We recall a time not so long ago there was the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA), then the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) won the government in 2008 and a decision was taken to change the structure. The BTA transitioned to the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) and the Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA). It is at that time the former minister of tourism saw the opportunity to get rid of Adrian Loveridge from sitting on the restructured BTPA Board.
Ten years later the BTMI and BTPA are about to suffer another transition.
If there was a single phrase to describe this winter tourism season, I think it may be great expectations. Despite all the wild speculation which included ‘this November has been one of the best Barbados had seen in a while’ being made by tourism officials, the month in fact ended by recording the lowest long stay visitors for any November during the last 11 years. It also heralded 20 consecutive months of stay over visitor decline.
As this is the latest in a long line of unfulfilled predictions this year, is it time for our policymakers to focus more attention on what can be achieved, rather than drift into the realms of prophecy and conjecture. I wonder just how much longer we can go on trying to justify rewarding failure. So much is riding on the performance of our tourism sector over the next 120 plus days leading up until next Easter Monday on 22 April, not only in terms of occupancy, but in the critical role of trying to claw back lost revenue from the last almost two lean years.
In our key market, the United Kingdom, traditionally there is a booking surge when tour operators step up their promotional activities on Boxing Day. But one of the largest travel companies, Thomas Cook, pre-empted its competitors by launching a massive sale, two weeks prior to Christmas to tempt the bargain hunters into commitment for summer 2014.
When I Googled “Barbados All Inclusive” yesterday [17 November 2013] I clicked on the barbados.org link, then http://www.barbados.org/allinclusive_vacations.php#.UoohrxaSKRY,There I found a list of 8 all-inclusive resorts, I then printed pages 1 to 3 of the 5 pages. On the printed page 2 of 5, the same two pictures of the two kids and the two adults which appeared on the website were printed – and, unbelievably, under those pictures there is an ad for Transat Holidays for – SAINT LUCIA!. A copy of the printed page is attached. When I revisited the same page this morning, and printed page 2 of 5, the Transat/Saint Lucia ad was replaced with an Air Canada/CIBC ad. Copy also attached. Apparently barbdos.org sells ad space to travel organizations which rotate and appear only in the printed material.
I suggest it might be timely for those who control barbados.org, the “Official Website of the Barbados Tourism Authority“, to do a bit of due diligence into the workings of its website.
Excerpts related to tourism Budget Speeches 2008 to 2012:
There are some critical national concerns and a Tourism Master Plan is currently being designed by a new Unit in the Ministry of Tourism designed to look at our tourism development strategy in a holistic way addressing our product, land use policy, marketing, carrying capacity and linkages to our other sectors and the lives of Barbadians among other matters.
The expansion of the luxury tourism market will include the construction and opening every two years of a major internationally branded luxury hotel and associated branded residences catering to the five-star and ultra luxury tourism market.
The expansion of the luxury room stock will also assist in the establishment of the Health Tourism market in Barbados.
I [the late David Thompson’s first budget] have just returned from a CARICOM Heads of Government meeting at which tourism, regional and international transport were discussed for one full day. Some important decisions were taken including the commitment to a regional brand, the establishment of a Caribbean Tourism Marketing Fund and discussions are taking place between LIAT and Caribbean Airlines Limited on their future together – Budget 2008
I am a concerned admirer of Barbados who reside abroad. The slowly deteriorating economic situation on the island leaves me in bewilderment because there seems to be a lot of talk and no action. Nearly every day I read in the online press about more layoffs and business closures. Most of the writers on the blogs seem to be more keen on casting political barbs at one another than of providing creative, useful comments that might make Barbados better.
My profession has always been travel to the Caribbean and in Sweden. I see movement in the right direction from Aruba, Curacao, The Dominican Republic, St Lucia & Jamaica. I see nothing from Barbados. Barbados has a lot to offer the visitor. Unfortunately, the BTA does not seem to know their targets nor do they produce relevant information for their partners who sell the destination. Families, singles, honeymooners, wedding couples, seniors – all relevant market groups.
