Tourism Programming in Digital Era

Submitted by Stanton Carter – Brand Caribbean Inc


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.

BU Covid Dash – Economic Effect

In the business world there is the familiar quote “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. It simple terms it does not matter the policy implemented, it is the prevailing culture that will determine the degree of success.

The headline in today’s Sunday Sun Bookings Take a Hit was predicted in this space months ago. In our tourism source markets of UK, Canada and the USA there has been high penetration of COVID 19 vaccination of the population that has permitted a return to some since of ‘normalcy’. We observe people in those markets attending sports events, travelling in unrestricted numbers, dining and other pre Covid 19 activities.

While the developed world is moving ahead with finding ways to coexist with coronavirus, Barbados with an economy solely dependent on tourism continues to be engaged in analysis paralysis. Before the pandemic Barbados was a country up to its ‘wazoo’ in debt – easy access to credit at the household and government level, we have developed an addiction to consumption and less to promoting a culture of excellence; high productivity, customer service, innovated and creative thinking to name a few.

It was easy to have predicted tourists – who have the final say where they want to spend – would want to relax at a destination where there is peace of mind. The current situation where Covid 19 numbers are surging for the world to see, we find ourselves in a pickle given the reluctance by government after government to mitigate risks associated with an over dependence on tourism. We the people are not entirely blameless, we have never felt the need to forcefully protest against lazy policies of successive government. The blogmaster buys into the position ‘people deserve the government they get‘.

After more than a decade in the economic doldrum and Barbadians described as suffering from economic fatigue, we are also being described as suffering from Covid 19 fatigue. The effect of the two ‘afflictions’ do not augur well for the future. The reality is that people must adapt to the environment in which they have to exist. If we want to enjoy the benefits (earning hard currency) of being an idyllic, iconic destination we know what we have to do. If we want to engage in analysis paralysis and bellyache about Covid fatigue then suffer the consequences. What should be obvious is that this stage of the game, we cannot pivot to replace the direct and indirect contribution to GDP in the short term. That boat has sailed.

Here is he latest BU Covid 19 Dashboard prepared by Lyall Small.

Attached are 2 charts for last week. We appear to be at a point where the cases per day have been fluctuating around 300 for nearly 2 weeks now. This suggests to me that there has not been an explosive growth in cases over that period and that there is therefore a reasonable chance that we could be nearing a plateau and then a decrease in cases. However, it can go any way and we all should do our individual parts in scrupulously adhering to the protocols, using our common sense and taking the vaccine – Lyall Small

A Heather Cole Column – Where is the Vision for Tourism?

Lisa Cummins, Minister of Tourism

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.

Related Links:

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.

Barbados Tourism Statistics – Historical Data
YearSpending ($)% of Exports
Barbados Tourism Statistics 1995-2021 | MacroTrends

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?

Open to Tourists – UK Green List, DELTA Variant …

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 full research can be found and credited HERE:

Please let me know if you would like any clarification on any of the numbers or stats and if you have any particular questions or request for insight.

Adrian Loveridge Column – Cruising Opportunity

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.

Adrian Loveridge Column – the Right Customer

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.

Time to Open

Submitted by Petko

I wish to preface this by stating in no way am I affiliated with or have any financial interest in the tourism or travel industry, as I know what I write below will have people stating I have only written to push a personal financial agenda.

The time for Barbados to open her borders completely is now. By this I mean in particular the 2nd test and hotel quarantine policy of tourists and returning Barbadians has to be terminated. As well the mandatory Harrison Point isolation of any person testing positive for Sars-Cov2 virus should also be scrapped.

