Tag Archives: Barbados Tourism Authority

Is there anyone awake at the Barbados Tourism Authority?

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Some months ago the Barbados Tourism Authority finally published a list of licensed hotels and a limited number of other accommodation providers. Sadly, I only saw it in the press and failed to understand why the agency did not post this latest listing on the official website, where the majority of the end users could access this information at any time, prior to booking.

There seems absolutely no point having a national website unless it is maintained. A simple example is that three months after being granted unilateral extraordinary concessions Sandals Barbados does not yet appear on the visitbarbados.org, accommodation section.

In fact, the site is so far out-of-date the location is still shown as Casuarina Beach Club, even ignoring its brief history as a Couples Resort!

It is quite frankly staggering the array of alternative accommodation that is widely advertised on the internet, with absolutely no indication whether these properties meet the same insurance, fire and health requirements that our registered lodging offerings are required under law to comply with.

Tax avoidance or Tax Fraud… where is the line?

What is also alarming is the number of establishments that make no mention of VAT (Value Added Tax).  Continue reading

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Penalizing tourist loyalty to Barbados does not seem like good marketing practice.

Barbados Investment Four Seasons

“Has the effect of the campaign been to simply reduce earned income for the sector, meaning that overall the average visitor has spent considerably less than normal?”

Questions about the latest Barbados Tourism Authority campaign

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner.

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner.

As we have now passed the latest ‘book-by’ date for the several times re-launched Barbados Island Inclusive promotion, is it time to analyse in depth just how cost effective the initiative has been?

Especially as it was one of the very few, national marketing initiatives for this year that have either not been postponed, cancelled or simply just not implemented in the first place.

Just to remind readers, the stated objective was to generate an ‘additional’ 15,000 long stay visitors between the end of May and the 21st December 2013, who would spend BDS$30 million at a quoted cost of BDS$11 million to cover the promotional costs.

Minister of Tourism (MOT), Mr. Sealy is on record as stating ‘all but $4 million will actually be spent on advertising’.

On 22nd July 2013 the Barbados Government Information Service reported the MOT ‘had revealed that more than 5,000 tourists had taken advantage of the vouchers being offered under the programme’.

We know that even before the October figures are published, that ‘we’ are already experiencing an unprecedented 18 consecutive months of long stay visitor decline. So the word ‘additional’ is critical to appraisal, as if the initiative had in fact, generated any incremental numbers, then it has been at a huge cost.

‘Free Spending Vouchers’ cost Barbados taxpayers $733 per person

‘Free Spending Vouchers’ as they are called, were given to visitors spending as little as two nights on Barbados, but if you averaged the subsidy over all durations of stay, and conclude that all 15,000 will be used, that’s a massive taxpayer cost of BDS$733 per person. So at best a return-on-investment (ROI) of 2.72:1. Makes you think, when other initiatives consistently achieving an ROI of 40:1 were not supported. Continue reading

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Loveridge on Barbados tourism: The time for remedial action has long since passed

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner.

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner.

Even though it has not become widespread public knowledge, September 2013 became the 18th consecutive month of long stay visitor decline and recorded the lowest stay-over arrivals of any month in the last 11 years.

As someone who has invested their life savings and 25 years in the Barbados tourism industry, it give me no pleasure to state this unpleasant fact, but someone has to say it. If only in the interests of survival.

The time for remedial action has long since passed.

“Once again, it is now a case of damage limitation and focusing on what the private sector can do for itself,  to avoid annihilation of the industry as we know it.”

This may at first appear dramatic, but you only have to look around at other businesses on the island to understand that a sector that has been financially drained for a year and a half cannot be immune from the same challenges others are facing.

Not that our policymakers are listening, but I am going to make a few suggestions…

1)   Establish a National Marketing Committee (NMC) in the shortest practical time, comprising of proven professionals with a rotating Chairman, chosen irrespective of any political party leanings.

The existing Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) board would cease to play any functional part in promoting the destination, or simply be disbanded, based on non-performance.

2)   Place the opposition spokesperson on tourism (regardless of which party is in power) on this committee, to ensure there is true non-partisan participation in decision making and understanding of the current problems. Continue reading

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Why Barbados Tourism Authority’s choice of Rihanna as a marketing strategy failed to yield results

The_Great_British_Holiday_Report

The Great British Holiday Report sends another message to our Barbados Tourism Authority…

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner - now selling!