Government’s budget setting out the Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue for the financial year 2013/2014, lists that ‘a subvention of $101.7 million has been provided to the Barbados Tourism Authority to facilitate marketing and promotion’. At first, it seems, a simple enough stated intent, but what does it really mean?
‘Marketing and promotion’, what will ultimately be spent on these two critical functions after all other expenses are taken out? Salaries, per diem allowances, the much vaunted restructuring costs possibly including an allowance for severance, consultancy fees, lease payments on luxury SUV vehicles, recent office moving expenses, outstanding debts, overseas offices, depreciation, interest. The list goes on and on.
Perhaps even more pertinent, will the budgeted amount even actually be available to the organisation? Or will they become cash starved again, before the end of the next financial year contributing to another near devastating fall in arrival numbers. Bearing in mind the fragile state of the industry, wouldn’t it also be wise to ensure that the private sector is fully informed of any recovery plans to ensure limited available resources from them is not squandered by duplicating efforts.
I suppose you can put it down to my naivety, so long in coming, so many great expectations and then in hindsight, the reality of the situation. Almost 40 percent of the eligible electorate chose not to vote, the status quo re-elected for a second term by a precariously small majority and just microscopic adjustments made to the governance of an industry in crisis. At least, that seems to be the scenario, so far.
Clearly there are plus points. Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner, appointed as a Parliamentary Secretary in the reconfigured Ministry and Tourism and International Transport, when many of us years later are still puzzled why the two bodies were ever separated in the first place. The Senator brings her abilities in marketing to the table at a time when this discipline is needed more than ever.
Shadowing the Ministry is Member of Parliamant Santia Bradshaw and while I don’t want to diminish her abundant legal qualifications, I am far from convinced we need or want any more lawyers involved in tourism policymaking. But she is also an entrepreneur and after looking at her website, I was personally impressed with the high level of presentation. Hopefully she can add value and youthful objectivity to the sector from a constructive opposition stance.
Having sat on the board of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) briefly, you get some idea of what a complex and challenging task it is for any Executive Vice President and the juggling act, he or she has to perform on a daily basis. Keeping everybody happy, in my view, is a near impossible task.
On reflection, I believe the body and its members have been extremely lucky, with very few exceptions, to have attracted the calibre of people who have held the position of EVP. When Sue Springer was recently interviewed by one of the other media outlets, you could sense the passion and genuine unease in her quoted words, even the journalist prefixed her title with ‘frustrated’. I don’t believe that anyone should view her comments as alarmist, as she is reflecting the obvious concerns of the members.
The article was headed “layoffs looming’and pointed out that ‘the sector may have to brace for problems if the current state of the industry did not improve this summer’. Ms. Springer warned that the first quarter of this year was already looking bleak and this was clearly illustrated in the 8.2 per cent fall in long stay visitors in the peak month of January. Recently, one of our returning guests to the UK reported that the ten rows of seats behind them were all empty and that one flight arrived with 24 people in economy. As loyal regulars to Barbados, I have no reason to doubt them.
Like Hants, CTO’s initial reaction was kudos to BTA – finally some Barbados promotion; particularly given the absence of BTA advertising in the Toronto media over the past several months. It is interesting to read the 2011 Totally Barbados article which includes the following
‘The region as a whole has regained ground lost in the heat of the global economic depression’.
‘The Caribbean also saw its largest number of stayover visitors in five years, with the region’s overall hotel occupancy increasing by more than seven per cent and room revenues up by nearly nine percent’.
‘About 25 million tourists visited the Caribbean last year, a more than 5 per cent increase from 2011. Its a growth rate that outpaced the rest of the world’.
These and other equally encouraging statements were recently uttered by Beverly-Nicholson-Doty, Chairwoman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation. To the majority of the Ministers of Tourism within the Caribbean, it must be like hearing pleasurable music in their ears.
