Position Should be Reserved for Bajan

In 2015 when Canadian electric power house Emera huffed the Barbados Light & Power the blogmaster and others in the BU intelligentsia supported the view it was a short-sighted decision. The National Insurance Board under then chairmanship Tony Marshall decided to grab the 30 pieces of silver to bolster sagging international reserves. 

It was an incorrect decision because by any rationale used the Barbados Light & Power (BL&P) should have been labelled a strategic asset and ring fenced on behalf of future generations of Barbadians. BL&P is the sole electricity provider in Barbados therefore guaranteed profitability as a natural monopoly. Why would we sell a company responsible for the generation and distribution of energy which is a key input to the cost of living?

Since the sale to Emera Caribbean Barbadians have been experiencing a deteriorating level of service. Last month the ‘local’ power company applied to the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) for a 11.9% increase in rate, citing rise in the cost that included the construction of the renewable energy plant in St. Lucy. To be fair to the ‘local’ power company the rate request comes after a 11 year interval. That said, it comes at the worse of times given prevailing economic conditions in the country. This is the main reason the sole electricity company should not have been handed controlling interest to Emera where creating a ROI is an intractable edict. As we transform from fossil generated energy to a mixed model to include renewables there is an opportunity to ensure Barbadians regain control of a guaranteed revenue flow. We will see if this is a case of locals learning from past missteps.

November 1, 2021 the Barbados government appointed Jens Thraenhard – a foreigner – as CEO of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI). Before the blogmaster is accused of being xenophobic or jingoistic in outlook, try to understand the perspective. 

Tourism is the main driver of the majority of economies in the Caribbean, some like Barbados more dependent on the sector than recommended. Notwithstanding the risk of managing a ‘one leg’ economy, it is a business we should know well, or so the blogmaster thought. 

The newly appointed CEO of the BTMI from all reports is qualified for the job whatever that means – why not recruit him as another consultant? In the same way there is merit to having a local person in the role as head of state for the imagery it will project to locals and how it should positively translate to the psyche of Barbadians, is the same not true for the head of key tourism agencies? We do not have to follow established positions that Barbadians are employed overseas or the best man or woman must be recruited for the job and all the other rote positions. As a sovereign nation we have the autonomy to designate key jobs in Barbados as strategic positions to be done by locals only.

Billions sunk in education since 1966 and a fit and proper local cannot be found for the job of CEO of the BTMI with the acumen to assemble a qualified team to market Barbados as one of the iconic destinations on the planet? Why boast of our level of education if it cannot create a competitive advantage how we manage our affairs. Do we have to follow the script all the time?

Was Billy Fired for Doing a Good job?

A  government issued Press Release gave credit to Billy Griffith for:

pearheaded[ing] a 30 percent increase in visitor arrivals to Barbados to an all-time record of 682,000 in 2018, as air capacity to the island also grew by 22 percent. Total Visitor expenditure also increased by 34 percent during the period to USD $1.2 billion in 2018. Griffith oversaw high profile partnerships on behalf of the BTMI that led to the introduction of new flights to the island including Copa Airlines direct from Panama which began in 2018, and the Lufthansa direct service from Frankfurt, Germany, which commences Monday. His leadership of the organization also resulted in the destination receiving several major awards during his tenure as well as his personal achievement of being awarded ‘Caribbean Tourism Director of the Year 2019’ by Carib Journal earlier this year.

Billy Griffith press release

Press Release

Barbados Cabinet Breaks Promise to Consult BWU re: transfer of BTPA to BTMI

The embedded documents support a view the government has backtracked on a promise made to employees at the BTPA and the Barbados Workers Union. In the interest of transparency and integrity it is important for the Mia Mottley led government to clarify the matter if it is to sustain the confidence of the people it serves. The last thing the citizenry wants is a government that was voted to office with an overwhelming mandate to mimic the decisions of its successor.

See relevant documents shared with Barbados Underground.



Barbados Tourism Product Authority Undergoing Another Restructure

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.

The Adrian Loveridge Column – 100 million Dollar Budget for Tourism

Adrian Loveridge

According to media reports on The Estimates, the amounts of BDS$87.7 million has been awarded to the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) for the fiscal year 2017/2018 and BDS$8.6 million to the Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA).

At first, certainly in the case of the BMTI these seem like very large amounts of money, but when you put it in absolute perspective, it really only equates to average spend per long stay visitor of around $154 and that takes absolutely no account for the net financial contribution of the cruise passenger and crew contribution.

For some obscure reason the Barbados Statistical Service no longer posts arrival figures and other critical tourism information on their website, so the industry is largely left to speculate about the hard facts and figures. Second guessing is not helpful.

2016 is a classical case at hand and if you troll through our various media sources, quoting prominent political figures, long stay arrivals for last year are stated at anything from 610,000 up to 631,520. Also missing from the picture to show if these figures injected by Government are reasonable and sufficient in relation to the amount of taxes, net VAT earnings and foreign exchange generated!