The coronavirus is endemic in Barbados, no wordsmithing such as clusters or West Coast or North Coast spread can deny this fact. In addition, I put forth that it has been endemic since March. Only a naïve person can believe that the virus has not been constantly circulating since it was first tested for in March. Barbados opened her borders in mid June and did not institute the second test of incoming persons until mid-October. If people have been found positive on the second test since October, it is only logical to surmise the same percentage of people were positive from June to October that were landing here. Hence the virus has always been here and circulating. The only thing that happened during this Christmas season is that a local Bajan was tested with the virus being detected. This was followed by the mass testing to find the 500+ positives we have now. It is common knowledge that from May to now the local population has barely been tested, there were days in June with 15 tests reported – from a population of 285,000 people. Testing only reached 60-120 per day when the testing of incoming passengers began.

Based on the above we can extrapolate that with a circulating virus the health care system at no time was over-whelmed. The fact is when you don’t test for the coronavirus you don’t find the coronavirus as 98% of people who “catch” it suffer at most a common cold and thus you wouldn’t even know it existed. Currently we see that from the 560+ current cases not a single person is in serious condition. From 200 positive prisoners we see that 95% are asymptomatic. We have 1 year of data, we know that people over the age of 80 are vulnerable to this as they are to a flu – these people need protection and caution, but the 30 year old Sea-doo operator is at zero risk to Sars-Cov2.

The argument some have of shutting the borders is to be polite, pure nonsense. I find it quite hypocritical when people accuse incoming persons of bringing and spreading the “dreaded” virus. Consequently, these same people are quite happy to receive the hard currency these people bring, the pharmaceutical supplies, the TV’s and laptops and the Toyota Hilux’s that a modern society requires. We have always lived in a globalized world which trades in goods, knowledge and disease – this is the human condition.

There is no finger pointing here, the fact is with all the protocols on incoming passengers, the coronavirus is here and has been here. Even if 100% of humanity was vaccinated for this virus it will still exist as the vaccines are not eliminating the virus but making its care manageable. Manageable is the key word here. Barbados needs to manage the situation in a rational way that considers the positives and negatives of every action.

Tourism is the lifeblood of the nation; it will be the lifeblood in 100 years. Barbados nor any country in the Caribbean is going to start manufacturing pickup trucks or OLED TV’s – the core competency is the tourism product which arose from the glorious weather that this region is blessed with. We should be championing it rather than disparaging it, as some do. Currently Barbados is the only country in the region which requires the 2nd test in-country with the threat of going into isolation. What has this resulted in?

Well, the coronavirus is here and is not going anywhere, even post-vaccine. Thus, a ZERO Covid policy is sheer folly and unscientific. Next it has resulted in a drop of 95% to the tourism product resulting in up to 40% unemployment as well as a government stressed to its financial borrowing limits. Currently Barbados is receiving 350 incoming passengers per day on 4 major international flights. A quick look at our neighbours shows a different picture.

Montego Bay is handling 33 flights per day, Aruba has 19 flights daily, Cancun has 100 and Nassau 16. These locations require either no test of any kind or a negative PCR test 3-5 days old and nothing else. Yes, these countries have “cases” but so does Barbados. The difference is these countries are managing the situation and keeping their economy and tourism lifeblood functional. Travellers will put up with bringing a negative PCR test (for now – in 2 months when the entire USA has immunity do not expect Americans choosing destinations requiring tests) and they are showing it with their travel to these destinations. There is also the threat that once a long-time visitor to Barbados has tried out another destination such as Aruba, they may never come back here.

The BLP unfortunately painted itself into a corner with an unrealistic goal and message of Zero Covid. They now have the opportunity to exit this strategy and embrace that of managing the disease as well as the tourism product. I have no doubt that both can be done at an exceptional level in Barbados. Time is of the essence and the 2021 Winter tourist season is not done yet. February and March provide the traditional breaks in the source markets of the UK, USA and Canada. Literally tens of thousands of people are ready to travel to the Caribbean and if Barbados keeps its onerous and unproductive 2nd test none of these people will grace our shores. Thousands could be put back into employment, the economy would begin its rebound and we would be moving forward.