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner – now selling!

Perhaps the decades of using tiny budgets to generate ‘big picture’ results  has made it almost a prerequisite to research as many marketing options as possible, hopefully increasing the probability of success.

Last month, Teletext Holidays commissioned an independent market research company,  Opinion Matters, to conduct a survey of 1,775 UK adults,for in their words ‘uncover British Attitudes to booking holidays’. The Great British Holiday Report concluded what many tourism professionals perhaps had already gleaned over the last few years of challenging operation, but it’s worth repeating some of the findings if we are going to fully understand one of our main markets.

You can download your own PDF version of the report here: The Great British Holiday Report

Without wanting to copy, parrot fashion, large parts of the report I think its important to put the findings in context…

‘Getting away from it all for a week or two is the highlight of the year for many Britons, which is why we put so much time and effort into choosing the perfect holiday’.  

However, the way holidays are booked and planned has changed in recent years.

‘What’s more, as a result of the economic downturn, Britons have become more accustomed to seeking out the best deals’.

‘Many Britons now book within weeks of their departure date: 23 per cent within two months of travel and more than two thirds (67 per cent) within six months of departure’.

But even those conclusions have to be further broken down. Men are more inclined to book last-minute, while women are almost twice as likely to book more than a year in advance. Continue reading

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Should the Barbados Tourism Authority shut down operations in the United States?

usa_flag_waving.jpg

“Dollar for dollar, advertising in overseas markets was proven to generate a higher return on investment than the United States.”

… Canadian Tourism Commission VP talks about cancelling advertising in the USA

Return on Investment lacking for BTA’s efforts in the USA

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner - now selling!

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner – now selling!

Last month the Canadian Tourism Commission, the Crown corporation that acts as a national tourism marketing board for that country, announced that it was going to stop advertising in the United States.

I am sure it took many by surprise.

The Ottawa Sun seemed to capture the spirit behind the decision with a bold headline screaming ‘Ottawa no longer wants to waste time and money trying to lure American tourists to the land of moose, mountains and Mounties’.

At first this decision appears to defy any logic – to ignore an immediate neighbour with nine times your own population, a staggering  316 million potential visitors on your doorstep. Among the justfying reasons were that the typical US visitor spent, on average, only US$518  per trip to Canada last year – the lowest amount spent by any international visitor group. By contrast tourists from Brazil spent an average of US$1,874 per trip.

Canadian Tourism Commission vice-president of strategy and corporate communications, Paul Nursey, stated ‘Dollar for dollar, advertising in overseas markets was proven to generate a higher return on investment than the United States’. Since 2000 the share of tourism industry revenue from outside Canada has dropped from 35 per cent of the industry total to just below 19 percent and the decline is largely attributed to diminished travel from the U.S. market.

It got me thinking is there are any parallels with Barbados.

“Traditionally, the United States has always has always received the lion’s share of the annual Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) budget, and frankly I have always found this difficult to understand.”

In the five year inclusive  period  2003 to 2007, we welcomed 654,282* American long stay visitors. From 2008 to 2012 that number had marginally grown to 662,246* or just 7,965 additional people.

To put that in perspective, it only represents around 30 more visitors per week.  Continue reading

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Tourism statistics: Antigua UP, Barbados DOWN – Why?

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner - now selling!

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner – now selling!

Recently published online by Caribbean News Now, hotelier Rob Barrett, the CEO and operator of three hotels on Antigua, (St. James Club, Galley Bay and Verandah Resort and Spa) announced some very encouraging news…

‘The first quarter of 2013, January through March, has been the best quarter in terms of financial results I have experienced since coming to Antigua over 20 years ago, despite lingering and significant global economic challenges in both North America and the UK’.

Attributing some of the growth to, in his words, ‘I believe some of the recent strength is the result of positive changes happening on island which affect visitors’ perceptions from their welcome with improved customs and immigration processing to the more efficient taxi operations. These together provide an overall better arrival experience for visitors’.

