Big Tourist Operators and Condos Killing Barbados Jobs and Sub-economies. We Need A Stategic Vision and Honest Leadership Now

Peach and Quiet.jpg

"If tourism is doing so well, why are we losing so many of our hotels, so many jobs in tourism?"

…Small hotelier Adrian Loveridge of Peach and Quiet Hotel, Christ Church, Barbados.

…And citing figures from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security's recently published Statistical Digest, Loveridge said that one in seven – 14 per cent or 2,000 jobs – had been lost in the tourism sector between 2002 and 2004 – down from 14,200 to 12,200 in three years. (Nation Newspaper article here.)

What is Going On With Our Tourism Industry?

Hotel operator Martin Richards is just about to sell his King's Beach Hotel to a British investor who will be tear it down and build condos…

"A number of the resorts and restaurants are closing and turning into condominiums because the all-inclusive product has killed the restaurant trade, and it is killing the smaller, independently-run hotels.

"[All-inclusives] don't provide any business to Barbados, with the exception of the resort the people stay in. They don't provide any business to the restaurants, taxis, shops, supermarkets, gas stations, because people go to the resorts and stay there . . . . It's not good for Barbados; it's not good for tourism," he said.

Richards said the hotel he owned for ten years had also suffered the consequences of the big tour operator and the larger [all-inclusive] hotels, with their 600-plus rooms, agreeing rates as low as US$65 a night. He said with King's Beach rack rate at US$285 a night, they couldn't survive.

The Future – Big Competition from… Cuba?

That is the situation now, but as we mentioned in our article "Cuba After Castro – What Does It Mean For Barbados?", a free Cuba will change everything in the Caribbean tourist industry. Competition is going to get tougher… much tougher…

The threat that Cuba presents to our tourism industry cannot be overstated.

Thanks to the USA’s embargo and travel ban, Barbados has not had to vie with Cuba for American tourism dollars. With a dramatic resurgence in the Cuban tourism industry, and an increased number of Cuban resorts catering to both the low and high-end tourists from the USA and Europe, can Barbados still be competitive? We already lose significant visitors to Cuba from the Canadian and European markets. Without the American-legislated “head-start” how will we fare?

Leadership & Strategic Vision Needed Now

For a country that relies so heavily upon tourism dollars, Barbados seems to lack a central strategic plan to ensure the health of this vital industry. Yes, we see efforts here and there – government conferences, promotions by hired PR firms out of New York City, Bajan food tastings in the U.K., and our Tourism Minister attending investment conferences in the Middle East – but all this seems hodge-podge without an overall strategic plan and vision.

Condos are springing up willy-nilly where tourists used to stay – dramatically shifting the nation's visitor demographics and killing local restaurants and other tourist-dependent businesses. This seems to be happening without controls or debate.

Back in January before he bolted for the Government side of the house, then Opposition Leader Clyde Mascoll charged that the wholesale rush to condos was harming the tourist industry.

Haven't heard too much about this lately from Mr. Mascoll because he is now being a good little boy and obviously doing as told. That's just what happens the Leader of the Opposition trades sides.

Barbados Sacrificing The Future For Quick Dollars Now

The huge international tourist operations do not care about the long-term sustainability of Barbados' tourist industry. They don't care about the health of our families, our jobs and our society. All they care about is cheap rooms and profits. When Barbados is burned out, there will be plently of other islands to take our place.

Similarly, the condo developers have their own short-term interests in mind – and not the interests of Bajans or their country. This is just how things are, which is why we need honest and bright people in national and local leadership… people who will fight for the future and not sell out for quick money.

We wouldn't even care when the current Government and their friends steal and feather their nests a bit – if they would only look after the future of Barbados as well as they mind their own bank accounts.

