Everyone Has The Same Idea: Chinese Tourism Will Save Us!

Chinese Tourist

With so many countries looking for Chinese tourists, what can Barbados do to stand out?

What does Barbados have in common with Bermuda, Italy, the U.K., Guam, Georgia, New York City, the Emirates, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Viet Nam, Germany, Malaysia, Fiji, Ecuador, Montenegro, Egypt, France, India, Mexico, Thailand, Bahamas, Amsterdam, Indonesia and New Zealand?

Every one of those places (and more) recently announced an intention to court the Chinese outbound tourist market in an effort to counter losses from the current financial crisis. Yup… we’re all relying on China to make up the losses we’ve seen in tourist dollars from our regular markets. It sounds like a great plan in Barbados, until you Google “China + Tourism” and see how many other countries have the same idea!

Is the Chinese tourist pie so big that it can be cut into that many slices? And why should the Chinese want to come to Barbados rather than one of the other destinations approved by their Communist government?

Of the two questions, perhaps the second one is more important for the Barbados tourism industry. Why would a Chinese tourist want to come to Barbados instead of some other destination?

Sizzle without Steak is no longer sustainable

As I see it, successful tourism is about doing a few basic things well: defining your product(s), identifying likely target groups, selling the sizzle – but being able to deliver enough steak once the tourists get to the destination that they don’t feel deceived and disappointed.

Barbados has traditionally been good at the sale, but not so great at delivering a product that matches the promotion. You don’t need to believe me about that: just head over to YouTube and watch a few Barbados Tourism commercials (here, here & here) – then think about the expectations that were created and the tough reality of fulfilling those expectations. Now consider the reality of too much garbage on the streets, the traffic in the city and the shortage of open space, beach access and parking on the “Platinum Coast” (a BTA-created phrase if I ever heard one).

The difference between sizzle and steak is not very different from other tourist destinations though. Disney World shows happy people in their commercials, but leaves out the kids puking on the rides. Disney also doesn’t tell you that Orlando has a violent crime rate that is triple the U.S. national average! Thefts are a little better at only double the national rate.

Similarly the folks who promote Paris don’t tell you that so many of that city’s residents urinate anywhere they choose that the place smells little better than a sewer in the summer. Hardly the romantic image beloved by the people who create the Paris Tourist Board commercials. And to top it off… you thought Bridgetown shop clerks were sullen? You should experience the miserable souls who staff the tourist traps on rue de Rivoli!

The Web has changed the world, but does the Barbados Tourism Authority realise what that really means?

Every destination has to deal with the dichotomy between the advertised image and the reality. The difference today is that countries can’t so easily get away with cover-ups and false advertising. The web has reduced the ability of governments and the news media to fool all of the people all of the time. Barbados can pay foreign journalists to write positive articles (and we pay top dollar!), but hundreds or thousands of tourists will still report the truth on the web for all to see. Read some of the Trip Advisor reviews of horrible hotels and you’ll understand what I mean. (Time Out at the Gap, anyone? “Don’t go there” says a visitor from Scotland.)

That brings us to the Chinese market. The Chinese are connected online like few other countries. Heavily censored and monitored of course, but there are still so many Chinese on the internet that only a few bad experiences in Barbados could have a totally disproportionate impact if posted on the net by disgruntled tourists. There are many topics that Chinese can’t talk about online, but (although I have no specific knowledge) I would be surprised if hotel reviews about Barbados are a prohibited topic!

Our government is doing its best to tap the giant Chinese tourism market. We’ve opened a mission and sent a former Prime Minister as Ambassador and that says much to the Chinese about how we value their business. No doubt we will produce some fine promotional videos and written materials that are scientifically tuned to attract the targeted audience. We’ve probably already hosted some Chinese journalists and politicians – plying them with the best tours, alcohol, accommodations and meals that we can scrounge up.

All that is the sizzle. But what about the steak?

Think of the multitudes in Beijing or Hong Kong as they consider a trip half way around the world to Barbados. What do they hope to find? What are they trying to get away from? What do they expect from the ordinary Bajan on the street?

