV program.
The above YouTube video shows a past survey. Besides UV black lights, we now also have much more scientific test equipment to detect bacteria and virus. The sophisticated equipment will not fail to detect any existing failures in duty of care to clients of hotels.
Seventy per cent of our tests will be carried out on major hotel group properties, twenty per cent on privately owned hotels, and ten per cent on cruise ships. Next year  we will be conducting tests for a second linked program on bed and breakfast establishments.
I write to you to give you a fair warning of what we intend to do, which is a better warning than many hotels provide to their clients who are being cheated on and whose health is being put at severe risk from many kinds of pathogens.
In the worst of cases, we intend to supply certified videos to government departments and prosecution attorneys. We will also be willing to appear as witnesses in subsequent court cases arising from our findings. Every course of action and procedure will be videoed and will together with the inspection form part of the same TV program.
Two things occurred which were reported in the press on June 30th, 2021 that makes one wonder what the vision for the Tourism Industry is and if there is synchronization of the plans and actions in the various departments of Government. First was an article in which it was reported that the Minister of Tourism Lisa Cummins spoke to the workers of the Grantley Adam’s International Airport about branding. Second was the delivery of the Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Ryan Straughn who stated that government had undertaken debt of $ 80 Million of the Needham’s Point Holdings Ltd which operates the Hilton Barbados Hotel by issuing a new series of B Bonds to bondholders.
These 2 seemingly unrelated occurrences makes one question the leadership at the Ministry of Tourism and the action of Mr. Straughn with regards of the plans for the industry if one takes it as a given that a vision is translated into measurable plans of action or a roadmap to achieve desired goals.
What are the objectives of the Ministry of Tourism?
Having not seen the written plans of the Ministry of Tourism, there is that degree of difficulty to state the current purpose of that entity. No one knows the purpose of the tourism industry in Barbados as its objectives or goals are not listed on the website which is shared with the Ministry of International Transport. Only the purpose of the Ministry of International Transport is listed.
The vision that should be listed on the Website should be nothing less than to eradicate poverty by a specific date. Tourism should be of service to the people of Barbados and the development of the island, otherwise what is its purpose?
The number one revenue earner in Barbados is tourism. It must serve some development goal of Barbados. Poverty eradication must be the number one development goal of Barbados. Tourism is best fitted as a tool of development to eradicate poverty in Barbados. Some persons believe that poverty cannot be eradicated. Nelson Mandela stated “Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.”
With the amount of money that has been earned in Barbados since the late 70’s, there should be no poverty here. A portion of the earnings for tourism must be used to eradicate poverty and the Unit which falls under the Prime Minister’s office should be moved to the Ministry of Tourism. One must agree that the poor housing stock of the lower classes in Barbados is a direct result of poverty and we must set out to change this as climate change may bring hurricanes to our shores each year.
International tourism receipts are expenditures by international inbound visitors, including payments to national carriers for international transport. These receipts include any other prepayment made for goods or services received in the destination country. They also may include receipts from same-day visitors, except when these are important enough to justify separate classification. For some countries they do not include receipts for passenger transport items. Data is in current U.S. dollars.
Government Contracts can be used to eradicate Poverty.
Despite the focus on tourism, the Government of Barbados also has a major role to play in poverty eradication. Its current policy of awarding contracts to a select few Barbadians has perpetrated the existence of the very wealthy and poverty. If wealth can be created by the government awarding of its contracts, then poverty can be eradicated using the system to award the contracts to a company that is owned by the people.
The Barbados Brand
On 30th June, the Minister was reported as asking the workers of the Grantley Adams International Airport to “protect it as a brand of excellence and world class hospitality.” However, all the talk about a branding exercise and creating a new slogan, and now asking persons to protect a brand is meaningless if the intent is not to be translated into a physical component and its use to assist in the development of Barbados.
If Barbados really is a brand as is constantly touted and not just a travel destination, isn’t it time for us to see hotels and other establishments in Barbados bearing the name the Barbados Brand. Isn’t it time that we see the translation from nebulous concepts and costly slogans which have nothing to do with reality in Barbados?