Mr. Barrett also commented on ‘more positive Government cooperation as the tourism ministry seems more proactive in so many facets that bring heightened awareness to our island and people’.  Adding “we support the ministry’s efforts to deliver a new, more user friendly website and to work more closely with the private sector’ and ‘Antigua’s Government and Ministry of Tourism seems more progressive and accessible’

Are there any lessons that ‘we’ as a destination (Barbados) can learn from this? 

It would appear so. Antigua recorded an increase of 2.3 per cent in long stay visitors last year, compared with our decline of 5.5 per cent. A more than 7 per cent differential. Continue reading

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Tourist statistics for March… say hello to the Germans!

Barbados German Tourists

This just in…

In the interest of fairness and accuracy, retired diplomat Peter Simmons stated on Down to Brass Tacks yesterday that visitor arrivals were down 9 per cent for the first three months of 2013.

While long stay visitor arrivals were down 9 per cent in both January and February, they were only down 1.6 per cent in March.

In fact, cruise ship passenger arrivals were up by 9.2 per cent in March 2013. This is when compared with the same periods in 2012.

What was that old saying about statistics and people who use them?

Okay, so we know life is tough ’bout hey, but what does this mean…

March 2013 cruise ship passengers up 9.2% over March 2012

BUT….

March 2013 overall tourist visits down 1.6% compared to March 2012

TRANSLATION…

We had a couple of bigger boats in compared with last year, but the overall visitors are down.

The Germans are coming! The Germans are coming!

We had an extra 367 German visitors in March 2013 over March 2012. How much did those extra visitors cost us in increased BTA spending in Germany? I know you can’t look at it like that because you have to consider the cumulative impact of advertising, but while the Barbados Tourism Authority people will be happy to talk about the increase in Germans, what do they say about the loss of 385 Canadians and 1,431 Americans during the same period?

This is too heavy for me on a Thursday morning. I need a Banks…

=========================================
.                             March        March        Net YoY           YoY%
.                               2013           2012            Change
=========================================
TOTAL                53,304         54,164           -860          -1.6%
U.K                       18,550         17,601            949           5.4%
U.S.A                12,222         13,653         -1,431         -10.5%
Canada              9,086          9,471           -385          -4.1%
Germany            1,343            976            367          37.6%
Other Europe          2,825          2,459            366          14.9%
Trinidad & Tobago  2,937          2,982            -45          -1.5%
Other Caricom         4,237          4,653           -416          -8.9%
Other Countries       2,104          2,369           -265         -11.2%
===========================================
SOURCE: Barbados Statistical Service

Further Reading

Bloomberg Cruise Stats: Barbados Cruise, March 2013

Bloomberg Tourism Stats: Barbados Overall March 2013

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Barbados Tourism Authority takes a ride on Wigan Athletic’s Emmerson Boyce at the Wembley final

Emmerson Boyce Wigan

We at BFP and many others have been saying for years that the Barbados Tourism Authority should be constantly monitoring news and current events so that when a Bajan is mentioned they can capitalise on the publicity. It’s been a pathetic lack at the BTA for a long long time. We need all the positive vibes and publicity we can get and to miss opportunities to get it for free is almost criminal.

When Adele won six Grammy awards in 2012 it never occurred to the BTA to mention that her musical director is Bajan Miles Robertson. The BTA should have been so ready because anybody could see those awards coming a year in advance – but nothing was done. Contrast the BTA with the efforts of the Aruba Tourism Authority that received world coverage for Aruba by offering a vacation to the losers of the Super Bowl. Aruba received fantastic coverage for no money.

Now we’re happy to see Petra Roach of the BTA in the UK priming the media pump about Wigan Athletic’s captain Emmerson Boyced (photo above) – who qualifies as a Bajan through his parents who both have their navel strings buried in Barbados. Hey… any positive association is welcome!

Okay… that’s one. What’s on for next week, Petra?

Bajan Pride

Barbados International Boyce to captain Wigan Athletic in the Wembley final

THE WHOLE of Barbados will be rooting for Wigan Athletic when they take on mighty Manchester City in next month’s FA Cup final.

On May 11 Wigan will be captained by Barbados international Emmerson Boyce for football’s showpiece occasion. Many on the Caribbean island, and those Bajans that live in the UK, will for 90 minutes at least be cheering on the team known as the Latics.

