What differentiates Barbados from other travel destinations?

Tourism MATTERS – Which type of person finds Barbados particularly appealing?

by Adrian Loveridge - Small hotel owner

One or two people have questioned my recent shortlist of potential new gateways for additional airlift, so it may help to better articulate the reasons behind the suggestions.

Let’s start with Ottawa. Yes! Of course it has a smaller population (metro area around 1.4 million) than Toronto, but its boasts the highest median family income of Canada’s six largest cities. You also have to look at its employment structure. 18.9 percent of the workforce is currently employed in high tech, closely followed by 18.2 per cent by Federal Government, 10.4 per cent in finance, insurance and real estate with the next highest percentage, 9.4 in trade.

So the demographics fit our product.

Hopefully our tourism policymakers carefully track exactly where our visitors originate from, behind the current gateways and if for any reason they do not, I am sure the airlines could provide this information. This would give at least some indication of potential demand for a non-stop service.

Ottawa area residents currently either travel through Toronto with a Canadian airline or connect via a US gateway involving a minimum journey time of at least seven hours. In flying distance Ottawa is only 8 miles further from Barbados than Toronto.

So what we should be asking is, would a direct flight of five hours tempt enough people once or twice a week to fill an Airbus 319 or Boeing 737 or about 0.5 per cent of the greater Ottawa population annually? Personally, I think it would, and in addition to holidaymakers, visiting friends and relatives (VFR), people would also be travelling for diplomatic and trade purposes.

For a very long time, I have felt that we need to undertake a great deal more research when targeting prospective visitors.

Well over thirty years ago as a tour operator in the United Kingdom we became one of the first companies to install a custom built computer reservation system specifically geared towards our requirements. Nothing existed at that time to fulfil our exact needs, so we persuaded a then little known software expert to write a programme specially for us.

One of the unique features, and remember this is more than three decades ago, to avoid duplication, it would search by last name and postcode.

We quickly noticed that higher percentages of people booking resided in areas with similar postcodes and that was our introduction to target marketing. Identifying potential travellers by economic grouping and lifestyle preferences became the norm.

Rather than attempt to appeal to just about everyone, could it be more productive to try and establish what differentiates Barbados from other destinations and to which type of person are we especially appealing?

None of this is rocket science or even a new approach to marketing. It has been tried, tested and proven to work.

I was privileged recently to attend the launch of a new book called ‘Bridging the Gap’ which was prepared from ten years of weekly columns written by the late Peter Morgan.

One enduring memory that Peter left with me, was to keep it simple and that way everybody would understand what you were trying to achieve.

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15 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism

15 responses to “What differentiates Barbados from other travel destinations?

  1. Mr Coco

    Great insight as always. As for Ottawa the monolith that is air canada would never bite, sounds like a job for westjet.

  2. ANASTASIA BEAVERNHOUSEN

    As a flight attendant myself, and once based in Ottawa a weekly B737 or A319 might work as a direct flight to BGI with a tag-on to UVF. Currently, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica are the only 3 non-stop Caribbean weekly flights out of YOW. These flights are successfull; could it have anything to do with the fact that these destinations are offering super cheap deals, while in my opinion, Barbados is still very expensive; and sadly to say, you’re not getting your moneys worth. Yes Ottawa/Hull Quebec (which is right across the bridge) has a high employment rate however, the average Canadian (regardless of class) is still “holding on to their money”; the economy in Canada is still “flat-line”. How I know? Because I can’t remember seat sales as low as 250.00 to sun destinations ever being offered to Canadian consumers in the month of Jan/Feb.

  3. Adrian Loveridge

    Anastasia,
    Thank you for the observations. Would not the difficulty of including St. Lucia be flying hours for the aircrew?
    ‘We’ have spent a fortune over the years telling the world we are a millionaires paradise, but in actuality there are many affordable places to stay.
    I can think of many cheaper hotels here in Barbados when compared to Ottawa and several restaurants where is it less expensive to eat.
    We can never compete with the low cost destinations you have mentioned and frankly it would be silly to try.
    Take away the cost of an normally priced return ticket by using AeroPlan or miles and we are back on a level playing field with MOST
    of the English (or French) speaking Caribbean islands operating in normal cost structures.