Pursuing the 2nd test strategy will only result in Barbados staying in its current sclerotic state. PM Mottley has been adamant in Barbadians should embrace change, well the BLP and herself needs to now do the same. The old policy did not and could not work, pivot and manage and let Barbados get back on her feet in 2021.

Adrian Loveridge Column – Tourism Goose Must be Fed

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.

Adrian Loveridge Column – A Time for Change

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?

Adrian Loveridge Column – Wish List for 2021

Traditionally, for years this period between Christmas and New Year the United Kingdom normally experiences the largest level of holiday bookings than at any other time annually. Not this year of course, with our tourism policymakers and planners left to contemplate, what, if anything they can do to bridge the enormous void of visitor arrivals.

It is an unprecedented situation and for those who stand on the side and criticize, proffering what they think could be done, are only frankly second guessing a clearly almost impossible and unpredictable scenario.

What I understand the current guardians of our industry are successfully doing is maintaining the highest possible destination visibility with initiatives like the Welcome Stamp, visits by travel writers, travel agents and the incredible centenarian, Captain Sir Tom Moore, all naturally under carefully managed pandemic compliant conditions.

While, it may seem very optimistic given the current circumstances, I am still going to have a wish list for 2021.

As we emerge from the pandemic, there will be opportunities and some of these may come from those airlines that have survived, downsized and retired their larger, less fuel efficient aircraft. New aircraft like the incredible Airbus A321XLR will come into service and enable long haul routes from various European cities to operate planes which carry around 200 passengers, economically on non-stop services to the Caribbean.

Routes like Dublin or Belfast to Barbados then become less of a risk and given a massive price advantage by not having APD (Advanced Passenger Duty) imposed on the fares, saving at least UK Pounds 80 per passenger in the case of Northern Ireland.

Locally, I believe that a great more could be done with developing smart partnerships between all sectors across tourism and those companies who supply them together with our seemingly reluctant banking sector. As one of the persons deeply involved in creating the first fully functional small hotel alliance, it has been hugely disappointing not to witness more co-operation in this sub-sector, by developing joint promotional initiatives and driving cost savings through collaboration.

And as the cruise industry finally resumes sailings from the Caribbean, perhaps not until the very latter part of 2021, let us look objectively at exactly where we can truly benefit from this sector and justify the investment we have already placed in it.

As always, my thoughts go out to all the dedicated tourism workers and managers that are still employed and have sacrificed their quality family time over this festive period, to give our cherished visitors that holiday of a lifetime.


Adrian Loveridge Column – Simply the Beast Game in Town

As we come to the end of another year, for many around the world, probably the most unpredictable of their entire lives, it is perhaps time to reflect, while trying to make sense and possibly attempt to plan for the future.

Even after a working lifetime involved in tourism, like so many others, we simply are not sufficiently qualified to proffer potential solutions post pandemic, but there are past experiences which tell us that until ‘we’ as a nation find any viable alternatives, that it will largely remain the ‘only game in town’.

Looking back 32 years, we can only admit to being extremely naïve when purchasing a closed semi-derelict small hotel on what was perhaps considered then, as one of the less desirable coastlines of the island.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing of course and despite all the odds including a barrage of bureaucracy (that continues to exist three decades later), uncooperative banks, who often simply did not understand what it takes to make businesses work, merchant traders and suppliers not willing to take any credit risks, we grew the business while contributing around $50 million to the local economy, directly or indirectly.

During that time, we employed people, paid their NIS and met every single Government tax and imposition, despite still being owed tens of thousands of confirmed VAT refunds, dating back from as late as 2013.

Was it easy? Absolutely not!

But if you have a vision that you share with a partner, believe in what you are doing and preparing to work 17 hours a day, seven days a week, then ‘success’, in whatever form you consider that word applicable, is possible.

As we now look on under the new owners and their extensive commitment to massive renovations, which have been underway for weeks, we have no doubt they will take the former Peach and Quiet to another level and build on any ‘success’ that we might have achieved in the past.

