Reassuring words from the police mean little on TripAdvisor and Facebook
If I had to name one single issue that could seriously endanger our most important industry, it would be any breakdown in our overall ability to keep our visitors safe and secure.
Sadly, it seems that a few of our policymakers, both in tourism and those involved in national security believe that by keeping crime against tourists out of the local media, no-one is going to hear about it.
What they do not appear to comprehend is that with the internet, social media and the increasingly popular blogs, it’s almost impossible to keep anything secret.
The days of playing ostrich are gone!
Daily, past victims of crime, their relatives, international media, previous visitors and potentially new ones all visit these sites.
It was alarming to recently log onto the Barbados Forum section of the world’s largest travel reference site, TripAdvisor, and see that of the first 20 topics listed, three were crime related.
Government is about to embark on spending a reported BDS$6 million in our largest single market, the United Kingdom, to stimulate forward bookings. More negative headlines like ‘Dream holiday to Barbados that turned into a nightmare after barrister was shot by robber’ in mass circulation publications could seriously diminish the effectiveness of that marketing spend.
We boast that we are one of the safest islands in the Caribbean, but there is absolutely no room for complacency or lack of diligence.
Yes! We can all play our part in cautioning our cherished guests not to visit certain known problem locations, but is this the solution?
So where do you draw the line?
Long Beach area has been a particularly troublesome area over the last two years, and many would claim longer, but two of our guests were robbed on Silver Sands beach last week. In broad daylight and just yards from another hotel!
Do we wait until the problem continues up to Enterprise, Needham’s Point or ultimately Brandon’s?
We talk about improving service levels and the quality of our accommodation plant, but this will all be in vain, unless what appears to be an escalating and widespread concern is firmly dealt with.
I am sure that some readers will accuse me of alarmism, but it goes way beyond that. Even our small hotel now spends more on security annually than we do on promoting our property.
If this is even remotely typical across the sector, this cannot be in the best national interest. We also strongly feel that it is morally wrong to put our guests in ‘harms way’ and unless there is someway we can effectively influence the ability to protect them, the only other alternative is to close the hotel.
I would like to end this column with some direct quotes from the Sustainable Tourism website.
‘Perceived or real threats to visitor safety have immediate impacts on a destinations reputation and can dramatically affect visitation’.
And ‘If a visitor feels threatened or unsafe during a trip this may impact on length of stay and expenditure in a destination and decrease the likelihood of repeat visitation and word-of-mouth referrals’.