Category Archives: Barbados Tourism

Tomas Chlumecky: LIAT should tell the truth

Editor’s Note: This article was written prior to the recent announcement that David Evans had been hired as LIAT’s new CEO. Will the change at the top make a difference? The rot goes deep, as this article by Tomas Chlumecky shows…

LIAT late

As LIAT continues to drain tax payers money, is it not time for the tax payers to ask for action and accountability from their politicians?

As an Airline Consultant, I thought I have seen it all, but LIAT is a very special case indeed. Experience shows that companies in decline MUST replace some of the people responsible for the decline, these people lead the company to its current position and are incapable of the mind set needed to make fundamental changes to the strategy they so blindly believed in that created the crisis in the first place. They may not see it, but they block any real changes because they are bent on defending the dying cause, therefore they need to go!

When will the Board realize that the Chairman of LIAT, Dr. Jean Holder and once again Acting-CEO and CFO Mrs. Julie Reifer-Jones are failed leaders that have led LIAT to where it is today? Any reasonable Board by now would have requested their resignation.

Recently LIAT blames the “summer meltdown” on its inability to sell its DHC-8 aircraft because they do not have the records for the aircraft up to date! One year after ordering the ATR’s and knowing full well they needed to sell them with records up to date, just the fact the records are not up to date is NOT acceptable. If they flew with records not up to date the then ECCCA needs to step in investigate. Just horrible management.

Next, the people of the EC are being told the new ATR’s are more economical and that is why LIAT went out to buy and lease 12 ATR’s. This is non-sense. The 8 ATR-72′s will cost about $US1.4 million lease payments per month! The 4 ATR-42′s being purchased cost $US 74 million at list price, so what LIAT did was substantially increase it lease obligations and debt at a time it has little money, pays salaries late and cannot even keep its maintenance records up to date. Continue reading

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Airbnb transforming tourism and hotel industry: but there will be casualties

airbnb barbados

Airbnb Barbados search returns over 200 rentals! Click photo for larger

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

If I had mentioned the name Airbnb a few months ago, I wonder, hand-on-heart, how many people could claim that they knew much about the company.

Perhaps hardly surprisingly, as not that long ago it sold novelty cereal boxes to stay afloat to now emerge as a major threat to the hotel industry and ‘close to becoming one of the world’s most valuable startups’.

If quoted plans materialise, private-equity firm TPG and boutique investment advisors, Dragoneer Investment Group, who are already in advanced talks will raise capital to put a value on what has been described as ‘the upstart home-rental site’ of US$10 billion.

Mutual funds are being sourced through the strategic research platforms of entities including T Rowe Price Group and Fidelity and are also in discussion to join the group.

To put that it context, the combined share worth of Airbnb would equate to US$2 billion more than the entire InterContinental hotel chain. Continue reading

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Is Barbados special enough to attract Chinese tourists?

Chinese tourists at Cricket World Cup 2007

Chinese tourists at Cricket World Cup 2007

Bridgetown is a long way from Beijing!

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Much discussion has taken place over the last year or so about the importance of attracting Chinese visitors to Barbados, and few could disagree that it is a potential massive market that cannot be ignored.

Let us, though, take a minute to look at the practical reality.

Using Great Circle (shortest route by air) distances, Beijing is a mind-boggling 8,775 miles from Barbados. Shanghai is some 9,381. Even if current aircraft could fly those distances non-stop, it entails a minimum flying time of 17 to 19 hours and then there are all sorts of crewing and equipment challenges.

Air China is presently the only airline to operate non-stop services from Beijing to New York (JFK) with11 flights weekly by B777-200 aircraft and a flight time of around 13 hours. China Eastern Airlines operate Shanghai to JFK at least daily.

In an extensive interview recently, when questioned about direct flights into the Caribbean, Dr. Zhihang Chi, Vice President and General Manager of North America for Air China stated that was not an option. However, he said ‘that China’s flag carrier would instead be targeting more flights to North American hubs and striking up partnerships with local carriers to funnel traffic into the Caribbean’.  Continue reading

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Loveridge: We should spend our tourism marketing budget where it will do the most good.

