"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.