The Hilton brand was started in 1969. Commercial tourism in Barbados predates 1887 when the Crane Hotel was built. Isn’t it time to have a physical brand on the ground?
Perhaps the best action in term of branding would be to relieve the contract holders of the Hilton Hotel, and brand that along with several of the smaller hotels, B&B’s and guest houses as the Barbados Brand. This is where one can view the services of the Pom Marine coming into play by standardizing the training of these establishments under one umbrella which defines the physical brand. There would be no need for the government of Barbados to pay the Hilton Hotel for the use of its name.
To the Minister of Economic Affairs, does the signed contract between the government and the company which runs the Hilton Hotel align with the actions that you have taken? Needham’s Point Ltd. had 10 years to get their act together and now you have given them 10 more years to reap super profits off the backs of the taxpayers in Barbados. Clearly this decision was not well thought out and it is certainly not an expression of confidence in developing a physical Barbados brand hotel. You should have made the agreement null and void and together with the Minister of Tourism begin the conceptualization of the Barbados brand hotels. What occurred is not good stewardship.
To the Minister of Tourism, there is work to be done! When will you start?
The following was submitted by Joe Norton PR Executive of Impressions,a UK Digital company based in the UK with an objective of directing clicks/impressions to various websites.
The blogmaster is reluctant to post submissions which have a commercial objective. In this case the opening up of the country with an improved quarantine requirement although still aggressive makes this a timely submission. The virulent Delta variant is lose in the UK. The UK is one of Barbados’ main source market for tourist arrivals. Barbados was recently listed on UK’s Green List. – David, blogmaster
Barbados Set For £270 Million Cash Boost From British Tourists Following Inclusion On UK Green List
Brits are set to splash out a whopping £270 million on trips to Barbados this year, new analysis has revealed.
While many holidaymakers missed out on a summer break abroad last year, new data suggests more than 170,000 Brits will jet off to Barbados once travel restrictions are eased.
The prediction by travel health experts Practio follows the news that the UK government has added Barbados to its green travel list meaning Brits won’t have to quarantine upon their return from holiday.
The forecast will be welcome news for businesses across the island with UK tourists set to start entering the country from Wednesday, June 30.
Analysing 10 years of historic Office for National Statistics data, looking at every single trip made out of the country by UK citizens, researchers at Practio have been able to forecast the holiday destinations set to benefit the most from reduced travel restrictions.
With traditionally popular European tourist destinations including Spain and France requiring Brits to quarantine for 10 days upon their return, Barbados is in line for a bumper summer with spend from British tourists set to top the forecasted £271,122,898.
On average, sun-starved Brits are expected to spend £1,524 per visit.
Commenting on the research, Dr Jonas Nilsen, managing director and co-founder of Practio said:
“We wanted to pull this exhaustive research together to understand UK travel trends over the past ten years, but also to give us an idea of what this means for travel in the future. Travel was mostly out of the question in 2020 and many of us are hoping for its return later in 2021. By predicting future trends, we can better equip travellers and businesses that thrive off tourism by helping them to prepare for what’s to come and how they can make the most of Brits’ travel habits.
“It’s also been great to see some of the emerging trends and how travel is changing, we’re seeing the go-to destinations start to change with more money being spent in countries further afield, which should be a good sign for the future of the travel industry beyond the pandemic.”
The Barbados Welcome Stamp is a work programme which establishes a visa to allow people to work remotely in Barbados for a maximum of 12 months. The visa is available to anyone who meets the visa requirements and whose work is location independent, whether individuals or families – see Barbados Welcome Stamp FAQs.
It is with regret the government implemented Peter’s idea which has been quickly copied by several countries in the region. To date Peter has not received official recognition from the Barbados government. The refusal by government to give Peter his due is immoral and unethical, take your pick. To rub salt in the wound he was not selected to sit on a face saving panel to come up with a new brand slogan after the Little Island, Big Barbados campaign was jettisoned by Prime Minister Mia Mottley. In the same way the prime minister has intervened in this matter and others before it, she needs to remove this stain from whatever legacy she is building for herself and the country. Also political and NGO voices must speak up for what is right.