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

According to figures released by the Barbados Statistical Service, January 2014 recorded the second highest long stay visitor arrivals from the United Kingdom in the last 12 years, with 18,134 persons.

Only January 2009 exceeded this number with 20,911 persons.

Having said this, there is still a mountain to climb especially if you look at the situation in perspective; this lone month has to take into account recent past performance.

In 2012 our single largest market registered a decline in every consecutive month of that year, ending with an overall fall of 15,631 stay-over visitors. 2013 finished with another 4,786 arrivals down over 2012.

So over the last two years we have already more than 20,000 ‘lost’ British visitors to make up for. February 2014 United Kingdom figures continued with what hopefully will be an ongoing trend with a 10.2 per cent increase when compared with the identical month a year ago.

Sadly though, the decline across other markets resulted in an overall fall, registering the lowest stay-over numbers for any February during the last 11 years. More than any, the second month of the calendar is often the barometer of whether the winter season is going to end successfully or not.

Brits and Europeans stay longer, spend more!

We know that the ‘Brits’ and Europeans stay longer, therefore it is reasonable to assume they spend more. Based on this knowledge, should we not be spending a larger proportion of precious marketing resources in this market? Continue reading

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Robert MacLellan asks when LIAT chairman Jean Holder will be held accountable

“Real competition is brutal and the wolves are sensing and circling the wounded LIAT prey.”

“Idle threats” from LIAT’s chairman do more harm than good

by Robert MacLellan

by Robert MacLellan

The board of LIAT airline is clearly feeling the pressure of mounting ongoing criticism of its consistent inability to achieve a stable business model and to provide a vital intra regional air service in the Eastern Caribbean on a reliable basis.

Unfortunately, the announcements of 6th March from the LIAT chairman, Jean Holder, strongly suggest a strategy still devoid of any coherent business sense. Take on huge investment in multiple new aircraft but then shrink the airline’s network? “Passing strange” and “wondrous pitiful”, to quote Shakespeare. If, instead, this is Dr Holder’s idle threat, designed to panic other regional governments in to investing in an airline with such a tarnished reputation, then that also is a strategy likely to fail.

Investors seek companies with proven management expertise. Yet, in his 100 day strategy announcement last week, Dr Holder stated that the current directors and senior management have invited “some experts” to undertake route analysis of the LIAT network. Outside consultants are needed for a basic management task – even after 57 years of LIAT operations? No wonder there are accusations of amateurism in LIAT management and no wonder years of persuasion by Dr Holder have failed to elicit much new investment in the airline from other governments in the region. Continue reading

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If LIAT Chairman Jean S. Holder wants to communicate ideas, why didn’t he electronically publish?

Jean Holder LIAT Book

LIAT’s Chairman Jean Holder launched his new book last week. Caribbean Tourism is probably a very worthwhile read if for no other reason than the author is the current victim in charge of LIAT Airlines.

Our old friend Bajan Reporter posted an excellent review of the book by Sir Ronald Sanders that makes me want to run out and buy a copy, but alas… the book sells for US$40. Sorry old bean, I’ll have to defer that read.

Why oh why in this age of iPhones, iPads, MS tablets and online electronic publishing at Amazon did Dr. Holder only publish a dead tree version of his book and at a price that virtually assures only a handful of people will read what he has to say?

Dr. Holder won’t make any money anyway – few authors of such narrowly targeted books make anything worth talking about – so why not publish electronically and move a hundred times more copies than on paper?

Perhaps Dr. Holder’s choice of obsolete technology, high prices and limited distribution mirrors the way he runs LIAT? (Hey… it’s a cheap journalistic shot, but at least I’ll admit to it!)

Come on Doc… publish the new book electronically for US$10 a copy and I’ll buy and read your ideas.

Thanks to Ian Bourne for allowing us to steal his photo.

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LIAT disaster continues as Ralph Gonsalves challenges his critics to put their money up

“Put your money where your mouth is . . . . Everybody wants to talk about LIAT, but a number of these persons don’t want to have an authoritative position to speak about it. Being a chief executive officer of a company or the prime minister of a country which is not a shareholder doesn’t give you the right to talk authoritatively about LIAT,”

St. Vincent and the Grenadines PM Dr. Ralph Gonsalves in the Nation’s No place for buccaneers in LIAT says PM

Is the reality that LIAT’s failure is not about leadership, financing or equipment? Could it be that 70 years of Caribbean commercial aviation has revealed a basic truth that no Carib-based airline could ever be profitable?

