Last Year Over 600,000 Brits Went To Dubai When They Could Have Come To BIM
Tourism now constitutes 30% of Dubai’s GDP. In 2006 over 6.5 million hotel guests stayed in Dubai and generated US$3.1 Billion dollars.
In 2006, 245,000 Brits Visited Barbados…
… but during that same year, 600,000 Brits chose Dubai over Barbados. That disparity will keep growing as Dubai uses tourism profits and oil revenues to invest heavily in tourism infrastructure. World famous attractions like the Burj Al Arab Hotel (Acknowledged as the best hotel in the world) and the Palm Islands development are tough for Barbados to match. (Palm Island is the largest land-reclamation project in the world, and can be seen with the naked eye from the space shuttle!)
Want to go snowboarding or downhill skiing in Dubai? No problem.
Only a short five years ago, Barbados Tourism authorities made jokes about tourism in Dubai – saying “Sure, sure. Take a tour of the sand dunes. Ha ha ha!”
Guess what? Thousands and thousands of tourists now tour the desert in Dubai.
What else is there and coming in Dubai?
How about the world’s largest shopping mall, the world’s tallest building, the world’s largest theme park “Dubailand” and two more man-made islands giving Dubai the three largest man-made islands in the world. (see TravelMole article here)
Time To Look At Our Current Travel Leadership In Barbados
Our own small hotel owner Adrian Loveridge is far more knowledgeable about the travel industry than I will ever be, so I hope he reads this article and gives us the benefit of his wisdom. (Type quietly please, Adrian. I’m still recovering from last Saturday night at Crop-Over!)
As this layperson sees it, Barbados tourism has two main problems, and two huge assets.
First, the problems…
1/ Lack of Focus and Identity – We Have Lost Our Way
Under the current leadership, Barbados Tourism has suffered from an identity crisis. We don’t know what we want to be anymore and our messages to the world reflect this confusion and desperation. Noel Lynch says that Barbados will never be a “mass destination” and he is correct. Being a “mass destination” relies upon two things – proximity to major markets and price. We have neither compared with, say, Cuba or Florida.
Yet our tourism leadership persists with the “Best of Barbados” – pouring tax dollars into heavily subsidizing certain markets in an attempt to put us on a par price-wise with “mass destinations”. Linda Thompkins of My Barbados Blog is an American travel agent who specializes in Barbados travel. She estimates that less than 15% of her “Best of Barbados” clients return to our island as they are only seeking sun, sand and cheap.
Best of Barbados doesn’t seem to me to be a very wise strategy to attract long term loyalty from quality tourists. Pushing Barbados as a “budget” destination also sends the wrong message to the better quality traveler. We are trying to be all things to all people, and that is a recipe for disaster in any business unless you are Walmart or Orlando, Florida.
2/ Deteriorating Tourism Product Features Including Accommodations, Tourist Attractions and the Natural Environment
Instead of spending our tax and tourism revenues on areas that reinforce our main industry, our leadership built mega-projects of dubious value when it comes to supporting tourism. We have no reliable mass or rapid transit, but we will have half a billion dollars of flyovers when that project is finished. Many areas of the island lack reliable water, but we have a hundred million dollar cricket venue that will never again be used for Cricket World Cup or any other major event within the foreseeable future. (Hey… do you really think that FIFA championship is coming to Barbados after our performance with cricket?)
We still have raw sewerage running onto some of our beaches and despite the best efforts of Ian Bourne and the gang, there is garbage dumped everywhere on this island.
The GEMS hotels scam has produced fabulous world class hotels like Time Out At The Gap – which is only rivaled by some of the seedier whore houses I stayed in when visiting New Jersey a few years back. (No, I didn’t really stayed in a whore house, but a certain Super 8 Motel near Atlantic City was pretty close!)
The government is committed to walling off the coast with new condos and time share scams and would rather pave over our most beautiful natural areas or make them into garbage dumps.
In short – the spending priorities of the Government of Barbados have been all wrong for at least the last ten years. This failure of priorities, coupled with wanton corruption and thieving on a scale never before been seen on this island, has slowly but surely destroyed our tourism industry.
What’s Good About Barbados And Tourism?
We still have our island as it is and the fabulous resource of the Bajan people. These are our two most important tourism assets.
Coming Next: Part 2: Barbados Tourism – Where To From Here?