We will never know if the reason Mottley shelved the campaign is based on political considerations with an eye on a 2023 general election. What the blogmaster knows is Peter Lawrence Thompson should have been asked to sit on the so-called Destination Reboot Panel. The truth is if he was asked it would be an admission of what is blatantly being denied.
1. Sir Hilary Beckles – Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, historian, Chair.
2. Most Honourable Anthony Gabby Carter.
3. Gayle Talma – hotelier.
4. Renee Coppin – hotelier – Infinity on the Beach and Pirates Inn hotels.
5. Mark Kent – hotelier, Butterfly Beach Hotel.
6. Stedson Red Plastic Bag Wiltshire – entertainment industry professional.
7. Rorrey Fenty – entertainment executive.
8. Dillon Atkinson – hotel worker.
9. Krystal Griffin – hotel worker.
10. Abraham Norville – water sports operator.
11. Tyronne Best – Airport Taxi Association.
12. Josea Browne – Book Barbados.com and formerly from Expedia.com.
13. Aisha Comissiong – creative industry professional.
14. Anthony Walrond – former chairman of the National Cultural Foundation (NCF).
15. Dean Straker – entertainment industry professional.
16. Carol Roberts – CEO, NCF.
17. Andrea Franklin – country manager, Harrison’s Cave.
This week the UK relaxed overseas travel, however, based on a traffic light classification it means UK travellers to Barbados- a country classified AMBER- will have to quarantine for 10 days on return. Based on a BU source hotels and apartments in Barbados have started to receive cancellations.
The Barbados government front loaded its economic recovery strategy by expending significant resources to keep the local tourism industry afloat. The AMBER classification must be accepted for what it is, a body blow. Unless Prime Minister Mia Mottley can do a Houdini tourist traffic for the summer from our most profitable market just went south.
This event now unfolding must cause a critique of the COVID 19 immunization policy. Has the time come for the government through the Chief Medical Officer to authorize private medical facilities to deliver COVID 19 vaccinations? Unless were are able to achieve 70/80% coverage that defines herd immunity, we will not be able to refloat the tourism boat in the near term.
During the current lockdown it’s perhaps an ideal opportunity to reflect on the positives and negatives of an everyday small business and hope that these experiences can benefit us all in the recovery days to come.
While not directly tourism related, any reasonable person has to ponder what on earth was on the minds of the management of one or more ‘local’ banks to increase their charges during the current pandemic, especially when it was abundantly imminent that another lockdown was about to be enacted.
When the majority of customers are already reeling from the effects of dramatically reduced ‘service’ delivery, the closure of branches without any meaningful consultation with the people who fund their operation and being literally forced into migrated online websites, some of which are far from user-friendly.
In our own personal transactions over the last couple of months, the tardy response of at least two different banks that we deal with have caused us substantial monetary losses and hugely increased unnecessary stress.
Even when the particular bank makes obvious mistakes, the procedure often involves lengthy phone calls to remote ‘customer care’ centres and spent precious hours rectifying their problem, all at our expense, in terms of time and resources, without even a hint of an apology or compensation.
Sadly as a country we have grown to accept a diminished level of service from our financial institutions, at least partially due to Government default of debt, giving these organisations little opportunity other than to extract additional revenue from the ‘little people’ to make up that deficit.
What is so alarming is that the overwhelming number of businesses here, both small and large, will critically depend on these lending entities to sustain them until some degree of normality and viability returns.
And with seemingly such detached directors at the top of the management tree, which can only be a logical explanation for the poor levels of service meted out by the lower level of employees, it is difficult to comprehend how many of our private sector entities will survive.
Perhaps the biggest puzzle is why do we tolerate such a general poor level of service, when the majority of these foreign owned banks could not get away with it in their own domains located in the more developed countries?
My first days as a lifetime entrepreneur at the age of 12 years were spent walking door-to-door with a cheap suitcase selling kitchen items to houses in the UK from the monies I earned selling imperfect shirts from stalls in markets like London’s Petticoat Lane.