Here is the fourth letter to LIAT shareholders from Dominica hotelier Gregor Nassief, urging PM Gonsalves to step aside as chairman of the LIAT shareholder’s committee.

Honourable Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines
LIAT (1974) LTD
V.C. Bird International Airport
P O Box 819
Coolidge
Antigua

Dear Prime Minister Gonsalves:

Re: Run it like a business before it goes out of business

On the televised program Time to Face the Facts on Sunday, February 23rd, I appealed to you to step aside as Chairman of the Shareholder’s committee of LIAT. As mentioned on the program, given the respect and admiration I have for you, particularly on your stance and leadership on issues such as reparations and the cholera outbreak in Haiti, it was personally difficult for me to do this. But it is necessary.

LIAT has moved from an operational meltdown in the Summer of 2013 to a financial meltdown a mere 7 months later. LIAT drains our treasuries, operates inefficiently and stifles competition. The source of LIAT’s problem is its financial unsustainability and as with everything else at LIAT, no one is accountable. As Chairman of the Shareholder’s committee, the buck stops with you.

LIAT needs to fight the battle of its life to transform itself to be financially viable and sustainable. But you believe, and have stated so publicly, that LIAT can never be profitable. This battle, therefore, needs a different general.

Unsustainability

LIAT has lost ec$120m in the last four years. Last month, LIAT could not pay both the lease on its aircraft as well as its payroll. So it chose one and delayed the other. A leased ATR gives 36% more seat capacity than its closest Dash 8 equivalent but is double the (lease) expense. In 2015, repayments will begin on LIAT’s recent loan of us$65m to purchase new aircraft. So monthly cash outflows go up even more.

And the new inflows to cover this? Inter-island tourism is down 60% in 7 years and LIAT’s load factor is running at about 55%. The fantasy (aka “business plan”) is that the load factor will go up to 75%. The fantasy is also that LIAT will fly its way out of losses by expanding to new destinations – Jamaica, Haiti, Aruba, Panama, and eventually to cities in North and South America.  Continue reading

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A bricklayer’s passing reminds me that we never know if this is the last day

Jeff Britwell Barbados

That’s Jeff and Trudy Birtwell in the photo. Jeff passed in his sleep while holidaying in Barbados last Tuesday.

Jeff was a relatively young man of 53 years old, and I say ‘young’ because I’m not that far behind. He was a bricklayer so he must have been healthy and fit enough but he died of a heart attack on holiday – sleeping with his woman beside him.

There are worse ways to go, and I admire the man after reading a news article from his home town Clayton-le-Moors in the UK. He leaves two fine sons who speak highly of him, as do many people, so says the local newspaper.

Jeff has me thinking about my own life tonight. Regular BFP readers know that I don’t have a steady woman or children. I have no legacy, no important things I’ve done and if the truth be known someone will probably have to hire people to carry my casket.

But after reading the newspaper article about Jeff’s passing in Barbados, I suspect that nobody will have to be hired to carry Jeff Birtwell on his final journey.

Good for Jeff. He went too early, but as I think about how he must have conducted his life to have the loving family and friends that he does, I find him an inspiration. Maybe I should conduct my life a little differently: call some friends, take Auntie to lunch once a month… maybe even find a good woman I could be loyal to.

Jeff… I didn’t know you, but I admire you. Thank you.

And Cliverton… pour me another two fingers of Mount Gay and we’ll toast a farewell to a good man we never knew.

Robert

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Forbidden questions about Extraordinary tax concessions to Butch Stewart’s Sandals Resorts

“I had no intention of offending anyone.”

Adrian Loveridge

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

While it was very tempting to write on any subject this week other than the ‘Butcherisation’ I received at the recent Barbados Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon, that would have been the easy way out and certainly not in my character.

First for the record, I had no intention of offending anyone.