11 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Business, Island Life, Offshore Investments, Politics & Corruption, Traveling and Tourism

11 responses to “Big Tourist Operators and Condos Killing Barbados Jobs and Sub-economies. We Need A Stategic Vision and Honest Leadership Now

  1. Pat

    There is no point in lamenting what will definitely happen if and when Castro dies. Americans are chomping at the bit to get in there. If Bajans were smart, they would enter into an agreement with the Cuban government and build a few hotels jointly with Cuba. Mexico, Spain, CP Airlines and others have done it. Of course, Cuba has the majority share, but at least it is a foot in the door.

    Contrary to what many people think, thousands of Americans now vacation in Cuba every year. You meet them at the resorts and on the beach, restaurants, stores, etc. They fly to Montreal or Montego Bay and board the plane for Cuba from there. The Cuban government does not stamp their passports, but give them a travel card which is handed in when they depart.

    Each time I travelled to Cuba there were Americans on my flight going on holiday there. I live in Canada.

  2. Biscoe

    What is BFP’s solution to our long-term tourism strategy. Its easy to quote a failed hotelier (and by the way I don’t know of a single 600 room hotel in Barbados) and blame all-inclusives, tour operators and condos, but what is your vision.

    Where would you pitch Barbados in the marketplace? Would you go for the mass market that is most susceptible to economic shocks? How would you respond to a changing marketplace that prefers property ownership? Would you go for villa development that places more of our land per square foot in foreign hands?

    And what about our largely run-down South Coast plant? How would you tackle the several mom and pop operations from another era in our tourism development?

    And then there are the much touted brand-name hotels that appeal to the US market? Would you encourage more of these? By the way through three owners can you tell us what brand owned Sandy Lane?

    Hospitality is not a static industry. There is no twenty year set piece that will provide all the answers. It ebbs and flows with the economic fortunes of the marketplace. So we need to change and respond to a constantly changing marketplace. From what I can see perhaps the condo business is an alternative to the tour operator business and contrary to popular belief it does employ people. Condo visitors are more likely to eat out at restaurants, visit nightclubs, buy food from the supermarkets (opportunities here for local farmers), rent cars or hire taxis. Their owners pay taxes and their investment is for the long haul. So how many is the right number?

    When you consider the competition in the Middle East, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, the Barbados brand is more than just fortunate to remain top of mind, particularly in the UK. We must be doing something right. A long standing good reputation coupled with low crime rates are a big plus. Can we do better? Of course we can. Our service can be better and we must never become complacent. Value for money still means something whether you are a millionaire or value vacationer.

    So tell us BFP what are your views?

  3. BFP

    Hello Biscoe

    All good questions – and you unintentionally reinforce one of our points: all changes are being done without planning. At best, development on Barbados has been, and is, organized chaos.

    Firstly, we should be doing everything we can to a/ maintain-grow our tourist industry, while, b/ diversifying our economy on an emergency basis.

    We have for so long tried to make ourselves into an upscale tourist destination – due in part to our increased distance & cost from the major closest market: North America. We will never be able to compete as a “mass” working class tourist destination, so we tried to go upscale.

    The problem with going upscale is that the upscale tourists expect certain standards – which, so far, Barbados has met.

    But a series of governments have neglected infrastructure, and risked the very qualities of Barbados that bring in the upscale tourists. Our island-wide used-refrigerator-by-the-side-of-the-road sales lot is hardly an upscale tourist attraction.

    Cuba is a big big part of the future for every economy in the Caribbean. The investment that will flow into that country from ex-patriots living in America will be a tsunami of cash – just as soon as Castro dies. When it happens, Barbados had better have a “Plan B” already in place, because our tourism sector is going to take a big hit for about ten years.

    We don’t have all the solutions at this time Biscoe – but neither are we content to remain silent while we see the approaching danger.

    OK…. here is something we can do that would immediately increase the efficiency of government and cut infrastructure expense….

    Introduce Integrity Legislation in Barbados for Government employees and elected officials.

    That would save millions upon millions in the first week.

  4. Biscoe

    BFP

    Thanks for the prompt reply.