In the near six decades that have followed, I have desperately tried to understand how bank managers and their employers rationally think and sadly, do not appear to be any closer to comprehending them.
But I do know that unless there is a seismic shift in the way that ‘our’ banks respond to the immediate needs of local small to medium size businesses in the very near future, many of those enterprises will cease to exist by the end of this year.
That will inevitably take a further toll on Government coffers, so perhaps it is now long overdue that the current administration bites the bullet and encourages banking reform.
For readers who are unfamiliar with the name Saga Holidays, it is a British based tour operator with nearly seven decades of experience, specializing in offering over 50 year-old customers or travellers holidays and cruises worldwide. On 21st January the company announced that all clients must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 at least 14 days before departure on all holidays, tours and cruises, which entails having both a first and secondary jab. The decision was made after conducting a customer poll in which a reported ’95 per cent of regular Saga customers would support such a policy change’.
At first, many may consider this decision quite radical. In reality when they resume both long haul holidays and cruises in May, it is expected that the vast majority of Brits in this age group will have been inoculated against coronavirus anyway. Under the British Government’s plan, 15 million people designated as the fourth highest priority risk vaccination group, including all those in the UK over the age of 70 will have received at least their first shot by the middle of February.
Interestingly, Saga stated that their cruise crew would not need to be vaccinated before working on board and ‘that other protocols would be in place to protect staff until they’re able to receive inoculation’.
Saga Holiday offerings currently features Barbados as one of the three island destinations in their 14 night fly-holiday ‘Jewels of the Caribbean’ programme, which includes a 4 night stay at the Sugar Cane Club with a starting cost of GB Pounds 3,499 per person.
Purely, from a cruise perspective, while some will consider the return of these giant floating self-contained ‘hotels’ another threat to our land based tourism product, could our tourism planners and policymakers use this innovative Saga initiative and vaccination requirement to lure more ships back to our shores this winter? One thing for sure, we will need all the help we can get to restore both volume and connectivity of airlift to anything like previous levels. Home porting of at least one Saga ship would greatly assist that.
Their existing two ocean going ships may already be committed to 2021/22 itineraries, but in these challenging days with widespread scrapping or sale of relatively ‘new’ ships, just maybe there is an opportunity to launch a third vessel dedicated solely to ply the Caribbean for the upcoming winter. Many of our land based visitors have been happy to fly to and from Barbados on 20 plus year old aircraft, so ships of a similar age still have plenty of untapped potential, especially towards targeted consumers.
Despite all the obvious challenges the entire tourism industry currently faces, it will become abundantly clear over the next year that there are still people out there with vision, drive and the ability to see a much bigger picture and will use this time to exploit those opportunities that clearly still exist.
While the words ‘Holiday safety more important than price’ may not bring immediate comfort to our tourism industry and policy planners, it just could be a critical deciding factor in the recovery process, as and when that materializes.
AllClear Travel Insurance which boasts on its website that it is the UK’s most trusted travel insurance provider, holding the coveted Trustpilot customer review 5-star (excellent) rating, recently concluded in a report that British holidaymakers value safety and quality over a cheap deal.
According to Louise Longman, Contributing Editor of the informative online travel trade source TravelMole, ‘the insurance company tracked consumer sentiment towards travel at each pivotal point of the last year – the lockdowns, the tiers and the response to the vaccines – to give forecasts for what the industry will look like in 2021’.
MaruBlue, the customer insights company, conducted the research online at intervals during 2020 – in June, July, November and December with each sample poll representing an audience of 2,000 UK adults.
The conclusions were that safety was a top priority, rather than price, with more than two in five respondents (44%) wanting to visit a country with a good Covid-19 record , while 36% wanting to have the best insurance cover possible, covering them for Covid -19, was top of the agenda.
Our tourism marketing people may wish to also take into account that the over 55 year olds (56%) were more likely to pick a destination based on its perceived Covid-19 safety record, verses 28% of those aged under 34 years.