In fact I made it abundantly clear in my opening remarks that many of us greatly admire Mr. Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart and the hotel empire he has spearheaded. I am not so remotely naive to believe that any one person can achieve this alone and a great part of the success is attracting the right people around you. This equally applies whether it is a small or large business.

Perhaps what surprises me more than anything is that a person who has received everything he has asked for within weeks and possibly more than we are aware of, yet was so unwilling to respond to legitimate concerns. Especially, while so many who actually live on Barbados have toiled to build the destination’s tourism industry over several decades while being consistently denied similar extraordinary concessions.  Continue reading

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British tourist complains of dangerous bus rides “Lucky to be alive”

Barbados Bus Accidents

Dear Barbados Free Press,

So sorry to hear of yet another serious bus crash here in Barbados. I am not in the least surprised as my husband and I who are on holiday from England think ourselves lucky to be alive after a horrendous yellow bus ride last Friday!! We had lunch at Mullins Beach and were returning to Holetown when we refused to get on one bus as it was well overloaded.

We got on the next bus to find ourselves being shouted at to move back up the bus to let more people on. There was no room to move and we hung on for grim death, even the fare collector was hanging out the door!  Continue reading

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Definition of Irony: Fat Sandals Resort Chairman Butch Stewart chides Barbados hoteliers to complain about overtaxed tourism sector!

Sandals Butch Stewart

Butch wins! Disproving “Too much weight on a race horse, it can’t win.”

Nice work if you can get it: Stewart chides other Barbados hoteliers for not getting the same tax concessions as Sandals…

Sandals’ Chairman Butch Stewart says…

The fact is if you put too much weight on a race horse, it can’t win. When you burden an industry by overtaxing, you cannot do enough business. The real fallout is not so much the fact that you are not doing business is the condition of the properties because there is not enough money between the competitive rates today, paying taxes and at the same time being able to improve, expand and modernise the hotel.”

Noting that cruise ships are able to avoid the same tax levels as land-bound tourism providers, he nonetheless stated, “The cruise ships are a vital part of the tourism industry; it is not the cruise ship that is at fault. The growth of the cruise sector has to do with not having to pay taxes – taxes and exports don’t mix.”

In terms of concession, the hotelier highlighted, “Our criteria is transparency, so everyone knew we got concessions. In Grenada we spent [money] developing and building a hotel that we would not have been able to do if we were not able to look at the long-term 25 years of concessions and spend money based on long-term thoughts. We plan to do much the same here in Barbados because as we have a long-term view.

“The same way a company negotiates with government and gets concessions I believe that the business community, if you believe as strongly as I believe, that anything to do with export taxation impacts business, you have a responsibility to do [or] say something about it.”

Adrian Loveridge says…

Put it in simple terms. For my hotel to buy a 750ml bottle of Johnnie Walker Scotch would cost me sixty US dollars. Sandals are able to pay ten dollars.

“Unilateral concessions to Sandals immediately destabilized the other 120 hotels on the islands, not to mention the condos, villas, apartments and guest houses. Completely destabilized the industry.”

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New bill creates Barbados Tourism Product Authority and Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Currently before Parliament are the Barbados Tourism Product Authority and Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., bills. Not surprisingly, considering the protracted time it has taken so far getting these long promised changes in legislation to this stage, many industry partners may have forgotten about them altogether.

Given the infrequent holding of Parliament, the late starts, early finishes, extended lunch periods and volume of none constitutional subjects discussed, whether it is now realistic to have the required readings of these bills in both houses and passed into law by the stated 2nd April 2014 date seems rather ambitious.

The Barbados Tourism Authority as we have known it will cease to exist and be replaced by the two new entities. What does this mean in reality?

Will some current employees be severed and if so how many? Government’s stated moratorium, ‘no new hiring’ will surely limit staffing the new statutory corporations – so what is the plan?

Reading through the documentation contained on the Parliament’s website, it would also appear that all the substantial debt of the present Barbados Tourism Authority will be transferred to one or both new companies. How will this impact on budgets and spending?