The taxpayers contribution also does not take into account the enormous amount of money, tens of millions of dollars ploughed into the promotion and marketing of both the individual product and destination by the private sector, this despite the outstanding and yet unpaid VAT refunds due to the sector.

Often forgotten too, is the massive support given by the Tourism Development Corporation (TDC) through corporate Barbados, as in the case of our re-DISCOVER initiative, making the critical difference whether the promotion is ongoing and remains viable at all.

To the TDC’s further credit, their audited accounts are on the website for all to see at the end of each financial year.

The other question that has to be asked and I think sufficiently explained is exactly how the budget of the BTMI and BTPA is broken down and what it is spent on?

What proportion is devoted to administration, salaries and operating expenses for instance?

During the short time I served on the board of the former Barbados Tourism Authority, I recall seeing some audited accounts, but these should be a matter of public record, accessible on a website, so that every industry partner and the taxpayer can scrutinize them.

Of course there are areas of specific non-disclosure like the exact amounts ‘given’ in route support to named individual airlines, but I am sure there could be some blanket figure, clearly identifying these sensitive and sometimes controversial payments.

What has any Government to fear with this information being more widely available if it helps strengthen the overall contribution to the national economy and helps makes the tourism sector stronger and more viable?

As we rapidly approach the end of the peak winter season, every person, whether in the private or public sector, worth his or her salt will be focusing on just how and what we can collectively do to maintain arrival numbers during the long eight summer months.

Perhaps there has never been a more important time than now, since independence, when we need a flourishing tourism industry?

The Adrian Loveridge Column – Learning From the Icelanders

icelandMy column which appeared three weeks ago, looking at increasing airlift to Barbados through Iceland, attracted many comments, some positive and others very negative!

A regular critic questioned, why on earth, would holidaymakers consider going to visit Iceland, or even use it as a transit or connection point. Well the figures seem to speak for themselves. Since the year 2000, Iceland has tripled their long stay visitor arrivals and in 2014 they welcomed 998,600 people from overseas. Not bad for a population of around 330,000. This included 180,503 from the UK, 152,104 from the USA, 85,915 from Germany and 58,293 from France. The average spend was ISK 158,914 or roughly US$1,339. My calculator does not have enough zeros to do this computation, but it would appear that tourists visiting Iceland generated more than US$1.34 billion in 2014.

What I found especially interesting is that the Iceland Tourist Board have anatomized spending in detail attributed to payment made by foreign credit or debit card and I wonder if we, as a destination, currently perform the same task. For Iceland 30.8 per cent is spent on accommodation and restaurants, 16.4 per cent on shopping, 15.9 per cent on passenger and related services, 16.8 per cent tourism relation services including sightseeing, 2.4 per cent on culture, entertainment and recreational activities, 6.0 per cent on other tourism-related aspects and 11.6 per cent on cash withdrawals.

Overnight stays of foreign visitors totalled 4.4 million in 2014 and what many might find surprising, the average stay was 6 nights in the winter and 10 nights in the summer.

While this is of course only a ‘snapshot’, because it presumably does not include people who book and pay for hotels and other tourism components through travel agents and tour operators in their home countries, it does however give a partial insight to how monies are distributed in the holiday location and I wonder if there are any lessons we can learn from this approach.

Many other comparisons and points of interest can be gleaned from their tourism statistics and I consider it compulsory reading for our policymakers and planners, as no single destination can boast having all the answers.

I will leave readers with one final conclusion though, that when visitors were asked why they chose Iceland, the overwhelming response was nature, with almost 80 per cent of those questioned giving this response.

The second biggest reason given was the people and their perceived hospitality.

The national flag carrier, Icelandair recently launched a programme called Buddies, where staff members including pilots and the Chief Executive Officer volunteer their time, free of charge, to in their words show Iceland ‘through the eyes of a local’ to stay-over visitors.

It’s an amazing concept and one I hope that the Barbados Tourism Product Authority will consider. For many years our small hotel would host what we called a round table dinner weekly, where twelve of our guests would sit around a very large circular table and we would invite a prominent Barbadian with his or her partner and they would simply talk about Barbados from their particular perspective. As well as a complimentary dinner for our speaker and companion, we would pay a small fee, which in most cases found its way to their chosen charity.

Barbados Tourism Numbers Achieve Double Digits Growth

Richard Sealy - Minister of Tourism

Richard Sealy – Minister of Tourism

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS. May 27, 2015 – Barbados’ tourism sector broke a 25-year record during the first quarter of 2015 to reach 171,471 long stay arrivals.BTMI Chairman, Alvin Jemmott, noted that there were record arrivals in each of the first three months of 2015 and extended his congratulations to all industry workers and partners for their steadfast efforts on behalf of the destination.

Read full TEXT of BTMI Media Release