Sadly, not to Barbados, where instead of recording an almost 6 per cent growth in 2012, we experienced a 5.5 per cent fall in long stay visitor arrivals. A near 11 per cent differential. Any newly elected Government must consider the reasons behind this dismal performance as an imperative, before more hotels close, further lay-offs occur and remaining airlift is further eroded
As we have now crossed the halfway stage of the winter tourism season, it is looking increasingly doubtful that any predictions of a strong performance in this sector will become a reality. The January long stay visitor arrivals figures are especially alarming. An overall fall of 8.2 per cent across all markets, but significantly of concern are the numbers from Canada, which saw a 18.4 per cent fall when compared with the same month in 2012. The USA was down 11.1 per cent, the UK down 2.4 per cent and Trinidad down a staggering 40.6 per cent.
Whoever, assumes the office of Government later this week will finally have to take a long and hard look at current marketing strategies, and even if this is deemed an imperative, there is very little likelihood that any measures implemented at this late stage will make an iota of difference before April 15. So the next challenge is the eight long softer summer months.
After five years in power the outgoing administration had seemingly abandoned any attempt to fulfil their previously stated 2008 manifesto objective, to restructure the Barbados Tourism Authority. This despite an overwhelming mandate to effect change, yet surprisingly, its popped up again in the 2013 manifesto.
Is the predicted 6 or 7 percent fall in long stay visitors during the month of January directly as a result of reduced promotional expenditure by the national marketing agency, and if so, has anyone put a dollar value on the consequential loss of tax revenue collected by Government?
Is this yet another example of a failed policy decision, as when Government increased the level of VAT, only to find the overall amount gathered, went down and not up? According to the Central Bank (CBB) from $683.4 million in 2011 to $666.6 million in 2012.
A 6 percent decrease in arrivals when compared to January 2012 would represent 3,157 less people and 7 percent 3,683. Last January was already down over the previous year, albeit only by 0.8 per cent according to CTO figures.
What we should be asking is how much those missing thousands would have spent and is the current dearth of funds to the Barbados Tourism Authority actually costing the industry and the nation’s coffers more than we can imagine.
A photo clip on CNN during the US elections showing a little girl crying because she was sick and tired of hearing the news associated with President Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney election campaigns has prompted this blog. Like the election vitriol, the incessant reactive rhetorical rantings emanating from Barbados’ sidewalk superintendents and armchair supervisors about their destination’s tourism industry have become inordinately objectionable and are turning off would be visitors.
The recent adverse comments posted by visitors in Trip Advisor about their ruined holiday experiences in the Gap also do not auger well for Barbados and further aggravate the situation. Both groups paint an unsavoury image – all is not well in Paradise, serious plant deterioration is occurring, and Barbados’ tourism continues to be like a ship in a tempus, floundering aimlessly without a rudder.
The reprehensible behaviour is causing irreparable damage to Barbados’ reputation as a holiday destination and in the long run will be extremely costly to repair. To get an impartial evaluation of the state of Barbados’ tourism industry, a consultant involved with the marketing and promotion of Caribbean tourism was interviewed and asked to give his thoughts and insight on the challenges Barbados faces for the future.
First in the interests of establishing impartiality, I think its important that I point out that I have never been a member of a political party during my sixty two years. I vote, whenever practical, because it is seemingly my only tiny contribution to maintaining anything close to a democratic system and consider it both a right and a civic obligation.
When the current administration swept into office just a month short of five year ago, while observing entirely from a tourism perspective, a number of stated objectives were contained within their manifesto. Included in these were to ‘restructure and strengthen the Barbados Tourism Authority’. At the time I remember asking the then Chairman, what was the time frame for this re-organisation. His reply still resonates in my ears. ‘Six months’ he confidently responded.