Are there now to be two boards with two Chairman, two Deputy Chairman, two Presidents/CEO’s, two luxury SUV vehicles, multiple first class travel allowances, two administration offices etc., and what will become of the current ‘consultants’ employed by the BTA after the transition? Will either or both organisations be mandated to operate on performance based criteria and obliged to publish their annual audited accounts on a timely basis?

So many unanswered questions! Continue reading

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Discredited Barbados Police can’t shake the tourist rape case that won’t go away.

Barbados rape dna police

Tourist Rape Victims continue to press for justice – for them and  for the wrongly accused!

Rape victims Dr. Rachel Turner (left) and Diane Davies (right) continue their quest to have the Royal Barbados Police Force re-open their rape cases. The two women were violently attacked in October 2010 while visiting Barbados, and then spent the next two years trying to free the man who was falsely arrested for the crime. Derrick Crawford spent two years in jail before the charges were dropped, despite the protests by the victims that he was not the man. True to form, our professional police force never took DNA samples from the victims, and the innocent man, Derrick Crawford, says most credibly that the police beat his confession out of him. You know, just like usual as people on this rock know.

The Commissioner of Police at the time was Darwin Dottin. BFP had been calling for Dottin’s sacking for years but it was not until June of 2013 that Bajans were finally rid of the man who led the Royal Barbados Police Force into a steep decline in professionalism and public support. Last June, the victims cheered Dottin’s removal…

Mrs Davies told the BBC she was “absolutely delighted” that Commissioner Dottin was no longer in charge.

“He supported the police investigation and turned on us,” said Mrs Davies.

She called on whoever replaces Commissioner Dottin to “reopen the case and find the man who attacked us”.

… from the BBC’s Barbados Rapes: Police Chief Removed

Now the victims are back in the news, having written to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart after Acting Commissioner Tyrone Griffith also refused to re-open the case.

How long will it take on politicians and police to learn that these days, you can’t make difficult or embarrassing happenings go away by ignoring them!

The internet is here. This story won’t go away on it’s own. It will keep coming back because the real rapist remains free and the victims want justice.

TopGear is coming. Watcha gonna do, Commissioner?   Continue reading

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Sandals 9 month closure another blow to Barbados economy and employment

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

So entirely contrary to all the heady rhetoric that the introduction of Sandals brand will drive additional airlift: in fact the exact opposite will happen from their closure on 1st April for major renovations.

At least until the re-opening slated for December 2014.

Quoting their own projected occupancy of an average of 85 per cent with a typical stay of 7 nights and two persons per room, that’s almost 500 lost airline seats per week or a mind boggling 16,000 plus by the end of this year.

Will this further destabilise the remaining carriers that continue to service Barbados and lead to yet more airlines cutting routes or reducing capacity? Tour operators, already unable to match demand with the high cost of doing business here, are considering switching flights to other destinations where they can glean a profit.

Once again citizens are left speculating whether our Government was aware and factored in the almost nine months closure with hundreds of hospitality employees being thrown on the unemployment pile, before granting unilateral extraordinary concessions to the Sandals group.

Perhaps they calculated the NIS and income tax contributions collected from local construction workers hired for refurbishment would more than make up for this. Because clearly, the state is not going to collect other taxes like VAT and import duties from Sandals as they have all been waived.  Most materials used will also be imported, so a substantial percentage of the estimated US$65 million project will simply re-export foreign exchange (FX).

Several other issues also have to be considered: The lost revenue to our Direct Tourism Services with included package components like golf green fees, catamaran, diving etc., let alone secondary spending that 16,000 plus extra visitors would have generated on submarine excursions, taxis, car rental attractions, activities and shopping. The list goes on and on. Continue reading

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Adrian Loveridge looks at government spin on the disaster of Barbados Tourism

Sandals isn’t paying VAT to Barbados

Government has a 10 point Tourism plan? Really?

In four years the Government of Barbados hasn’t paid VAT refunds to Loveridge’s Peach and Quiet Hotel.

“Water is up by 62%. Electricity up by 70%…

What government in their right mind increases land taxes by 50% in a recession? Tell me!”

On the incredible tax and other concessions given to Sandals…

“Put it in simple terms. For my hotel to buy a 750ml bottle of Johnnie Walker Scotch would cost me sixty US dollars. Sandals are able to pay ten dollars.”