  4. ANASTASIA BEAVERNHOUSEN

    Hi Adrian. LOL, I knew as soon as I posted my comment someone was going to mention the legality of the crew; you’re good Mr. Loveridge. I should have included it in my first response.I’m one step ahead of you. I’m going to pretend to play crew sked (smile). The flight would be routed YOW-UVF-BGI-YOW. UVF would be a 30min turn around just to offload & unload pax, and BGI would be a 1 hour turn around to offload unload pax, clean, cater, & switch crew. The block/line for both pilots and FA’s would look like this; crew #1- YOW-UVF-BGI-YYZ , and crew #2 YYZ-BGI-YOW. The YOW crew will meet up in BGI, and switch with inbound YYZ crew! This line will be bid by every senior crew member! It’s a dream block. It’s a 8 day a month block (in other words, you will only have to work 8 days a month, 2 days a week to get your guarantee hours.

    Yes I totally agree with you. I hate it when my american & canadian counterparts always ask me to compare BGI to the like of Jamaica, Cuba, and Dominican Republic. I tell them you can’t! It’s like comparing apples to oranges. Both fruit taste great; but both offer a different benifit to eating. To compare Barbados to another island, you’ve gotta compare it to Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Bermuda, Grand Cayman, and Aruba. As an avid traveller I’ve found myself in recent years with the exception of many royal caribbean cruises, I’ve found myself having to choose Cuba, and Dominican Republic for my “stay/shore” vacations because I’m getting a lot more value for my money. I love now having to just pay one grand total and getting an all inclusive. Yes Barbados is starting to “get onboard” with being an all-inclusive destination, but they have a long way to go to catch up with other destinations, and the properties that do offer all inclusive are way to high for the average Canadian consumer.

    BTW, can you ask Mr. Sealy for me why is it facebook (free advertising) board of tourism destinations like St. Lucia, Jamaica, Antigua, Grenada, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Aruba( just to name a few) have thousands more “like” members than that of Barbados Board of Tourism’s page; when was the last time he updated that page? It’s a free way of advertising for crying out loud! Doesn’t he not know how many members facebook have around the world? Have him watch the movie social network! Heck even that new airline redjet (doubt it will ever happen) has more members than the Barbados Board of Tourism, and that airline hasn’t even gotten off the ground yet!

  5. travler

    West jet will certainly not bite if Air Canada does not . If Air Canada is not servicing a location then there is a slim chance of West Jet doing it. It is the American Airlines Jet Blue thing. West Jet and Jet Blue make the others competitive and feed off of established routes. The problem is not with the airlines, it is with the cost at the destination. Barbados is expensive. Certainly there are some less expensive places to stay than the prime hotels but someone has to put the package together of air and accomodation and hope that perhaps a contract vacation carrier such as Air Transat or SunWing would like to work towards servicing locations such as Ottawa.

    Right now SunWing are advertising one week all inclusive vacations to warm destinations for $695 plus tax. So that is what Barbados is competing against from the perspsective of Dollars. So we need to find more things to attract folks. Most Canadians just simply want a break from the cold. Warm weather, beaches and all the booze you can drink for $695 plus tax. …..that is the reality in times of economic constraint.

  6. ANASTASIA BEAVERNHOUSEN

    Well said travler. I miss the days when Barbados had flights departing from Canadian destinations on a daily basis; multiple airlines like wardair, odyssey international, air transat, canada 3000, air canada, canadian airlines,royal airlines, worldways, nationair, skyservice etc. Yes a lot of these airlines are no more, but if I’m not mistaken, the only 2 airlines operating BGI is air canada and west jet while all the other sun destinations besides having air canada and westjet also have sunwing, and air transat, and canjet. If you look at the arrival/departure board at YYZ airport you find just 1 to 2 flights arriving/departing to/from BGI, while Jamaica, Cuba, Mexico, and DR have multiple daily flights! Yet Mr. Sealy continues to say that Barbados tourism is at an all time high? Where is he getting his figures from? With the amount of hotels closed down or “close for renovation” during the winter months, I find this hard to believe.

  7. travler

    beaverhouse@

    gone are the days when a steel pan band would greet the tourists at BGI. Why? my bet it is because nobody knows who the real tourists are….just one big number of arrivals with many people headed to a cruise liner or visiting family.