We all realise now that it wasn’t to be. And that has left me asking the same question over and over again. If a private sector entity, spent hundreds of million of dollars, employed upwards of 150 full and part time employees, consultants, contracted the services of advertising agencies, public relations companies etc., and didn’t produce any real growth for nearly five years, would it be deemed a failed business model?
Under the banner headline ‘BTA working on tourism plan, says Elcock’ and carried in 4th November edition of the Sunday Sun, the chairman of that organisation was quoted as saying ‘that plans are in the works to boost tourism numbers for the remainder of the year’. If the quotation is accurate, it begs the question, what on earth could you possibly do at this late stage to dramatically improve 2012 arrivals, even if ‘plans’ were already in place.
The article also mentioned that the Minister of Tourism and BTA Chairman was part of a delegation attending the WTM (World Travel Market) in London last week. The United Kingdom, despite the fall-off in visitor arrivals, is still hanging on as our single largest source market, but numbers are just part of the equation. You also have to evaluate exactly how that business is generated and it remains predominately tour operator driven.
Before moving to Barbados, I owned and ran a tour operator business in England for twelve years, so have some intimate knowledge of how they function there. Planning is done way in advance for pretty obvious reasons. Even a small aircraft like a B737 can cost US$89 million, that’s before considering all the additional costs including maintenance, crewing, fuel, airport charges etc. So its simply not feasible to have it sitting around on the tarmac.
In a recent newspaper article entitled ‘Tourism Hope from Canada’ written by Gercine Carter, the outgoing Canadian High Commissioner for Barbados, Ruth Archibald, commented that she thought ‘there is lots of opportunity for continued growth’ out of that market. Many of us would agree with her, especially when she ‘suggested that there was even more room for expansion in Western Canada’. I immediately thought of my early travel industry years, almost four decades ago in Winnipeg, having been there partially during the pioneering days of Wardair.
In 1984, William Canning, directed what I consider a truly inspirational documentary for the National Film Board of Canada, called simply, Max Ward. Part of it was shot in Barbados and if you get the opportunity to view the programme, please note particularly the Merrymen, Plantation dancers and an interview with the late Sir Harold St. John. What it graphically brought back, was all that time ago, is that we had truly visionary leaders in this industry and how the decisions that they bravely took, changed our lives forever. Max, along with a rare breed of innovative aviation entrepreneurs like Sir Freddy Laker, fought long and hard for airline deregulation and when it finally came about, nothing would be quite the same in tourism ever again.
See related links to show tourism arrivals down 12% despite of Crop Over:
Every fibre in my body tells me that ‘we’ should be doing a great deal more in terms of creative marketing and product quality control, if there is any remote chance that our largely tired and lacklustre tourism industry is going to make any meaningful recovery in the short to medium term. And when I say that, I do not mean dramatically increasing the spend of the national marketing budget as clearly ‘we’ are already having difficultly paying the bills.
Apart from some rare exceptions, we seem to have largely lost touch with the most important group of people that sustains the entire industry, the customer or visitor. With the huge explosion of the social media sites, we can no longer think that if we ignore a problem, or try to sweep it under the carpet, that it will simply go away. You only have to spend a few minutes on one of the more popular social media sites to see that a high proportion of those posting observations and experiences have real worries in what direction ‘we’ are heading. This maybe dismissed as a worldwide phenomenon and shared with other tourism dependent nations, but it certainly doesn’t help fill hotel beds and keep our people employed.
Personally, I would like to see two or three of the existing BTA staff, form a quality control monitoring department whose primary or even sole function would be to track comments hourly that are made on the various travel websites, and after a thorough appraisal, respond accordingly in a timely manner. This should not be viewed just in a negative light, but could also be used to thank the many visitors who make positive comments and encourage them to return.
From the media release following the launch of the 2012 Barbados Food, Wine and Rum Festival, it was heart warming to read the President of the Barbados Tourism Authority quote that the event had ‘attracted more than 1,800 tourists last year and 60 international journalists’. During the entire month of November 2011 a total of 47,208* long stay visitors, across all source markets were recorded, which represented an increase of 5.3 per cent* over the previous year.