    So you agree that the government does have a policy of attracting the upscale visitor. We have come full circle to our tourism origins of the Ronald Trees, Claudette Colberts and Janet Kidds buying property on the west coast. The only difference in a liberated global economy is that today’s buyers are what might be referred to in some circles as new money. Self made men (and women) who buy for prestige not because they love the place and want to be part of it, even if only for a few months of the year. And you are right they are more demanding. Nothing wrong with that. It is their money.

    I am not as worried about the Cuban factor as you are. First we do not attract any significant Hispanic capital or visitors so no loss there. Second Cuba will likely attract the mass market, as it does now via Canadian and European operators. We may lose a few there. With Raoul likely to succeed Fidel I don’t see any softening in US foreign policy, so there is unlikely to be any flood of US tourists. You will also note that in recent months there has been a resurgence of leftist goverments in South America. Cuba is no longer politically isolated in the region and is once more a centre of influence along with Chavez in the new Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

    The upmarket British visitor, although more adventurous than his American equivalent is unlikely to invest in Cuban property, even if he is allowed to, until the Cuban brand becomes stable and well recognised in the marketplace. People with money generally look at the ROI. That eventuality is still many, many years off.

    It took Barbados years to build the brand we have. I believe the government’s policy of aiming for the high end of the market is the correct one. After all a man can fly to a different destination and stay in a different hotel every year, but if he owns a property here he has a vested interest in coming back. He has to maintain his property and employ people. He will encourage his family, friends and business associates to come. He wants to stay where his neighbours and friends earn a million pounds a year. So fear not BFP we are on the right track.

    As for saving millions by introducing Integrity Legislation. What a joke. How much money has it saved Trinidad from way back to the days of Johnny O’Halloran and the Caroni racetrack. And how on earth will it make government more efficient. Don’t be so naive BFP. Not that I am against Integrity Legislation in principle. Don’t get me wrong. But corruption goes far beyond government. White collar corruption is fast becoming a big problem in Barbados. Everywhere you go to do business you are expected to pay kickbacks for contracts or to get sales. Why don’t you investigate this.

    And while you are at it why don’t you investigate the influence of Mr Duprey’s empire in Bim. Insurance, banking, agriculture, construction, the media and now hotels. What is his connections through Leroy Parris to the Leader of the Opposition. What influence will Duprey bring to bear on a future DLP government. We have already seen what he is capable of in his dealing with the former Prime Minister of Trinidad. This is something that concerns me greatly as a Bajan.

    I look forward to your thoughts on this looming danger.

  5. John

    Biscoe

    Glad to see you recognise the HAND FROM THE SOUTH as a looming danger.

    Lets see if we can list a few Barbadian assets that have passed into the HAND.

    I can think of

    Plantations Ltd.
    The Cotton Factory
    AHI Plastics
    BIM Beverages
    Todds Plantation
    Henley Plantation
    Wakefield Plantation
    Barbados National Bank

    There are more. Help me list them and lets also list the years ownership passed into the HAND.

    We might find some startling commonalities.

  6. John

    We might even be able to determine a long range strategy!!

    We might even be able to figure out who hatched it!!

  7. Biscoe

    Hi John;

    Add

    Rayside Construction
    Sam Lord’s Castle
    Nation Corporation
    Crystal Heights Development
    AT&T partner in B’dos & Eastern C’bean

  8. John

    Plantations Ltd. owned Four Square Estates.

    Four Square Estates was sold to COW I think.

    Construction needs land for Quarries.

    Construction also needs banks to finance it.

    Ditto Tourism!!

    Ditto Golf developments!

    Any linkages and JVs evidenced in these assets listed so far?

    Any predictions for the future?

    Hmmmm!!

  9. John

    If I am thinking right one final ingredient would be needed.

    TCPO permission!!

  10. ross

    So who makes the final decisions in relation to town planning permissions? One man – Prime Minister Owen Arthur. It’s a good thing he is a man of integrity or who knows what would happen.

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