Clearly acceptable standards and guest expectations change over the years and our former small hotel reaching almost 50 years since construction, desperately needed upgrading.

The new owners with three generations of proven hand-on hotel ownership and management share our vision and have the sheer determination to ensure the re-named property once again reaches the award winning boutique hotel status we enjoyed.

Personally I have no doubt that our tourism sector will rebound and that we will learn valuable lessons from the pandemic.

What will be absolutely critical to its recovery is that those who have the vision and drive to invest in times like this are given all the support and encouragement to ensure this happens.

It is time for some of our banks to revisit their purpose and for our army of civil servants to carefully evaluate how they can contribute to the national interest.

From our personal experience, there are always notable exceptions to the ‘norm’ and our sincere thanks go out to the incredibly positive response we received from all involved recently at the Central Bank of Barbados.

Adrian Loveridge Column – We Undervalue Contributions by Sector Players

Just a week away from celebrating our 54th year of independence and probably the very last year that any citizen will be recognized for their outstanding national contribution locally, by being granted (Order of Barbados) Knight (KA) or Dame (DA) status, after Government has decided to remove Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and presumably her representative here.

Considering the massive transformational effect tourism has made in the development of the country over the last five decades, some may find it surprising that not a single person within the industry, over that period, has been sufficiently identified and chosen to receive the highest honour, unlike in some other neighbouring islands.

Perhaps it reflects the often expressed general cynicism directed at the sector, that each and every hotelier is a money grabbing, subsidy opportunist, extracting limitless concessions and who expects Government to constantly bail them out, even when even tiniest challenge is put in their way.

While this may be vaguely true for a tiny number of chosen few, as a former small hotelier, operating for over 25 years, I can tell you that perception is so far from reality that it bears absolutely no actual creditability at all, for the vast majority of us.

I graphically recall our very first attempt to bring in ‘duty-free’ a special paint for extreme salt spray exposed surfaces. The duties and charges levied locally were more than twice the cost of the goods and shipping. Despite that, we paid the taxes in full, only to discover when collecting the paint from a ‘secure’ customs bond, that more than a third of the product had been stolen. When then asking if we could amend our duty payment to the revised amount of goods received, we were told NO and that we had to apply for a refund which in the words of the then comptroller, could take up to between one and two years.

After, that early experience, we virtually gave up on even going through the motions of attempting to buy ‘duty-free’ items for the hotel, as the barrage of obstacles placed in our way, were just too tedious and mentally overpowering to surmount.

Returning to the point of this column, I hope that one day that some of the very many dedicated professionals, at every level, will be recognised for their tireless efforts, once again.  Not limited to only those promoting Barbados tourism, but fully embracing everyone who provides personal service delivery, to each and every guest.

As and when the pandemic issue is resolved, it is going to be even more critical to the sector’s recovery that ‘we’ provide the very best welcome to both returning and first time visitors. As a country, when we continually fail to value the selfless contribution made by so many, we are losing track and the purpose of what makes tourism and a destination successful.



Adrian Loveridge Column – Getting Ready to Welcome More UK Travellers

The decision made by Virgin Atlantic to re-position their Barbados flights to Heathrow from Gatwick and the recent announcement by British Airways that they will restore a daily flight from London’s first airport from 17th October is a very positive move towards any form of tourism arrival normality from the United Kingdom to our shores, in more ways than one.

The airport is currently undergoing trials involving ‘three systems of outbound Covid-19 testing including a nasal or throat swab test which provides results in 30 minutes, a saliva test which gives a visual result in 10 minutes and a self- administered test that works within 30 seconds’.

These are in addition to the airport’s paid-for inbound testing facility, which is awaiting British Government’s clearance.

According to an airport spokesperson ‘the long-term aim of the trial is to understand whether these tests could be quickly and efficiently conducted on large numbers of people outside of a laboratory setting and to ensure they are accurate enough to be delivered in an airport environment’.