So if you divide that number into an average stay of 7 nights, that means that nearly one in six of those visitors during the week of the festival, journeyed to Barbados specifically for this event. Basing the accommodation segment on two persons sharing one room, that’s over 6,300 occupied room nights during a month which is traditionally challenging. Again, it demonstrates the importance of niches and the value of destination coverage that those invited journalists can bring us.
A number of videos were also produced and a particular favourite of mine was made by the South African based company, Sand Castle Studios TV. Despite the video being posted on YouTube in March of this year, it hasn’t yet received the viewership volume that I believe it deserves. Perhaps the tourism policymakers can address that, as it certainly could be used as a powerful tool to help drive numbers.
For the first few days of her reign, the newly elected President of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, perhaps concluded that she had joined a battle and was undergoing a Baptism of Fire. Perhaps if many of our policymakers took the effort to better understand the tourism industry, they would have been more guarded with what I thought were in some cases rather unfair comments.
Tourism is a lot more, of course, than about a bunch of hoteliers but often it is those same people who sacrifice, freely, enormous amounts of quality and productive time with their families and businesses, while endeavouring to make a positive difference. Two years of attending endless meetings, attempting to juggle with all the vested interests and egos and so often without the resources that other entities seemingly take for granted. And they do this without all the perks, benefits and salaries others receive, including politicians, who in some cases can retire at fifty years of age with a taxpayer pension for life.
Sadly, most of the contentious remarks played out in Parliament and the media could have been entirely avoided with better communication. If the ruling party is seriously considering the possibility of re-election, they may wish to address this issue.
Dr. Jerry Thorne resigned as Chairman of the BTII over the Barbados Pierhead Project
In the opinion of many the Pierhead Marina Project has NOT generated enough debate in Barbados. BU posted several blogs on the subject and the Leader of the Opposition Owen Arthur had promised to call the Public Accounts Committee to order to address concerns about said project. Regrettably Arthur has not followed through for reasons yet untold.
However, based on court documents filed in December 2012, in the matter – Lagan Vs. Barbados Tourism Authority – Arthur’s apparent delay maybe a strategy with an eye on the general election which must be called no later than April 2013. It is general knowledge that Lagan Construction, the company originally selected to build the Pierhead Marina in a BOLT arrangement, was summarily replaced by SMI, a company registered in Barbados but incorporated in St. Lucia with its principal Gline Harrison. SMI was one of three companies which were contracted by VECO to build Dodds prison.The reply to the defence document (see below) makes for interesting reading by its justification of why the government awarded SMI the contract. – alsosee related BU blogs below.
BU takes this opportunity to thank the person responsible for enlightening the Barbadian public.
I was recently castigated in a public forum by a senior member of the Barbados Tourism Authority over a question I posed, concerning the Dallas/Fort Worth/Barbados flight being reduced from three to just one flight per week. The criticism was that I should have sought clarification from the BTA first. In an ideal world, perhaps this argument has merit, but the BTA employs over 130 persons and there is, some may say thankfully, just one of me.
Trying, again, desperately to focus on the message rather than drag individual personalities into the equation, it graphically highlights just how fragmented communication is currently, between the tourism stakeholders and the national marketing agency. We in the private sector have to better articulate that there is a cost and a consequence to receiving delayed policy decisions. Second guessing and speculation cannot be an option.
As soon as conclusions are made, in which case our guests, and I suspect others, are directly effected, to the point where we could literally lose a substantial number of hotel room nights. Surely then it is only logical to disseminate to all that it may involve. We would then, have adequate opportunity to contact our guests and soften the blow, perhaps even offering one additional night’s lodging on a complimentary basis, rather than the negative financial implications it would bring.
Up until the time of submitting this column, well over 500 major news organisations and publications have reported on the 2012 TripAdvisor Travelers Choice Awardwinners. Tens of millions of people around the world, among them many that will be making holiday plans will scrutinise the list and finally decide where they feel they can get the very best hotel value for money and level of service delivery.