Interestingly, AllClear found that of those UK adult ‘s surveyed, they were prepared to spend GB Pounds 1,334.82 more than they would usually on their holidays to ensure their trips would be as safe as possible. This rose to GB pounds 1,644.23 for those having pre-existing underlying health issues.
Following the news of a widely available vaccine, more than half of the respondents (55%) stated they would feel comfortable going on holiday again as travelling became a top priority for plans in 2021.
Almost one in two of the respondents believed that the Caribbean would be safe to visit within a year.
The factors that became more important to those considering booking an overseas holiday in the months ahead by percentages, included:
The risk of the country (UK) going back into lockdown (44%)
Social distancing on flights – not getting onto a packed plane (39%)
The state of the health service in the country visited (36%)
The prospect of having to go back into quarantine on return (30%)
Comfort that airports would be safe (29%)
Avoid using public transport (27%)
Good customer reviews online for the safety of the resort (26%)
While consumer polls like these cannot be totally adopted as a ‘holy grail’ for shaping strategies to aid the recovery of our tourism industry, they can offer insightful guidance and a powerful benchmark to ensure we are most cost-effectively reaching our target market.
Will it be about the quantity or the quality, both in terms of numbers and beneficial contribution when cruise ships finally return to Barbados?
Traditionally of course, we usually only see one or maybe two cruise ships arrive weekly during the long summer months, but come November under post pandemic conditions the Bridgetown Port is thriving with a multitude of cruise ships docking with passenger capacities ranging from 150 up to 6,000 persons plus crew.
Last week the world’s largest cruise line, Carnival Corporation reported a net loss of a staggering US$2.2 billion for the fourth quarter of their 2020 financial year. Their website boasts ‘the cruise lines within our portfolio include the most recognised brands in North America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Australia – areas that account for 85 percent of the world’s cruise passengers’.
Among those brands is Princess, which had no less than seven* of its ships (Grand, Diamond, Coral, Sun, Ruby, Pacific and Regal) involved in serious Covid-19 outbreaks and another two (Emerald and Royal) with suspected cases or given no-sail orders. *source: Wikipedia. Overall, as a consequence of the pandemic, so far Carnival has ‘accelerated the removal of 19, older less efficient ships, 15 of which have already left the fleet’.
To put that in overall perspective, those retired 19 ships represent approximately 13 per cent of pre-pause capacity and three per cent of operating income in 2019. Despite the groups astronomical losses, its chief executive (CEO), Arnold Donald, remains remarkably upbeat , stating ‘2020 has proven to be a true testament to the resilience of our company’.
Adding ‘We took aggressive actions to implement and optimize a complete pause in our guest cruise operations across all brands globally and developed protocols to begin our staggered resumption, first in Italy for our Costa brand, then followed by Germany for our Aida brand’.
‘We are now working diligently towards resuming operations in Asia, Australia, the United Kingdom and United States over the course of 2021’.
‘We are well positioned to capitalize on pent-up demand and to emerge a leaner, more efficient company, reinforcing our industry-leading position’.
At this stage no specific mention of the Caribbean has been made, which for decades has produced their single largest source for sales and passenger numbers, but Mr. Donald is quoted as stating ‘we are working toward having all our ships back in service by the end of the year’.
Clearly, this may encourage our tourism policymakers to plan for the upcoming winter 2021/22 season and to finally evaluate exactly how ‘we’ as a country can justify the massive taxpayer subsidies already spent on our local cruise infrastructure over the past decades, to ensure this ‘investment’ becomes truly cost-effective?
Will the cruise companies remember the overwhelming support given to repatriate passengers and crew during the most challenging times of their entire history, or will this be lost in the wind or stormy seas?
To ensure accuracy, I submitted this column to the media department at Carnival and Princess for any corrections and/or comments prior to submission.
Roger Frizzell, Carnival Corporation’s Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer, was gracious enough to respond personally with the following message:
‘We are extremely thankful and greatly appreciative of the assistance and support provided to our cruise lines and crew members during this difficult time’.
