Government shows indifference to the small hotels
I read with interest some of the many comments attributed to the long serving chairman of the Intimate Hotels of Barbados at the organisation’s Annual General Meeting recently. I agree with most of them, but sadly I have also heard most of them before over prolonged periods of time. Until there is a fundamental shift in thinking, little will change.
Regrettably, consecutive Governments have not recognised the contribution made by our more than 120 small hotels. Yes! the Intimate Hotel Group was established under a previous Government and is given substantial annual grant assistance.
But in reality, a staggering 29%, or nearly one in three of their members do not even meet our national legal definition of what a hotel should be.
Around 70 of our small hotels do not fall under any national marketing policy at all, and you really only have to ask one simple question…
What proportion of the annual budget (around BDS$90 million) allocated to the Barbados Tourism Authority is spent on promoting our small hotels?
To highlight this almost indifference to the small hotel sector, one needs only to ask “Who is representing our small hotels on the current BTA/Ministry of Tourism delegation to China?”
What are we really saying here?
Our policymakers consider China to be an economically justifiable potential market for the future, enough to tempt some of the more than one Billion Chinese to endure the minimum flight duration of eighteen hours.
Does our government believe that none of this massive market will stay in our small hotels?
Over the last few years we have started to see niche markets develop within the sub-sector that include truly boutique hotels and high quality guest houses. Collectively these offer tremendous brand and destination opportunities to jointly promote in all our existing and developing markets.
I was reminded by a senior advertising agency executive recently that YouTube now gets more daily visits (around 100 million) than the combined television networks of the United States.
But go on to YouTube, type in Barbados and what do you get?
One or two professionally produced videos, but largely just a bunch of well-intentioned, but amateur postings. This is a classic example of how we could better drive demand, higher occupancy levels (especially in the softer eight summer months) and more direct full rate revenue to the country.
Some of the BDS$90 million budget could be used to produce a high quality, high definition film to collectively market these small properties on all the social websites as well as other mediums like visitbarbados.org and at every travel event. $50,000 spent on a state-or-the-art video, only needs to fill 250 room nights to be cost effective.
Government must also wake up to the reality that while some of our small hotels do not attract room rates that match our upscale properties, overwhelmingly, a larger financial proportion of the mainly direct bookings remains within our shores.
Higher occupancy, increased VAT collection and a trickle down benefit to all the other tourism partners! Get the picture?
Mr. Tull also repeated for the umpteen time that his grouping should be represented on the Board of the Barbados Tourism Authority.
In my opinion, he is right – but so should the other 70 plus small hotels.
15th July 2010
(Editor’s note: Our thanks to Adrian Loveridge for this article. BFP made small changes in wording and paragraph formatting, but if this changed any of Adrian’s message we’re sure he’ll let us know and we’ll fix it up.)