More astute national, regional and individual city tourism organisations have been quick to link their destination with the awardees, taking full advantage of what amounts to free advertising and promotion.
While our own Government tourism agency has yet to take advantage of this almost unprecedented global exposure, Barbados has done relatively well in a number of categories. 3,943 properties across 30 countries and eight regions have received these coveted awards this year and as their Press Release reiterates, ‘unlike any other hotel honours, TripAdvisor Travelers Choice winners are based on millions of valuable reviews and opinions from travellers around the world’.
The breaking news that “Barbados has commissioned a specialist consultancy to develop a sports tourism strategy for the Caribbean island – Elms Partnership, an international sport and leisure consultancy, has been appointed by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Barbados Ministry of Tourism to design the strategy by undertaking an eight-month study.” – triggers mixed feelings. One does not know if to laugh or cry at the news. It seems like a good idea but why has it taken so long? How is it positioned in an overall strategy for tourism i.e. Tourism Master Plan.
Of interest is the fact check which reveals that Elms Partnership is listed as follows on Company Check website:
Registration Date: 10/02/2010
Registration Number: 07153478
Type: Private Limited with share capital Continue reading →
World renown Gospel artist Bobby Jones is coming to Barbados
It seems the government is serious about tapping into the religious tourism market. Recently the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) announced the coming to our shores of world renown gospel singer Dr. Bobby Jones. We are told religious tourism is a 10 billion dollar industry and Barbados – by staging the Bobby Jones Concert – has sent a strong signal to the international market it wants a piece of the action.
Barbados has built a good reputation for staging religious shows with Gospelfest a shining example of what is possible.
I have waited a few days, hoping, even wishing that someone within the tourism industry would make a public comment over the appointment of a new Barbados Tourism Authority Board. Sadly, it hasn’t happened and almost with a sense of obligation, while knowing that it will invite criticism find it almost compelling to ask some seemingly relevant questions.
First let us establish the objective here. It’s not about individual personalities, but surely what is in the overall national best interest of Barbados and its tourism sector. To ensure that I fully understood the required criteria of a Board Chairman, I have read through pages and pages of reference documents on the internet.
Listed as a basic function is ‘The Chairman of the Board is responsible for the management, the development and the effective performance of the Board of Directors, and provides leadership to the Board for all aspects of the Board’s work’.
Ralph Taylor replaced as Chairman of the Barbados Tourism Authority
Members of the BU family have been emailing to confirm a shakeup at the Barbados Tourism Authority. The matter was brought to the public at a Barbados Labour Party (BLP) meeting yesterday held at the Ellerslie School by Ian Gooding-Edghill. It has been mentioned on BU that the life of government statutory boards will be expiring and the government and sitting directors will have the opportunity to replace or leave the boards they serve respectively.
In the case of the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) our investigation has confirmed that CEO of Almond Incorporated Ralph Taylor, Senator Peter Gilkes and Michael Yearwood will be leaving the BTA Board. BU believes the BTA Board under Ralph Taylor’s chairmanship, has failed to lend the visionary direction required, at a time when the industry is confronted with numerous challenges. While we may excuse him because his attention was probably held by the rapidly deteriorating financial position in Almond Resorts’ balance sheet, the government should be always mindful of its obligation to operate in the national interest at all times.
Is it unreasonable to hope that the new chairperson will be someone who brings a mixture of enthusiasm laced with the right amount of experience? The national budget for tourism is not insignificant and Barbados taxpayers would demand a BTA Board which can maximize every dollar spent, especially in hard times.
‘What needs to happen is this…we have to get out of this notion that the Government is here to prop up every business’ – – David Rice CEO/President – Barbados Tourism Authority (Barbados Advocate – 24 February 2011)
From a tourism perspective that is of course unless your business is called Hotels and Resorts Ltd (GEMS). In which case you will receive almost unlimited support to ‘prop’ you up, including a reported BDS$247 million (losses) or nearly three times the annual budget of Mr. Rice’s organisation!