In view of the most recent dramatic changes, due to Covid -19 developments, both at home and overseas, is it time to think again about lifting some, if not all of the taxes and levies imposed on our tourism industry, at least until there is some evidence of recovery?
It must be obvious by now that many of our tourism businesses are not going to survive a further prolonged period without some sort of meaningful inducement or relief. Despite all the challenges to the private sector in terms of employment there still remains a large number of salaried people who apparently have little or no possibility of losing their jobs or experiencing lower incomes or reduced working hours, notably public workers.
A reduction in airline taxes was promised several months ago, but so far the secondary added US$35 for flights within Caricom and US$70 for all other destinations is still applied.
A bevy of ‘replacement’ airlines were canvassed and persuaded to introduce Barbados flights on the basis of these assurances, which only subsequently to led to a reduction of planned services, due to the still high intra-Caribbean fares and reduced demand.
Long haul airlines have launched attractive sale prices for early 2021 which means that you can fly from London to Barbados for as little as GB Pounds 324 return for the lowest economy class ticket, but still well over half of that figure is taken up in Government taxes.
As and when travel restrictions are lifted in the United Kingdom and other major markets, inevitably there will be pent up demand, but clearly this is going to be price driven, at least during the initial booking stages.
Of course, Government desperately needs revenue to pay for what many consider a massive oversized civil service, plus its loan and other obligations, but most of us realize that it will be printing money for years to come to cover the true cost of the pandemic. Surely it is better to ensure that our remaining tourism industry is in a fit state to be sufficiently operational when recovery starts to take place?
It is not of course the tourism players who benefit from the lowering or removal of VAT, room and other levies, but the actual consumer.
Some of our hotels and other accommodation offerings have been very proactive with promoting staycations, but is that going to be enough to pay their bills, at least for the next six months?
Ultimately, any Government can only extract taxes in so many ways.
If that means the ultimate point- of-sale cost ceases to be globally competitive, then if those taxes cannot be collected from locals or overseas visitors, it will be forced to find alternative borrowing sources.
After writing this column, almost religiously, every week for over ten years and a tourism specific published contribution for over two decades , the almost overwhelming feeling -under the current pandemic situation with a severe lack of good news -is frankly just to give in and stop until meaningful recovery is in clear sight.
But this would of course be defeatist and pander to an increasingly vocal minority that has for some time preached that we, as a country, have become too dependent on a single sector, while albeit at the same time, proffering no viable alternative.
In their own way though, they have a point and perhaps successive Governments have not placed sufficient priority into ensuring that all other arms of our economy were carried along by tourism and its incredible contribution to the building of our country.
Has the time finally come to better evaluate exactly how we can practically involve more people, goods and services to redress this disproportionate imbalance?
Without wishing to harp on what may appear a microscopic and at first perceived inconsequential tiny issue, I would like to return to the subject of serving imported bottled water at Government convened media conferences, which for me highlighted the need to dramatically increase the use of local products where practical.
During my nearly 60 years involved in tourism, what has stood out above all other observations, from the time while working as a humble demi-chef du rang or trainee waiter in one of Britain’s oldest hotels, to finally fulfilling a lifetimes dream into co-owning and managing a boutique hotel, was attention to detail.
A simple example is that certainly in my experience working across more than 70 countries, you could often tell if a particular hotel had a female manager, just by the display of fresh flowers in public places of the property like washrooms. This is not in anyway intended to be sexiest, just that a good manager instinctively knows what impresses their guests of any gender or disposition.
In our very early days on Barbados, I readily accepted that my wife would be a much better hotel manager than I could ever be, in almost every respect. Her degree of attention to detail, empathy to staff and guests, was way above anything that I could ever consistently achieve and it was born-out by the highest possible level of those returning to stay.
And currently, whatever your political leanings or gender preferences, is it now finally the time for our current national leader, together with her team to take the bold step in ensuring there are more tangible mutually advantageous partnerships between all sectors of our economy and reduce the reliance on foreign exchange requirements?
Or do we choose to ignore, during this uniquely challenging period in our history, by failing to address the obvious disparity between our largest industry and its need for goods, services and supplies?