“Unilateral concessions to Sandals immediately destabilized the other 120 hotels on the islands, not to mention the condos, villas, apartments and guest houses. Completely destabilized the industry.”

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American tourist: Barbados the best vacation ever! The locals really made our trip.

Dear Barbados Free Press,

I found your blog as I was deciding which Caribbean island to visit.  After much deliberation we landed on Barbados.  Our trip went far and beyond our expectations!  We experienced much of the Bajan culture and it was with no contest the best vacation we have ever been on.  The locals really made our trip, anyone we talked to was extremely friendly and we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them.

Anyway I made this video of our trip and thought you may want to see it.  Please feel free to use the video however you like, I’m not looking for any compensation I just want to give back to the beautiful island!  I sure hope it helps with tourism because Barbados was incredible.

Best wishes to every Bajan,

Kyle Lawson, Madison, Wisconsin

Kyle’s blog shows how he made his Bajan video – all the tricks and techniques

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Did the Thomson Airways’ Boeing 787 Dreamliner push up tourist arrivals in Barbados?

Is there some room for cautious optimism in our tourism performance?

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Following 21 consecutive months of long stay visitor decline, January 2014 recorded a modest increase of 3.2 per cent when compared with the same month in 2013.

It is however important to keep this in absolute perspective…

January 2013 was down 8.2 per cent (4,331 people) when measured against January 2012 and unless we finish the end of February, 7,972 land based visitors up – we will still be woefully behind the identical period last year.

The growth largely came from the United Kingdom with 1,455 more long-stay visitors over the same period in January 2013. This in itself is encouraging because as frequently pointed out, the British and Europeans tend to stay longer – therefore usually contributing a higher per capita spend.

The higher UK arrivals were largely driven by two charter airlines.

Thomas Cook operating a new service and Thomson adding increased capacity with recently introduced B787 Dreamliner aircraft. Passengers off these flights would have included a significant number of cruise and stay holidaymakers, but both carriers offered many seats on sale at substantially reduced fares, which in some cases were less than GBPounds 300 return, including all taxes.

With such a diverse destination and a myriad range of accommodation options, these last minute ‘bargains’ present an opportunity to fill some beds at short notice.

Scheduled carrier Virgin Atlantic carried fewer passengers on the Gatwick service, but more from Manchester, while British Airways (BA) had a net gain. Again, to emphasis that these comparisons are all based on the differential between January 2013 and 2014.

Virgin’s numbers must also take into account dramatically reduced capacity as a result of equipment change from a daily B747 service to mostly the smaller A330 planes on the London route.

BA and Virgin also held an extended seat sale which expired on 28th January, with some of the lowest legacy fares available in the entire Caribbean for the remainder of 2014. Hopefully this resulted in substantial bookings, which will positively impact the arrival numbers later this year.

No Growth in the USA market       Continue reading

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Barbados tourism industry having a wonderful year: lowest arrivals in a decade.

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

We are now midway through the peak winter tourism season and it is small wonder that the general populous becomes confused or even bemused when trying to monitor exactly how the industry is performing.

Especially when there are a number of proclamations emanating from our policymakers, who many may feel should be better informed.

Two of these recent utterings really stand out!

The first when a Minister of Government stated in the foreign press that we have had a good start to the season, when in fact December 2013 recorded the lowest long stay visitor arrivals for that month during the last eleven years.

Meanwhile, while accepting the numbers are down, the actual Minister of Tourism partially justifying the dismal sector performance by stating ‘value-added’ is up, totally contradicting the Governor of The Central Bank in his latest video report on our economic condition, who clearly revealed that factually, it is down.

If these incidents were rare or isolated, perhaps it could be just brushed off as possible journalistic misquoting, but the latest ones come after a long list of heady predictions that simply have not materialized.

Last year these included ‘a resounding success’, ‘upbeat about arrivals’ and ‘extremely strong’, when referring to Crop Over and July. Later in 2013, ‘it is already a November to remember’ and ‘November had been one of the best Barbados had seen in a while’.

In reality, both months set new records over the last decade for recording the lowest stay-over visitors for comparable periods. Continue reading

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