The majority of our small hotels have been left floundering while GEMS has for over ten years been ‘propped-up’ by Government and allowed to practice persistent predatory pricing.
No part of the BTA’s nearly BDS$100 million budget is dedicating to marketing the majority of our small hotels and there is still no functioning committee to support this sub-sector with the private sector trade association (BHTA).
The BTA chairman, Ralph Taylor is quoted on StarCom news this morning that were ‘looking for value-for-money’, yet three weeks after being awarded the ONLY hotel on Barbados to be recognised as one of the 11 Best Value Caribbean Hotels, our property has not been highlighted by the BTA at all.
Mr. Rice has given the impression that there has been previous support for the majority of our small hotels by stating ‘Local businesses in the tourism sector need to take on the responsibility for marketing their own product, and no longer rely on the government for support in tough times’.
After reading the Nation’s Editor-in-Chief’s article recently, detailing the reasons behind the cancellation of the 2011 Barbados Jazz Festival, I must admit it left a few unanswered questions. If the reporting is accurate, then it surprised me that the event only ‘attracted 400 visitors to the island last year’.
Does this number including the imported artists, their entourage and the various invited journalists? And what is the average stay and spend during their visit?
The Barbados Tourism Authority President/CEO stated they ‘had been supporting the festival to the tune of more than $1/2 million’.
Over what period!
Is this an annual subvention or is this the total marketing support since the inception of event?
Clearly, the BTA needs to justify their (our) ‘investment’ and they cannot be criticised for ensuring any funds are used in the most cost-effective way. Surely any event organiser would fully understand that.
Two headlines quoted from the recently held Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s Leadership Strategy Conference leapt out and grabbed my attention. The first ‘You have to chase money not arrivals’, attributed to David Redekop of the Conference Board of Canada. The second from an unnamed ‘specialist’ who advised ‘the region should therefore focus shift marketing from the all-inclusive traveller to the higher revenue independent traveller’. Both in my humble opinion make absolute sense from a Barbadian tourism perspective.
Just over ten years ago, I sat on a Ministry of Tourism convened committee made up of private and public sector persons looking at ways that the small hotel sector on Barbados could be improved. During that time one of the ideas I conceptualised, was a project entitled 10/10. We then had around 120 registered small properties. We use the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association definition of a small hotel as being 75 rooms or less.
But from a Barbadian perspective, if you add the total room stock of this sub sector and then divide by the number of properties, the typical size is just 22 rooms. Our hotels generally achieve an average overall annual occupancy rate of around 50 per percent. The plan behind 10/10 was to increase that to 60 per cent and to raise every occupied room rate by US$10 per night. This would be have been achieved by the use of creative marketing together with systematic reduction of bookings generated by tour operators and to a lesser extent, travel agents. This would not been a dramatic change, because typically small hotels are not a high priority for these travel distribution channels, for all sorts of reasons.
In the face of the worst global recession since the Great Depression if we are to believe the economists, the government of Barbados felt duty bound to protect the productive sector which is the life-blood of the Barbados economy. The tourism industry is reported to contribute 15-20% of Gross Domestic Product and it is a significant foreign exchange earner.
Tourism is an industry which thrives in a buoyant global economic climate and the global recession has impacted discretionary spending of world travellers in a significant way. In an effort to create a safety net for establishments affiliated to the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA), Barbados Tourism Hotel Association (BTHA), and Small Hotels of Barbados Inc (SHBI), the government established the Tourism Investment Relief Fund (TIRF). The fund is administered by the Enterprise Growth Fund Limited (EGFL) and based on a formula of of historical revenues and stated cash losses in a determined period funds were distributed to those tourism players who applied.