After securing an FA Cup final berth after beating Millwall in the semi-final, Boyce said that his team’s victory was a dream come true. “I can’t wait for the final now,” he admitted.

Though born in England, Boyce was also eligible to play for the Barbados national team through his parents, who were both born in Barbados.

Boyce’s achievement has put the popular tourist destination in the spotlight as the FA Cup is the oldest and most prestigious domestic competition in football.

Petra Roach, vice president Sales & Marketing of the Barbados Tourism Authority UK, commented: “We’re delighted that Emmerson Boyce has led his team to success in the FA Cup semi-finals, and wish him and Wigan every success for the final.

“Having represented the Barbados national football team, Bajan Pride, Emmerson is not only a friend of Barbados but a fantastic ambassador for our country.

… continue reading this article at Voice Online

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Loveridge on Barbados election results: So many expectations, so little change

“We are currently facing an extended softer eight long summer months without any national marketing plan in place.”

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

I suppose you can put in down to my naivety, so long in coming, so many great expectations and then in hindsight, the reality of the situation. Almost 40 per 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. Irene Sandiford-Garner, appointed as a Parliamentary Secretary in the re-configured Ministry and Tourism and International Transport, when many of us years later are still puzzling why the two bodies were ever separated in the first place. The Senator brings her abilities in marketing to the table just at a time when this discipline is needed more than ever.

Shadowing the Ministry is Santia Bradshaw. While I don’t want to diminish her abundant legal qualifications, I am far from convinced that we need or want any more lawyers involved in tourism policy making. 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.

“While the global recession and the dreaded APD tax have helped stifle growth in visitor arrival numbers, they are not the sole cause of our dismal performance in tourism.”

Now is the time for solutions.   Continue reading

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Loveridge: Bajan government raised taxes, lowered revenues and ignored obvious tourism strategies

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

Is the predicted 6 or 7 per cent 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 CBB (Central Bank) from $683.4 million in 2011 to $666.6 million in 2012. A 6 per cent decrease in arrivals when compared to January 2012 would represent  3,157 less people and 7 per cent 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?

It doesn’t just end with tax collection, but has to take into account increased benefit payments due to lay-offs and reduced spending by those fully employed. And how will this also impact on overall occupancy levels during the critical four winter months and economy of scale and expense caused as a result of lower lodging levels? Of course these precious winter months also command the highest rooms rates, which in many cases helps the individual hotels limp through the softer summer period.

Are ‘we’ being pennywise and pound foolish?

A regular long stay Canadian visitor asked me why the BTA did not exhibit at the recently concluded Ultimate Travel Show held in Toronto. With a population approaching 6 million people in the Greater Toronto Area , all of which live within an hour’s drive of Pearson International Airport plus an BTA office in Canada’s largest city, I could not proffer an explanation. Given the climatic conditions, the time of the year and the falling arrival numbers it didn’t seem to make any sense at all. Continue reading

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Barbados Tourism Authority’s strategy for failure: We don’t advertise on TV because our current customers don’t watch TV

But if BTA advertised on TV, would their current customers come from a TV watching crowd?

‘We don’t advertise on television because our market intelligence tells us that our consumers do not watch much television. It is also a very expensive medium to invest in, so unless you have the money to be consistent it makes no sense to do it. Every advertising expert we have consulted has told us the same thing’.

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

This is a verbatim quote from one of our leading tourism policymakers and it got me thinking about the merits of these views. ‘Very expensive medium’ and ‘so unless you have the money’. You cannot really argue with either of those statements. But is that the point?

I then went onto YouTube and typed in ‘tourism tv commercials’ and started trying to tally the number of destinations and tourism brands that have produced  and aired ‘ads’ within the last two years. I lost count after one hundred, so do these national marketing agencies, hotel groupings, tour operators etc., employ different advertising experts, or simply ensure their expenditure is cost effective.

Sandals Resorts for instance, recently launched a series of 45 second commercials on British television and the century old travel giant, Thomas Cook, presently have a major tv campaign to boost January holiday bookings.

So do their clients not watch ‘much television’, or is it more about where and when their ‘experts’ decide to air the ‘ads’?

Of course you could argue that many of the destinations and travel companies have bigger promotional budgets and can afford this type of medium – but in a multitude of cases, that simply isn’t true.

