Hartley Henry tells Barbados tourism industry to Shut Up. Adrian Loveridge replies…

‘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’

Prime Minister David Thompson & principal advisor, Henry Hartley

Hartley Henry demonstrated “how far he is removed from the truth and reality of this industry.”

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner.

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.

A classic case of this is two short promotional videos commissioned recently by the re-built Atlantis hotel in Bathsheba and Little Good Harbour in St. Peter and posted on YouTube.

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!

Adrian Loveridge
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.

11 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Business & Banking, Politics, Tourism, Travel, Traveling and Tourism

11 responses to “Hartley Henry tells Barbados tourism industry to Shut Up. Adrian Loveridge replies…

  1. Ddreamer

    A fool can ask a wise man a question you know.He can also give direction to the wise. What so wrong with that. Democracy at work. People with sense or nonsense can still figure. Even the dull and ignorant can comprehend.

  2. Duppy Lizard

    So much emphasis is being placed on this new airlink with Brazil it’s laughable. Dream on if anyone thinks that “hundreds of Brazilians” will be flocking to Barbados every month.

    Brazil is a tropical/sub-tropical country with an extensive coastline with beautiful beaches – all within a few hours of it’s major cities.

    Barbados is well known to be an expensive destination and whose service industry workers equates service with servitude and slavery.

  3. BadBob

    That’s just what we need!
    Droves of Brazilians who’ll drink our rum, smoke cigars, chase the local women and clutter up the beaches with their wretched bikini waxed bodies [stuffied into undersized speedos, no less!]. I wouoldn’t be one bit surprised to see enterprising Brazilian film makers doing nasty films [yes, PORNO’S] on our beaches. Just what we need. Someone needs a quick smack to the head and a well deserved boot to the back-side for even thinking that we need these oversexed doodlers to be canoodling in BIM!!!

  4. Observer

    Unfortunately successive governments have placed those proverbial square pegs in round holes. Mr. Henry is a perfect example of Peter’s principle – he has been promoted to the level of his incompetence.

  5. If we are opening a line to Brazil, then should there not be lessons in Portuguese? As it’s spoken in Brazil – which is different than Portugal? What if Government offered to partially subsidise the cost for ancillary workers in Hospitality (and/or a tax rebate for being willing to learn)? Seriously – what’s the point of opening an air avenue to Brasilia and we can’t talk to them?

  6. Robinson

    Mr.Bourne…’what’s the point of opening an air avenue to Brasilia and we can’t talk to them’

    There are many ways to communicate……..;-) And them Brazilian babes just look delicious. Won’t have much time to talk.

    Might sound muffled anyway.

  7. EDU-O

    I don’t know who this Henry Hartley is but I really enjoyed his article. I think we have a tendency to focus on the person rather than what the person is saying. Loveridge for what ever reason seems to be focusing on the person of Hartley. Again I do not know who this Loveridge is or his relationship with Hartley but his comments seem to be very much about the character of Hartley and not the subject matter.

    When tourism is doing well the investors and owners want the governments to stay completely out of their business on the other hand when the climate changes and there are challenges the owners seem to expect subsidies and assistance from the government. This is not fair to the government who is really the people of Barbados as handouts is not part of the role of government. I would not open a business on the premise that the government will be there to prop up my investment. You invest because you see a niche. You see the opportunity to make money. You visualize having your botique hotel with orchids all around because there is a need for this type of establishment, then you, not the goverment do what ever it takes to make your investment profitable.

    In being sucessful you have to be creative and promote your establishment and provide points of difference so that visitors want to stay at your place rather than some other place. You also want to offer value for the price being asked. You, not the government has to create a product your guests will want to talk about and will want to return to. The government is not there to create the product for you. I would not invest in a hotel on the premise that all I have to do is build 25 rooms and the government will be there to assist. Again, the role of government is not to subsidize or prop up businesses. I would not open a restaurant knowing that it is not a viable venture. You cannot invest and then complain the government is not doing enough. Did you not know of the government before you made the investment? There is a point at which capacity will not be profitable so if the capacity of rooms is more than the demand then there is the possibility that many properties will loose money. You just cannot build hotel rooms and expect them to be filled. Barbados probably has more rooms than are needed so if you invest in the hotel business at this time and you are not creative and you do not promote your hotel there is a great possibility you will want the government to assist you because you will fail. I think a necessary duty or responsibility of the government might be to put a moratorium on the building of new hotels in Barbados.

  8. whistling frog

    Duppy lizard ,,you got it down pat,,,,,,,,,,,, its like selling snowcones to an Eskimo (or should we say Inuit) in Alaska,,,,,…………*****######## DUUUHHH!!!!!!!!

  9. whistling frog

    Dear Mr.Hartley,
    I dont know what rose coloured glassses you have recently obtained,,,,,,But would you be kind enough to acquaint us lesser informed subjects of their point of purchase that we too maybe in a position to purchase same so that we would be entitled to the same hallucinogenic interpretation as you appear to be in.

  10. ac

    @EDU

    It works both ways.It is like one hand feeding the other.The government role is that of promotion in a way that it would bring tourist to the the islands . The promotions must be captivating and highly appealing of interset. Right now most of the commercials done on barbados emphasis the beaches .However people need more to do withtheir time than go to a beach . There are beautiful beaches all over the world. I for one would like to see more promotion on places to go and things to do relative to Bajan culture.When people visit they want to be swept away by the culture of the island and its people in a seductive way it makes people want to come because it is different.

  11. Facts

    Duppy Lizard,

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

    We have big dreamers in our midst.

    I’ve never heard about Brazilians flocking anywhere!

    We should try to penetrate our existing, Uncle Sam and try to reclaim markets we had in the past; for example: Quebec and Germany, instead of wasting money with Brazil.