The recent announcement that one such player Silver Sands Hotel listed as having received TIRF monies $460,240.70 on the 27.05.2009 and $292,807.15 on 18.11.2009 was closing its doors has caused eyebrows to be raised. As if that news was not enough BU sources confirmed that the owners of the hotel shared in the purchase of a 56ft cabin cruiser which is based at Port St. Charles. BU is therefore forced to ask the $64,000.00 question. Should the Wards who own Silver Sands Hotel be forced to repay $753, 047. 85? Why would a 130 room hotel which received an injection of funds of such a significant amount have failed so quickly? Bear in mind the objective of the TIRF is the protection of employment levels within the sector.
BU reviewed the list of tourism players which received TIRF monies and frankly was floored at some of the names – we have listed a few below:
Skeete, Best & Co
Skeete, Best & Co
Silver Sands Hotel
Indar Weir Travel
WMB Financial Tech – Indar Weir
All Seasons Resort
MDG Corp Service – Tech Ass WSB
Skeetes, Best & Co
Radical Watersports Inc
Silver Sands Hotel
In future if the government sees a need to provide TIRF monies to any sector, BU recommended that directors of companies who apply sign off on personal guarantees among others. Taxpayers money is not monopoly money!
Today is World Tourism Day. Despite BU’s concern that we depend on this industry for too much of our economic survival, it appears to be the one significant productive sector we have at the moment. See attached an extract from the in flight British Airways magazine High Life and judge for yourself how our tourism officials are promoting Barbados.
The recent announcement of a new direct non-stop service from Dallas to Barbados with American Airlines, scheduled to start on 16th December is more good news and offers tremendous opportunities for our tourism industry. According to the DFW Airport Board, Dallas/Fort Worth handled over 56 million passengers last year from 175 destinations. 60 per cent of these passengers were connecting from other cities.
The greater metropolitan area of Dallas is the largest in the south and the fourth highest population on any similar urban area in the United States, boasting over 6.5 million residents (source: US Census Bureau). But even with these impressive statistics, it could well prove that our biggest marketing tool will be beyond this new gateway.
There is no doubt in our experience that many of our guest’s loath going through Miami for connecting flights, especially the more mature repeat guests. Dallas will present in many cases an improved alternative, reducing the connection time and overall travel duration.
Dennis Tull, Chairman of the Intimate Hotels of Barbados, - Credit: The Advocate
I read with interest some of the many comments attributed to the long serving chairman of the Intimate Hotels of Barbados at the organisation’s AGM recently. Frankly, I agree with most of them, but sadly, I have heard most of them before over prolonged periods of time and until there is a fundamental change in thinking, I doubt little will change.
Regrettably, consecutive Governments have not recognised the contribution made by our more than 120 small hotels. Yes! the Intimate Hotel Group was established under a previous Government and is given substantial annual grant assistance. But in reality, a staggering 29%, or nearly one in three of their members do not even meet our national legal definition of what a hotel should be.
Around 70 of our small hotels do not fall under any national marketing policy at all, and you really only have to ask one simple question. What proportion of the annual budget (around BDS$90 million) allocated to the Barbados Tourism Authority is spent on promoting our small hotels?
To highlight this almost indifference to the small hotel sector is who is representing them on the current BTA/Ministry of Tourism delegation to China?
Yesterday on a much needed positive note a friend in Washington DC forwarded me a mass marketing email from the Barbados Tourism Authority. The mass email was well put together and promoted travel to Barbados with highlights of locations and coming events this summer.
It from my standpoint represented the kind of innovative marketing approach needed in the current competitive travel climate we are facing. It showed that someone at BTA “gets it”. With this kind of promise BTA leadership can drive down whatever side of the street they wish (lol).
There is much doom which hovers over the tourism industry at this time. Despite the challenging circumstances we are happy to read of the success of the Barbados authorities to have attracted the 2010 Fireball Worlds Sailing Championships to our shores.
Congratulations to all the players who were instrumental in securing the agreement, and this is despite any serious investment in our marina plant!