Outstanding Newfoundland and Labrador: 21 percent increase in tourism revenues over five years!

One outstanding example is Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism. Their annual budget has been doubled during the last six years, but is still only CAD$13 million (about BDS$26 million). During their current series of TV ‘ads’, tourism spending has risen 21 per cent for the period 2005-2010, and non-resident visitors have increased by 7.3 per cent alone in 2010 to 518,500, despite any negative effects of the recession. Continue reading

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Adrian Loveridge: So much wrong with the Barbados Tourism Authority

BeatDeadHorse

Adrian takes his cane to a dead horse called the Barbados Tourism Authority…

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

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? Continue reading

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Canadian firefighter criticises lack of Barbados Tourism promotion in Ottawa, Canada

“Every Saturday the newspaper travel section comes out and there are trips everywhere except Barbados.”

Dear Barbados Free Press:

Thirty years ago I met my wife in Barbados, and the one promise I made was I would get her home every year if she moved to Canada. So you can imagine I am always watching the newspaper travel section about flights or packages to the island. Every Saturday the travel section comes out and there are trips everywhere except Barbados. What does your tourism authority do in Canada????

Ottawa is where we live and your embassy is should be ashamed of the lack of promotion of probably the best island in the Caribbean. When the average firefighter in Ottawa earns over 180,000 Barbados dollars a year, is this a market to be overlooked? The time is past for only name recognition to keep people coming. The Barbados Tourism Authority must be actively pursuing new tourists. That’s what the BTA are they paid for!

name withheld by BFP editor

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BTA’s plan is too little, too late to impact the rest of the tourist high season

Price slashing a poisoned quick fix?

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

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 and that’s before considering all the additional costs including maintenance, crewing, fuel, airport charges etc.  So it’s simply not feasible to have it sitting around on the tarmac.

The larger operators own or lease their own aircraft but the smaller ones buy blocks of seats on scheduled or charter airlines. Accommodation has to be contracted with a lead time sufficient enough to market the package, either through High Street travel agents or online.

So if a destination can have any meaningful impact on ensuring those committed seats and beds are filled, it has limited ways of achieving this.

Raising the profile of the destination can help, but if the more traditional ways are used (for instance by advertising in various media options) this can be incredibly expensive even if the national marketing agency has the funds available. Another way is to stimulate demand by pricing – or put another way, discounting the product offering.

As late as 26th April, the Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados was predicting growth in tourism for this year. Included in the three pillars that would make this happen, (and mentioned several times) were the developments at Port Ferdinand, Four Seasons and Merricks Resort. We now realise of course that two out of three of these projects are not going to make any meaningful contribution whatsover, at least for 2012.

After a ‘lacklustre’ summer, any possible recovery seems almost totally dependent on a profitable, but short, four month winter season. Even in normal circumstances it’s a huge gamble – but the situation is anything but ‘normal’ with many tourism businesses economically hanging on by their fingernails.

While several industry players have been outspoken, citing eroded margins caused by unbudgeted increases in operational costs, their cries have largely been ignored by the policymakers.

What this winter offers for many of these enterprises is the bare possibility of survival, so discounting cannot be the solution. Without wanting to sound too dramatic, if tourism enterprises are forced to take this path of price cutting, it could be the recipe for disaster.

The predicament is that the ‘planners’ have left it so late that there may be no practical alternative if a business wants to survive to fight another year.

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Horror stories of the Barbados Tourism Authority

Why is it always so hard to get some action?

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

If you took a straw poll asking who is the most respected broadcasting source, I am sure that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) would be up there, probably at the top of the list. Therefore if a seasoned producer from that esteemed organisation, filmed and presented a professionally made short video, portraying Barbados from a very unsual perspective, wouldn’t it be of interest?

Apparently, not, because our national marketing organisation didn’t even bother to acknowledge receipt of this, and other videos submitted!

I cannot recall just how many times I have heard this from various people, over the years and it graphically reminds me of one of my own personal experiences. I am not going to indicate exactly the year it happened, as the then CEO has moved on, hopefully to other avenues where his skills can be better exploited.