I don’t know the answer to any of those questions – but if our government is really serious about the Chinese, we’d better start telling our citizens and our hospitality industry about the cultural differences and expectations of our Chinese guests or this opportunity will evaporate as quickly as you can say, “I don’t like this hotel room.”

…article by J.M. with a little help from Cliverton

Further Reading

Voice Online UK: Barbados: Caribbean urged to pursue Chinese tourists


Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, China, Tourism, Travel, Traveling and Tourism

41 responses to “Everyone Has The Same Idea: Chinese Tourism Will Save Us!

  1. Pitter Pater my son

    Remember this website?

    I have all of it’s contents. Proof of BFP and Marcus T.

    Do you also recall the BFP article which “suggested” that Royal Barbados police are on the take? Maybe one of them a Sargeant Paul Vaughn may interested in who is Behind BFP.

  2. David Ross

    Well, yeah; but they wouldn’t say “loom” for “room”, because that’s a feature of Japanese and Korean, not Chinese.

    The Chinese might be interested in the east coast – the Scotland has that eroded, rugged look one sees in inland China. (If I were Japanese I would prefer a volcanic Carib island. They do love Hawaii…)

  3. Mobutu

    J.M. understands very little about the motives behind modern travel. A tourist who engages in conspicuous consumption by travelling halfway across the world to a destination like Barbados is probably just seeking cultural novelty (a place with a different “feel”), and the social status that comes from boasting back home that they have been somewhere famous that practically nobody else has visited. These are requirements Barbados can easily satisfy, and it is irrelevant that other places may have even more to offer, if those places don’t have superior tourist industry “connections”. If spectacular physical beauty or cultural attractions mattered that much, would high-cost Barbados have competed so successfully for so long against Spain, the Seychelles, Cancun, Anguilla, the Turks & Caicos, Antigua, or St. Lucia?

  4. Curious

    Tom Adams as a national hero????? Please give us a break. Who killed him and why wasn’t there an autopsy.

  5. Lady Anon

    Our tourism marketing strategy needs to be revamped…as we have been saying over and over.

    The sun and the sea are not enough anymore because other places have that at a cheaper cost…we need to market what makes us unique…what no other destination has or has but not as well, and market that.

  6. ComeHere

    The absolute lack of common sense on the part of all things Barbados these days is mind numbing. The Chinese? Does any rational person believe that we can entice ANY person from that side of the world to travel for 24 hours to an expensive Caribbean destination when they have tropical locations of their own with a similar culture less than 2 hours away? We cannot even increase the great American tourist traffic despite spending 40 million lying to them about how great we have things here in BIM! The internet has been the downfall for our tiny island because it lays bare to the world our nasty little family secrets. And spot on point BFP: tourists come away from Barbados saying few pleasant things but even fewer return. Americans especially, because there is no quality of life here !! Great life STYLE, perhaps, but no quality. Expensive EVERYTHING, bad customer service is EXPECTED, and wholesale corruption with no repercussions. It is sadly too late to return to the “Nise” Bajan zeitgeist of a bygone generation. We have lost the plot.

  7. a novel idea

    Instead of buying Caribbean votes at the UN for fishing and other international influence peddling initiatives, maybe China could help Barbados with their Tourist infrastructure and tourism product by actively being seen to protect and preserve their green spaces.

  8. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Barbados: Tourism & The Web

  9. Hants

    Barbados only has to get 3/4 million+- Tourists every year to visit.

    Not that difficult given the BTA infrastructure in major markets.

    What is critical is that the hotels,restaurants and stores in Barbados live up to the hype.

    Nobody will be happy to pay $100 for a hot steak on a cold plate or dolphin (mahi mahi) that taste like salt fish.

  10. Phillippa Nandwani

    It take about 3 days and over $3,000 to get from Barbados to China. Does this government plan to introduce casino gambling?

    How else does the government expect to attract the Chinese? With construction down, it cannot even bring them here to work, furthermore spend.

