Wither our Small Barbados Hotels?

Government shows indifference to the small hotels

Adrian Loveridge

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.

Adrian Loveridge
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.)

7 Comments

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

7 responses to “Wither our Small Barbados Hotels?

  1. The Watcher

    I’ve said this before and will say it again: Tourism is a dead horse which we have flogged into the grave.
    Transform Barbados from this failing service and to a lesser degree manufacturing economy into an Information based one.
    Stop pandering to these people who are crying for government to hand them our tax dollars so that they can continue to live high-on-the-hog while we fuel their expectations. There is strength in numbers. Pool your collective resources, identify a market which you can attract, and vigorously pursue them by clearly demonstrating value above and beyond what your competitors can offer or do! Stop crying and stop begging!
    Enough of them and this nonsense.

  2. Adrian Loveridge

    The Watcher,

    I am not crying or begging, but merely suggesting that at least some of the annual BDS$90 million BTA budget could be used in a more cost effective and results based way.

    Look back, and you will have seen that I was one of the first persons to question the Hotels and Resorts (GEMS) project.

    Just think if somebody had listened to me then, how much the taxpayer would have saved.

    When you have a credible plan to replace tourism as our biggest foreign currency earner, you will have my undivided attention.

    Sounds a bit like the leader of the opposition telling us that they have some plans to alleviate the current economic situation and she will let us know what they are in a few ‘months’.

  3. The Watcher

    Well Adrian. I still beg to see the statistics on the claim that Tourism is our biggest Foreign Exchange earner because if indeed it is, it’s doing a wonderfully lousy job. Now let me make you aware of this for a minute. The Arabs with their “oogles” of money to burn, have skillfully realized that their fossil fuel deposits won’t last forever and with cheap energy on the horizon have embarked on a rather daring plan of building artificial islands and probably countries with all of the opulence fit for a king. So let me ask this of you “What will our competitive advantage be?” This product has wasted enough of the taxpayer money without showing the returns needed for sustainable growth. So I submit to you that we don’t have to go inventing a plan in order to convert our economy, we’ve got the blueprint from Malta and Singapore. What we need now is the will, fortitude and a real champion to move the process of Strategic Re-Development forward.
    But we’ll still keep some rooms available for those who still wish to come.

  4. BFP

    Hi Watcher

    I think you’ll find that most of Dubai’s vaunted tourist section sits unfinished and may never be finished. The place is like Disneyland writ large, except that if you kiss your wife in public or hold her hand in a restaurant you’re both likely to land in trouble. Not the best place for a vacation. When all is considered many folks will return to Barbados but say “never again” to Dubai. I’ve passed through Dubai and worked all over the Middle East, but live there? Vacation there? Never!

    Our competitive advantage is that we are Barbados. We are different than Dubai and our product (the overall experience) is real. Dubai as I said is Disneyland and artificial.

    That’s my opinion.

    Robert

  5. The Watcher

    BFP

    I won’t bet my bottom dollar that it may not get finished. I will agree that it is artificial, but so are so many things that we seem to adore in the technological age.It seems to me that the more fantasy filled something is, the more we love it. The Matrix, Harry Potter, need I go on?
    I don’t disagree however that the Competitive Advantage that you identified is valid, but that would be everyone else’s battle cry too.
    So I can’t fight you on your opinion at all.
    All I want in the end is to have this rock get out there and compete now that the playing field is becoming more level as a result of technology. If we won’t, we shouldn’t cry when the other islands do.

  6. BFP

    Good points watcher. We’re probably closer in our thoughts about our tourism industry than is visible writing comments to each other on the internet.

    Now, if we could sit down and share a bottle of Banks or three we might solve the problem by the end of the evening! Like Clive and I solved the Middle East conflict the other night over a bottle of rum. Unfortunately when we sobered up in the morning we forgot the solution that we had arrived at.

    Maybe next time we’ll remember. 😉

  7. BadBob

    Are you nuts, Stimpy!
    Holiday anywhere in the middle-east, or consider “them” as a model for tourism? Time for you to sign up for a Twelve Step Program, my brother.
    The only thing I could even consider worse than a trip to Dubai would be spending a week with an old girlfriend [DB, you still out there?] and drinking myself into a coma so I wouldn’t have to listen to the stupidness.
    Dubai? Where’s my knife? Time to stab myself.