Entirely on my own volition and expense, I  travelled down to Brazil for a week, flying from Bridgetown to Parimaribo (Surinam), Cayenne (French Guyana) and then Belem, with SLM Airways. I met with senior executives of the airline and METS, the long established travel organisation, who were both keen to grow a route between Belem and Barbados, which is only 1,258 miles, or a flying time of around two and a half hours. Then with their representatives in Brazil, major tour operators, travel agents and even the head of what is now Belemtur, the tourism marketing agency of Para State.

At that time, even with over 20 connecting city possibilities to other Brazilian cities, a resident population of around 7.5 million people within close proximity of Belem airport, it was still critical to view it as a holistic approach to what was deemed then, a new emerging market. We also carefully looked at the incredible agro-processing sector in North Brazil, because airfreight charges could play a vital role in the economics of the route.

I wrote a detailed report, based on my meetings, offering suggestions on how ‘we’ could possibly implement such a plan and hand-delivered it to the Harbour Road, BTA offices. I also discussed my findings with the Brazilian Ambassdor to Barbados at that time, who expressed enormous interest.

Weeks went by, with at no time receiving any acknowledgement of the evaluation , until one evening, while attending one of the many ‘cocktail’ parties. Also present was the BTA CEO/President, and I shall always remember his response, when asking if he had seen my detailed observations.

To this day, it frankly still shocks me. ‘Well we can’t respond to everything, you know’.

Even with a staff compliment of over 130 persons, I suppose he was right. But I wonder just how many other enthusiastic persons, with ideas and concepts they feel have merit, are just left disillusioned and their time has been wasted.

There appears to have been a notable increase in the number of visitors commenting on our tourism product and performance in the local press recently and through the various social media sites. If ‘we’ plan to stay in the tourism business, it is absolutely critical that we respond in a timely manner. Otherwise, even seasoned visitors may just get the impression that we do not truly value their business and move on to one of the very many other destinations on offer.

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Shadow Tourism Minister Ronald Toppin: “Barbados Tourism Authority ‘running from bailiffs around the world.” !!!

Outrageous statement from Barbados Labour Party Member of Parliament

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

Sadly every five years or so, we have grown accustomed to, and sometimes forced into hearing some pretty outrageous utterings from those that either represent us in Parliament – or who aspire to.

A video recently posted on YouTube really grabbed my attention, features such a person, while addressing his constituents. Perhaps the phrase ‘political silly season’ explains this situation graphically.

I quote verbatim from shadow Minister of Tourism, Ronald Toppin: ‘The Barbados Tourism Authority owes $42 million’, ‘is in serious debt’ and is literally ‘running from bailiffs around the world’.

Perhaps from an ordinary citizen, these comments could simply be disregarded as pure speculation, but on this occasion, they were spoken by the Shadow Minister of Tourism. Despite the video being widely distributed, no statement in rebuttal, up until the time of submitting this column has been made by the current actual Minister of Tourism or a spokesperson for the BTA, so we are all left to speculate if these statements are factually true.

Mr. Toppin was rather vague on what exactly the quoted $42 million owing covered. Does this include the $30 million loan taken out to subsidise the disastrous chartering of the cruise ship, Carnival Destiny, for instance, which of course, took place under the previous administration?

Knowing the worldwide coverage of social media sites, the question that really has to be raised: are these seemingly ‘informed’ comments in the national interest? To remind readers that YouTube is the most popular video sharing site and the second largest search engine, only after Google.

Did this person consider the incalculable harm that could be inflicted on the reputation of the destination?

It would be almost impossible to function as an effective national marketing organisation without the support of advertising agencies, public relations companies and the various forms of paid media – Let alone the airlines who currently service Barbados, that Mr. Toppin also mentioned are supposedly owed monies. We have already lost substantial airlift and gateways including Philadelphia, Atlanta and more recently, Dallas/Fort Worth.

The video also appears to have official Barbados Labour Party approval as it was posted by BLPNews, which has a direct link to the opposition website.

Of course the slowness in the BTA settling its bills is nothing new. Many will tell you that it has been going on for years. What is surprising, is the amount quoted and why has it has been allowed, if proven, to have lingered on so long – Especially, when the current Chairman has a degree in accounting and spent a number of years with one of the world’s largest auditing firms. Surely, he is kept fully briefed on financial matters and realises the damaging knock-on effect this could have?