    The frightening thing is, we seem to have a good idea that all of the countries you mention also have. Some ting wong!!!

  11. Message for Mobutu

    Mobutu’s thoughts are the reason we are in trouble. For years Barbados got by on reputation created through adverts and paid journalism but failed to deliver “the steak” as BFP puts it.

    To join Hants in carrying the food illustration further, the internet reduced the viability of promising steak and delivering hamburg for steak prices.

    Mobutu says it doesn’t matter, the Chinese tourists will come anyway. I think it does matter and Mobutu’s rejection of quality of product as being important is a prescription for failure in this new Chinese market.

  12. rasta man

    The only reason Chinese come to Barbados is to offer cheap labour to Barbadians, not to spend any money.

  13. Jack Bowman

    Mr. Pitter Pater (who can’t spell “patter”) beams down to pose a question: “Remember this website? Rhondapaterson.wordpress.com”

    No. I don’t remember that website. But I remember you, “Adrian.” I remember you well.

    Bless you, and take care of yourself.

  14. PiedPiper

    If the Chinese are prepared to travel great distances to get to a vacation destination they will choose the U.S. first above all other choices. It is well known that the Chinese are enamoured of all things American and in particular the huge themeparks and tourist traps such as Graceland/Elvis Preley to Dollywood/Dolly Parton. The Chinese also love conspicuous consumption and the ability to buy haute couture designer clothes and all the bling that goes with it.
    If the Chinese come to Barbados, it will not be as tourists but as investors. They are always looking for a way to parlay there money into quick return investments. Is this what Bajans really want?

  15. Mobutu

    I remember listening to many Americans complaining–thirty years ag–that the Cayman Islands and Aruba were rip-offs because there was “nothing there”. Yet these destinations are still doing excellent business today. We should not be so pessimistic about our prospects: the small-island ambience is priceless for millions of Europeans and North Americans. I am not endorsing complacency: there are obvious planning failures on the west and south coasts that should be addressed. But Barbados is a successful niche market, which does not need to satisfy every cruise-ship visitor who is pinching her pennies. We are still OK with the wealthier crowd.

  16. BFP

    “But Barbados is a successful niche market, which does not need to satisfy every cruise-ship visitor who is pinching her pennies. We are still OK with the wealthier crowd.”

    Good point Mobutu – but only to a degree. Something has gone wrong even with the wealthy markets. Every country that relies upon tourism is in trouble, but many of us sense that something else has happened that is destroying the qualities of our island that we rely upon to attract these wealthy crowd people.

  17. ComeHere

    The “wealthy” people no longer have any discretionary spending money ! The up market demographic we used to see here and market to is a distant memory. It will be a long, long time before the faux boom times reappear. Yes, the hand full of the true super rich who live and visit here for 6 to 8 weeks maximum per year are weathering the economic storm, but tell that to the owners of 1/2 empty year round hotels and struggling restaurants, to service companies, to all of the suppliers, who MUST lay off staff in order to survive. Not get rich, SURVIVE! The cruise ships contribute very little, relatively speaking, to local commerce; they only enrich the Gov’t tax trough at which the piggies can feed. And to echo a further point, even the bemused rich have become weary of the Bajan teeth sucking apathy on display and the “oh, you want that now ?” foolishness they exhibit to guests and LOCALS paying London food prices. Sadly, that WHO CARES attitude has BECOME the prevailing Barbados ambience. Pessimistic? Without a doubt. But, in most cases unmistakably true. It is not a reputation we will shed overnight.

  18. Me.

    I just wanted to note that although I don’t agree with every point made in the article, I have tremendous respect for the fair, balanced tone it took.

    Barbados has many problems, but few of our problems are unique to Barbados.

    Too many commentators on our problems exhibit a colonialist attitude of dismissive insult towards things Caribbean, with uncritical adulation for things Anglo-American.

    Again, such an attitude was absent in this posting.

    Well done.

  19. Sir Galahad

    Many of the Chinese and Japanese are turning to cruise vacations.

  20. Green Monkey

    Phillippa Nandwani
    September 10, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    It take about 3 days and over $3,000 to get from Barbados to China.

    And then you can add on another 2 or 3 days at each end to get over the jet lag.

  21. PiedPiper

    Yes, Ms. Nandwani, I forgot to mention that also. The Chinese who have money luuuuv Casinos and gambling.

  22. Chinese Tourists?

    I hope the govt. of Barbados does’nt waste tax payers’ dollars in trying to attract the few chinese tourists that vacation abroad.

    It is a waste of time trying to attract the few Chinese Tourists that exist.

    Come to think of it, I’ve never heard about any boyant chinese tourist industry.

    Please don’t waste the money. You can also forget about attracting Latin Americans.

  23. When I hear talk about wooing the Chinese tourist here I had to laugh. The Tourism Authority and the minister are out of touch with reality. Barbadians do not like change especially the looks of the tourist. They are accustomed to one looking type of tourist…the white type. The few black ones that come are met with hostility. Can you imagine what the Chinese will be met with? The truth is that Bajans are racist people and don’t even know that. Their dislike of foreign people who do not look like Europeans is evident…look at how they talk and treat the Chinese workers here. Again the Tourism Authority does not understand the culture differences between the East and the West. What is considered acceptable by some Bajans and some Europeans like selling sex on the beaches, pushing drugs, or harassment by the local males when they see a female trying to enjoy our beaches will be looked upon as an insult to these cultures. I am a local and I find this behaviour distasteful and annoying. I have been told by many European ladies that they would not venture onto the beach by themselves because of the harassment. I was once told by a beach bum that he can get any white woman he wants (after being ignored by me) and he don’t want no local girl. I replied that no local girl would want him! The Tourism Authority and the Government has to face certain facts about the reality in Barbados. Service is non existent, eating out is hit and miss and our prices are the highest in the world. Who wants to pay top dollars for mediocrity. Look at the airport the first place of entry. Non smiling , gruff looking immigration officers not even a welcome back to locals. Not even an “enjoy your stay here” to visitors. We have to get off that arrogant platform and stop thinking that Tourist have to come here. We have to stop fooling ourselves that we are still friendly, affordable, hospitable and polite. These are the main ingredients for a successful Tourism campaign. We have to start in the schools to instill good manners and positive attitudes. The failure of NICE is evident is it still going??? Where is it in the government offices, stores and supermarkets? We have to stop patting ourselves on the back and praising ourselves. You hear the old saying that self praise is no praise at all.

  24. Mobutu


    (1) You have the typical colonial mentality. France has one of the largest tourist industries in the world–and the rudest, most arrogant people to be found anywhere. How come the French are respected even though they are rude (and they reserve their worst treatment for American tourists in Paris), but we are constantly warned that unless we grin like monkeys all the time, there’ll be no more tourist dollars for us?
    (2) Spare me the diatribe about white women being harassed. You reap what you sow. In the decades before AIDS, white women on vacation were the ones doing the hustling, and they created a problem of expectations that is hard to kill off even though the situation has changed.

  25. Message for Mobutu

    Mobutu: As much as you like to define everything by race, some things have nothing to do with race. Or colonialism.

    As to the days before AIDS and white women tourists on Bajan beaches, I guess you’re talking about the 1970’s and before. That’s almost 40 years ago.

    Relax Mobutu. Life is not ALL about race. Sometimes it’s about needing to please your prospective customers, who happen to be foreign tourists.


    “Faced with a fall in tourist numbers due to the financial crisis and a reputation for unfriendliness, the Paris tourist board has made a simple request to the city’s residents: smile.”


    Rude Parisians have been told by city chiefs to smile more often – because their bad manners are putting off visitors.

    Tourism bosses are desperate to reverse a steep fall in the number of holidaymakers, which they partly blame on the hostility of residents in the French capital.