Heathrow’s Chief Executive Officer, John Holland-Kaye added ‘if we can find a test that is accurate, gets results within a matter of minutes, is cost-effective and gets the government green light, we could have the potential to introduce wide-scale testing at the airport’.

Another major plus for Heathrow is the rapidly improving train links.

Our policymakers often overlook that for the vast majority of our visitors, their journey does not start at the airport. They have to get there first, often leaving home close to the dead-of-night to allow for reasonable check-in and security time, in many cases.

While the massive Crossrail project has been further delayed, new type 345 trains with nine carriages that are fully air-conditioned are already fully operational from all the functioning Heathrow terminals, with up to 9 trains per hour to/from Central London and major connecting train terminals and beyond.

The increased capacity, frequency and enhanced ventilation will substantially improve the possibility of effective social distancing and further reduce the fear of virus infection.

A third compelling reason why Heathrow outshines way above other British airports is connectivity, both from an internal domestic UK and worldwide perspective.

Certainly up until the end of 2019, according to OAG (Official Airline Guide), a leading global travel data provider, the Heathrow mega hub was the world’s most internationally connected airport for the third straight year.

‘On the busiest day in aviation during that year an incredible 65,000 connections were possible within a six hour window’.

Frankfurt was second, followed by Chicago O’Hare, Amsterdam and Munich, in that order.

This gives us the strongest possibility of enticing continental Europeans onto seamless connections to both British Airways B777 -200 and Virgin Atlantic’s B787-9 Dreamliner nonstop flights to Barbados.

Adrian Loveridge Column – Over to You Minister Lisa Cummins

Minister of Tourism Lisa Cummins

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the British Government’s Eat Out to Help Out promotion that initially was being offered on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 3rd through to the 31st August.

Almost a week before ‘last orders’ under the offer is due to expire, over 64 million meals have already been served at more than 50,000 restaurants, pubs and other eating establishments across the United Kingdom.

So far, there have been 34 million searches by 13 million unique users on the official Eat Out to Help Out restaurant finder which uses postcodes to locate participating eateries in any given area.

Not surprisingly, many in the catering industry and trade associations are now calling for a further one month extension, taking it through September, before the employee furlough subsidy is scheduled to end in October.

Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of UK Hospitality, which represents pubs and restaurants throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland stated ‘the scheme has been a huge success for the sector. Our members have been reporting a very-welcome boost in trade, when it was needed most’. Adding ‘the scheme has not just benefited businesses commercially it appears to have really boosted consumer confidence as well, which is just as important’.

While the following observations may go down badly in certain circles, we seem to be constantly reading various utterings about the need to restructure the entire tourism industry on Barbados. Yet few, if any, policies appear to have been put in place to stimulate the sector, in which ‘we’ place so much reliance on now? I can only conclude that those proffering advice on restructuring do not really understand our industry and their immediate needs, which could result in a devastating consequence for any hope of its survival in the short to middle term.

Restructuring does not take place overnight in any sector and in our case, what does it really mean anyway?

Demolishing scores of existing hotels, villas, apartments and the hundreds of extra rooms created by small independent owners that have been persuaded to provide them for rental, through companies like Airbnb?

And what about the various proposed new-build accommodation projects that have yet to show significant progress?

This will be my final impassioned plea to Government to consider launching a national domestic tourism initiative that would be supported, not just by the tourism partners, but by all elements of the private sector that have a vested interest, including food and beverage suppliers, wholesalers and financial service providers that embraced credit and debit card issuers.

Even a low-cost ‘ad’ campaign through local social media and radio might just make a significant enough difference to keeping some of our ‘make or break’ restaurants open and staff employed. Failing to introduce such an incentive into Barbados later than September will run the plausible risk that many of our tourism entities will simply not survive intact until there are real signs of fiscal recovery later this year or into 2021.

Otherwise the danger is that the much vaunted discussion on restructuring will quickly turn into a major plan for possible rebuilding, and that could realistically take decades.

Adrian Loveridge Column – Cooking the Golden Goose

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.