When for instance, the next tender goes out, either for renewing an existing account, or replacing the current advertising agency, I cannot imagine any reputable company pitching for the business, would not conduct fiscal due diligence to gauge a potential client’s track history of prompt settlement.

With so many critical issues already challenging our number one foreign currency earner, is it too much to hope, that the contributions made by our politicians, either in power or opposition, leading up to the election are constructive and enlightened.

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Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Economy

Barbados Tourism Authority ‘winging it’ without proper research and knowledge

Domino’s Pizza respected their critics, learned and came out reinvigorated and reinvented. Barbados needs to do the same.

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

In many respects YouTube is a wonderful thing and used responsibly can be a great educational device and a powerful marketing tool. I recently watched a video entitled ‘Domino’s Pizza Turnaround’ –  the true story of how Domino listened to its harshest critics and made their best pizza ever. (YouTube video above)

At the time of writing this column, almost another million people had watched it and while the product isn’t directly related to our tourism offerings, it’s difficult not to draw parallels. Perhaps now is finally the time to sit down and better listen to our customers, our visitors, and ask them what we are doing right and conversely, what we are doing wrong.

“There comes a time when you know you’ve got to make a change.”

“You can either use negative comments to get you down, or you can use them to excite you and energize your process and make it better… We did the latter.”

… Opening statement from The Pizza Turnaround

From a very early working age, I was incredibly lucky to work with some visionary, inspirational and subsequently highly successful people. One thing, that never left the forefront of my mind is that if you expect to sell any commodity, product or service effectively, is that you had better know everything about. And could that be why, perhaps, we are not witnessing an increase in the number of visitors to our shores, when many other destinations are.

Years ago, when I participated in a number of overseas sales and promotional events, both consumer and trade travel to support the BTA’s efforts, I felt that I had an overwhelming obligation, obviously not just to know about our own little property, but as many other hotels, attractions and restaurants as well. I cannot think or more than four or five hotels on Barbados that I have not either personally visited and in several cases actually stayed in. Similarly, I have experienced our many dining options and activities.

“How many from the Barbados Tourism Authority have actually stayed in a package room at some of the hotels at the gap?”

Yet, if you look closely at our tourism policymakers, the agencies they represent, including the hundreds of staff at the Barbados Tourism Authority and Ministry of Tourism, how many can say the same? Start with the board of the BTA for instance. How can you possibily make informed decisions and define strategies, when you do not have an intimate knowledge of the product, warts and all?

It is not a criticism, but a simple basic common sense observation.

Recalling some of the larger travel shows, often on your feet, for hours at a time, of course, a huge spectrum of society is going to approach you, but at least you knew whatever the question, that you were capable of offering an informed answer. Matching the right product with the client’s need is absolutely critical, if you want people to return.

In an evermore competitive world, ‘winging it’ is no longer an acceptable way of doing business. And if you are not throughly au fait with your own product, how can you compare it with the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors?

Has the time finally come, to put all the politics aside and place the very best qualified people in place with proven ability, irrespective of any party allegiance, to the benefit of the entire country and its population. It would appear that so very much depends on ‘us’ having a profitable winter season ahead.

In the national interest can ‘we’ continue to, or afford to take further chances with this industry?

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Barbados Tourism Authority Chairman Adrian Elcock: We’re trying to be like St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Elcock talks a good game, but what’s with the negative results in the latest tourist arrival stats?

by Passin Thru

“I think what we’ve been doing is trying to make Barbados a cool place to be…

The Grenadines is what tourism is to St. Vincent. It’s cool. You know you can go down to the cay, or whatever and have that little charming getaway. We’re trying to create that same aura here”

BTA Chairman Adrian Elcock starting at about 5 minutes and 45 seconds into the YouTube video CROP OVER 2012 – Adrian Elcock, Chairman, BTA – ZYNC TV

No kidding. That’s what BTA Chair Adrian Elcock says at about where we’re going with our tourism. Yes, he says much more than that and a lot of it is good and good concepts and ideas.

But what about the implementation? Where are the positive results?

We are in trouble.

Barbados tourist arrivals down 12% despite Crop-Over. July cruise ship arrivals down 37%

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Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism