‘I get tired sometimes hearing the cliché lines of complaint from hotel spokespersons in particular. This constant begging for more is not directed at any single governing party. It is a culture of bellyaching that needs to stop’.
The number of tourism and especially hotel-oriented facilities doing direct marketing in the tourism marketplace can be counted on a single hand. Yet, as a body, they have adopted this ‘gimmuh’ mentality, which effectively forms one’s mirror image of certain industry practitioners’.
Prime Minister Thompson’s main political advisor Hartley Henry let’s fly at the Barbados tourism industry in the Barbados Advocate article ‘Mind your (tourism) business’
Hartley Henry demonstrated “how far he is removed from the truth and reality of this industry.”
I thought that these two direct verbatim quotes rather spoilt what otherwise could have been read as a relatively balanced article headed ‘Mind your (tourism) business’ in Thursday’s Barbados Advocate.
Especially when you consider, that to the best of my knowledge the writer has absolutely no proven operating experience or management skills in our number one industry!
If I am wrong please correct me. Has Mr. Henry ever owned or managed a hotel or other tourism entity? Has he sat on the board of a statutory national marketing agency or private sector tourism association?
What economic contribution has he made to the $90 million plus currently spent by the Barbados Tourism Authority annually other than in personal taxes and employee contributions?
Let’s take the first blatant statement. What does he think the function of a trade association is?
That’s why we pay annual subscriptions, because we cannot lobby Government’s individually!
And the second one which concludes that those hotels ‘doing direct marketing in the tourism marketplace can be counted on a single hand’.
This is perhaps the most dangerous pronouncement and graphically demonstrates exactly how far Mr. Hartley is removed from the truth and reality of this industry.
Our tourism policymakers made the decision to spend a quoted 60% of the $92 million BTA budget allocated to the BTA in the last financial year on e-commerce.
Over decades, Barbados has become far too overly dependent on tour operator driven business, and it appears now finally steps are being taken to partially correct this and drive a higher percentage of direct (higher revenue) bookings.
Yes! Of course there is always more, individual hotels and tourism partners can do, but as a small operator, I cannot justify chasing off to Brazil for a week at a cost of nearly US$5,000. To even contemplate that expense, I would have to secure an additional BDS$100,000 worth of bookings.
If Mr. Henry took the trouble to study what is actually going on in the marketplace, he will see under these extraordinary economic circumstances, tourism partners are becoming more creative, because simply they have been forced to.
There is already two out of the ‘five’ Mr. Henry has quoted and that’s before we look at any of the hotel groupings like Elegant, Almond and Intimate together with individual properties like The Crane, Silver Point, Treasure Beach, Cobblers Cove, Sandy Lane, among others.
Mr. Henry also has to realise that Barbados has a predominance of small hotels. In fact around 120 of our 160 registered properties fall under this banner.
During my short tenure on the BTA board, I repeatedly asked for a marketing budget for the 70 plus small hotels that did not fall under the Intimate grouping. After a staggering ten months wait, an amount of BDS$150,000 in the first year was finally agreed.
$150,000 out of an annual budget of $92 million will leave readers grappling with the credibility and commitment to our small hotel sector.
All I would ask is that before writing another technically flawed article that many might assume carries the perceived authority of the writer, Mr. Henry stops and consults the people that make a successful living from the industry, with little or no assistance from Government and who are rarely prone to ‘bellyaching’.
If this is not adhered to, then there is a risk that any future writings are not given the credibility they may be due.
One of the worrying trends, especially in tourism, is that our policymakers seem to be surrounding themselves with people who appear to have limited proven ability, creativity or drive, but who have no problem with saying yes!
1st July 2010
Barbados Free Press says…
Bravo to Mr. Loveridge for his insight. Perhaps Mr. Henry could use his next newspaper column to analyze the impact upon our small hotels of years of government involvement in the GEMS Hotels scandal where hundreds of millions of dollars of our tax dollars were spent to artificially prop up a government hotel chain in direct competition with hotels that had to operate as a real business.
Here is the Hartley Henry article via another online source – seeing as the Barbados Advocate has apparently de-listed it for some reason…
‘Mind your (tourism) business’
by Hartley Henry
I am particularly happy to hear of the airline breakthrough with respect to establishing direct air links between Barbados and Brazil. It has not altered my not backing Brazil to win the football World Cup, but it has certainly created enormous concepts in my mind for modernizing the tourism product.
Several commentators to date have zoomed in on inherent challenges in filling those airline seats, I am more inclined to approach the topic from the opportunity it provides for us create a first rate destination. We are blessed with such natural tourism attributes as year round sea, sand and sun, but somehow I get the impression that as a population, we assume sometimes that other features will take care of themselves and do not necessarily need nurturing and sustaining.
In a discussion such as this, the issue of price always arises but I am not persuaded that Barbados, in the context of the destinational altitude that it flies, is any more expensive than comparable locales. Dollar for dollar, in the context of what tourists normally buy, we are no more expensive than Jamaica, Bahamas and definitely not Cayman Islands or Bermuda. In relation to Europe and North America, pound for pound, dollar for dollar you get as much or more here in Barbados as you do for the said output in any of the very popular shopping, entertainment and leisure ports of call.
So while I agree that we must always keep mark ups in check, I am not persuaded that you can secure a visit to any facility akin to that of Harrison’s Cave anywhere in the tourism stratosphere for cheaper. The same applies to a Night Out in Oistins or an evening in The Gap. The problem comes, I believe, when you compare apples to oranges and pit Barbados against destinations that are really not in its league; certainly not in the consciousness of the discerning visitor.
My desire for continued monitoring and upgrade of the local product focuses more on ‘things to do’ and in this regard I do believe that stakeholders need to address this issue frontally and as a team. From where I stand, there appears to be too much finger pointing and pointless bellyaching among tourism oriented administrators. Tourism is much like economics; there is no single correct theory. Therefore, the movers and shakers, I believe, need to focus more on addressing the obvious problems that retard the growth of the industry, than naming and shaming who is doing what and who should give more and who has not done enough.
I am concerned, for example, that in opening our doors to the Brazilians we need to study the culture of this market and ask ourselves whether the existing week’s offering is adequate for a group of persons who obviously will be more high energy than the traditional European visitor. Shouldn’t we, for example, be looking to upgrade and expand the Oistins Fish Fry experience? Certainly, we may have to look at kicking off the weekend extravaganza on Thursdays, with perhaps a slightly different ambience, menu and or selection of music.
And while we are at it, can we introduce a mid week all day beach festival probably to the back of Whispers on Bay Street? Beach lovers say that is the best and most picturesque beach in Barbados, yet, to my mind, it is sadly underutilized. As the brain is in gear right now, why don’t we nip back up to the Garrison Savannah and have mid week racing, followed in short order by night racing? I would think that would be a hit with all visitors, not just the Brazilians.
Barbadians are still not willing to embrace the concept of casinos, even though we have more slot machines per square mile than most competing destinations outside of Atlantic City and Las Vegas, so I will not on this occasion suggest an upgrade of the offerings in gaming.
The point one is making is that the government and its associated agencies have already created the enabling environment. It is now up to stakeholders to cash in and exploit opportunities to the fullest. How about a rebranding of Barbados as a Wedding destination or even as second to none for all the underwater activities and opportunities that we take for granted, but which would be a spectacular discovery for our friends from the south? We ought not to underestimate the giant strides we have made in recent months as a mecca for sports tourism. Surely, cricket, horse racing, polo, motor racing, sailing, track and field and several table games come readily to mind. Such tournaments can be sourced and made permanent fixtures on our annual things-to-do-and-see in Barbados calendar.
I don’t know about you, Dear Reader, but I get tired sometimes hearing the cliché lines of complaint from hotel spokespersons in particular. This constant begging for more is not directed at any single governing party. It is a culture of bellyaching that needs to stop. In this economic environment, there is not much more, in terms of dollars, that the government or its tourism marketing agency, the Barbados Tourism Authority can offer. We need to pursue and maintain a presence in source markets and sustained advertising is necessary, but, by the same token, we need to ensure that those who visit leave these shores contended and eager to relay positive impressions and experiences.
The planes will bring the Brazilians here, but what will we do to excite and entertain them? How will we get them to spend? How will we get them to so fall in love with this country that they return home and market its features to family and friends?
I believe there is need for greater innovation on the part of tourism stakeholders. Why do we wait for Easter, Mother’s Day and Christmas to invite locals to dine in our establishments? Why can’t there be a monthly St. Lawrence Gap Festival, sponsored and organized by businesses in the Gap? What about the Holetown Festival? Are enough local tourism-oriented businesses involved? Are they doing enough to market the festival to locals and visitors alike?
How much really are individual proprietors doing to market their establishments and the industry as a whole? I don’t see or hear a whole lot of marketing initiatives in my travels abroad, yet, week after week there is the complaint that ‘government’ is not doing enough? I travel the region and farther afield and I see Barbadian manufactured products on sale, as well as advertised in the mass media. The number of tourism and especially hotel oriented facilities doing direct marketing in the tourism marketplace can be counted on a single hand. Yet, as a body, they have adopted this “gimmuh” mentality, which effectively forms one’s mirror image of certain industry practitioners.
I take my hat off to Mrs. Ram Merchandani and her team at Casa Grande. She could have thrown her hands up in despair, but rather she has gone outside of the box and established a family oriented entertainment centre that’s like a God send for thousands of persons, visitors and locals alike, each week. Why can’t others get up off their hind and do likewise?
The Brazilian market is open and for the time being hundreds of Brazilians will be coming to our shores each month. We need stakeholders now to take the baton and run with it. Even with the depressed state of the local economy, Barbadians have relatively high disposable incomes, as seen in their spending on weekends. We need to find ways to make that spending a pleasure. We need to develop initiatives that appeal to visitors and locals alike. Thinking and acting outside of the box is what is required at this point. Let us use the occasion of the coming of the Brazilians to do just that.