  26. Mobutu


    (1) Learn to argue with integrity. You say I “like to define everything by race.” Where have I mentioned race? You are the one obsessed with it–look at your references to the “white”, the “black”, the “Chinese” tourists, etc.
    (2) You give two references to a French tourist board hiring French citizens to smile for tourists. I have no objection to the BTA paying some unemployed beachboys to smile. But people like you expect every Bajan–even our immigration officers–to be fawning on tourists to boost the industry. We already have a situation where hardly a month goes by without some Bajan official delivering stern warnings on TV or in the newspapers about the dire consequences of failing to do the limbo for tourists. Do you see any government officials doing the same sort of thing in France? If they did, do you think the average Parisian would give them the time of day?
    (3) Barbados is not Haiti. AIDS did not become a real threat here until the mid-1990s. That’s ten years ago, not forty. And you clearly do not understand the psychology of expectations. Once established, they can be very durable, despite their irrationality. That’s partly why lotteries are so successful.

  27. Paul Barnes

    If you go to Paris and try your best to speak French, the locals are actually fairly approachable. No less so than the British in London, at any rate. Bizarre, really, because 9 times out of 10, the French, once they see the English-speaker making the effort (no matter how execrable) to converse in their tongue, end up speaking to you in English. Just don’t shout at the French in English thinking it will help them to understand…they loathe that…it gets their backs up and they become the most disagreeable so-and-sos you can imagine… zut alors!

  28. arthurgordon2002@yahoo.com


    You Bajan racists and xenophobes want Chinese in your country? You can’t even ‘cope’ with Indo-Caribbeans and people your colour with different accents who, incidentally, spend a lot of money in your country. Chinese tourism? You make me laugh.

  29. To Mobutu

    You are truly a perfect example of what I am speaking about. There is a big difference between service and servitude and It is clearly evident that you do not know the difference. What a pity! We accept mediocrity because we believe in doing just enough to get by. Yet we are being pushed and advertised as a service oriented country. It is obvious that you have never given good service nor have you been a recipient of it. So therefore you are used to and accept the lousy service that is meted out to many the customers around the island. France is a huge country and has a rich cultural history. Barbados has very little to compete with to start with, why ruin it ? The product has to be always improving to stay competitive, any fool knows that…… ooops…. I forgot you didn’t. Why don’t you stop gassing us out with your racist rhetoric and just open your mind and eyes a wee bit.

  30. Mobutu


    (1) “It is obvious that you have never given good service nor have you been a recipient of it”.
    Since you know nothing about me, you are being provocative: I am actually accustomed to the very best, and if you were ever lucky enough to receive my services, you would probably have a smile on your face for a very long time.

    (2) “France … has a rich cultural history… Barbados has little to compete”.
    You are a victim of a Euro-centric education. Our culture isn’t “rich” to you because you are a misguided philistine, unable to appreciate four centuries of extreme events, or the complexity in front of you every day. Of course, France has plenty to offer, but plenty to avoid as well– a depressing winter climate, miles and miles of decayed housing, pebbly beaches, and the truly filthy water of the Mediterranean.

    The rest of your post is pure nonsense, so I won’t go there.

  31. Mugaffy Allamby

    Arthur Gordon, stop being so realistic. People like to think that Barbados lives in a vacuum.

  32. Mugaffy Allamby

    But many of us are not racist, doan mind the blabber of a few rabid nuts posting on various other blogs.

  33. Mugaffy Allamby

    Barbados has and will continue to have three tourist markets. British, North American and German. Forget all else.

  34. Chinese Tourists

    We are being side-tracked by race.

    The point is, that trying to woo “Chinese Tourists” is setting up a straw man.

    “Chinese Tourists” don’t exist. It will be hard to capture the few people who vacation (of over 1 billion).

    I remember years ago the BTA wasted solid money going after the “Latin American market”

    If it has to do wih buying from China, sure (they do not buy from you). But if we are running after the few people we call “tourist” – don’t waste the money! Forget it!

  35. Chinese Tourists

    Mugaffe Alamby,

    You are perfectly correct on “forgetting the rest”, but I would include the European market.

  36. victor

    Don’t forget that there are many Chinese and their descendants Iiving aII over the worId as a resuIt of first, British imperiaIism, second escaping from the communist regime and now, economic migration. Today’s rich Chinese tourists choose as their destinations pIaces where they can enjoy the Western tourist experience, which is basicaIIy a shopping, fun-ride and service experience, generaIIy incIuding excess, something they might not get at home. For just a moment, because China now provides, increasingIy, aII of that. You want a remote, unspoiIed beach with simpIe and sweet-natured IocaIs? China has that, in spades. And you get Chinese food. Shop tiII you drop? Go to Shanghai. Drink and dance in a fantastic nightcIub? Shanghai again. Fashion? Anyone heard of Tang? The onIy reason a rich Chinese tourist wouId come to Barbados wouId be if they were on a cruise, owned a boat or just wanted to investigate the rumour that it was wonderfuI. Shopping experience? Service experience? I think not. Draw your own concIusions. They might be a bit pissed off at the way their compatriots have been and stiII are, dissed here. But business? Now youre taIking… A Chinese businessman can make goId out of straw anywhere.

  37. Adrian Loveridge

    I am not sure what investment is needed by the BTA to attract economically viable numbers of
    residents from mainland China to Barbados for the purpose of tourism.

    Straight line distance from Beijing to Barbados is 8,772 miles, so a minimum of 17 flying hours non-stop, assuming that we could fill a suitable plane that could fly that distance within permissable crewing requirements.

    You would also have to ask (as many people have) WHY they would travel to Barbados, especially with resorts like Hainan Island virtually on their doorstep?

    Also WHY any investment to procure tourists from China would be put above our sleeping giant to the south?

    South America has a combined population of over 382 million. Add the other 40 million in Central America and its difficult to fathom how we cannot fill just ONE aircraft per week.

    Brazil with 186 million persons alone is within remarkably easy reach.
    Belem, the capital of Para state is just over TWO flying hours away and offers nearly 40 other connecting Brazilian cities.

    COPA, the Panama based airline could provide the best one-stop connections into almost every part of South and Central America to Barbados with the single risk of supporting a 98 seater jet three or four days a week flying Panama/Barbados.

    I also have to ask the question again.

    We are are now just 15 days away from seeing an additional nearly 100,000 airline seats per year flying into Barbados from the United States. So nearly DOUBLE the capacity from a market that has not achieved an annual growth of more than an average of 1.3% over the last seven consecutive years. Put that in perpective and its less than an additional 2,000 seats per year.

    Having just returned from six days in the USA, I personally saw no evidence of television or print media advertising of Barbados.

  38. Pingback: Adrian Loveridge and Dennis Jones ask “Why not court the many and close South, Central & North American tourists?” « Barbados Free Press

  39. Chinese Tourists?

    Forget Brazil.

    For years, we’ve spun our tops in the mud trying to woo the Brazililans.

    Brazil is not a country with any potential Tourism market.
    Far from leaving their shores, they are in the same boat as we.

    Targeting Brazil is like trying to tap South Africa for Tourist- waste of money and time! Can’t work!

    I agree with focussing on the North America market; not sure of the South.

  40. Bradley432

    Before we talk about wooing visitors to come to Barbados, we must talk of ways to keep them coming,I think the buzz word these days is sustainable. We the residents of Barbados have no choice but to put up with the ear splitting noises coming from cars , scrambler bikes and the lot all hours of the day and night. And increasingly we have seen many of our too-many vehicles,especially those with diesel engine spewing out thick clouds of obnoxious black smoke. The now standard practice of burning rubbish and other stuff in the backyards and vacant lots add to the woes.
    These are things that upset us all, but unlike us the visitor has a choice, he /she does not have to return.
    The politicians over the years have evaded the issue of enacting adequate legislation to deal with these two nuisances,simply because of the “X” factor.
    There was a time when the Transport Board buses were pulled off the route, especially on the South Coast, for repairs,if they emitted excessive noises from the braking and/or exhaust systems.

  41. Pingback: China tourism a ‘pipe dream’ for Barbados? Not according to our ambassador to China | Barbados Free Press