  8. CanuckBajan

    Having just returned from visiting family in B’dos, this piece made for interesting reading. As a Canuck, I can tell you that *most* average Canadians who travel south are looking for three things: white sandy beaches; safe & clean accommodations; and most importantly a great deal. Those things can be found at any number of sunny destinations – each one pretty much inter-changeable with the next.
    Barbados cannot and should not try compete with Cuba, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic when it comes to cheap and all-inclusive so it should and must consider what makes the island unique and appealing AND to whom. The best bet is to look around the island and focus on sites and activities that are only found on our island. Irreplaceable and unique places such as Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary, Welshman Hall Gully, Harrison’s Cave, Bathsheba & Cattlewash, Andromeda Gardens, etc are priceless natural sites that must be protected as we would protect our children for they are our future.
    The same must be done for built sites such as our historical buildings large & small, windmills, churches, etc. Finally there are resources and traditions like the museums & archives, potteries & arts, road tennis & landship, etc.
    The people that are interested in these things are generally going to be wealthier, more educated, more mature, perhaps have family/genealogy connections and IF they enjoy themselves and feel welcome and safe – they will come back again and again. And they will encourage friends and family to come as well. And they will spend money on the island.
    Don’t waste money & time trying to appeal to the all-inclusive crowd. Invest in the eco & culture traveller – but make them feel welcome – like we’re actually happy to meet them, not just take their money!

  9. bajeabroad

    Barbados’ tourism offering is in trouble point blank!!
    We are still stuck in the “vinyl record” age as it relates to tourism while the world has switched to CDs and downloads. We need to get with it! Persistently high oil prices has raised the cost of living worldwide and permanently squeezed the disposable income of persons in our major markets. They are now alot more value conscious when looking at their vacations than ever before. Added to that, these persistently high oil prices have also raised the price of travel to Barbados as well as the cost of major hotel/restaurant inputs which come from the USA. In other words while we have gotten more expensive, the average person can less afford it. That’s a fact. Couple this with a tough work environment in North America with many persons even at senior levels taking single week vacations which fit perfectly to a quick getaway to a cheaper all-inclusive week trip to Jamaica, DR or Cuba or 1 week cruise itenary.
    We keep peddling the same vehicle without recognising that the road has permanently changed! Two managers in my office are taking 1 week vacations to the Caribbean. One to Sandals in Jamaica the other to Barcelo in DR. Their decision was easy. Value for money, clearer budget of what they will spend and no-hassle all-inclusive concept where they can laze around all week and be pampered. No hassles e.g what/where to eat, car rental etc or building a vacation (too much stress)

    Get with it Barbados!

  10. michele

    Having just returned from yet another wonderful holiday in Barbados,I read these posts with interest. Yes, comparing Bim with other Caribbean islands is comparing apples with oranges! I have been in the tourism industry industry for 25yrs & have experienced many different islands & many formats.Barbados would not benefit from having too many all-inclusive options,the variety of accomodations is what interests the culture-seeking traveller.

    Clients travelling with me compared last year’s 1week Sandal in Jamaica to this year’s 10-days at Coconut Court. They were ahead by $800.00 & had a far better knowledge of Barbdados-they walked along the Boardwalk,along deserted (or almost)beaches,travelled on buses,ate in posh restaurants & in local eateries,danced outdoors under the sun & under the stars with live local music,experienced the “HASH” & revelling in views that could only be seen on foot,went fishing in a small boat with locals,sailed on an “Elegant” catamaran….and came away with a love for this island that could never compare with any other!Yes,Barbados does need some changes-but essentially it is a “different” island & hopefully will remain so.

    Encourage hoteliers to lower their rates,encourage musicians,encourage chefs & cooks,encourage artists & artisans, entice airlines….& stop the building of so many condominiums,otherwise our aspiring musicians & chefs & hoteliers & artists will all become supermarket staff!Barbados is not an “us” & “them” destination-it is a “welcome to our world” island.Which is why my family,my friends & myself return,year after year…to visit not only this wonderful island,but to be welcomed by friends.

  11. Adrian Loveridge

    Michele,

    Wonderful and very interesting observations.
    I really hope our tourism policymakers have all read your comments.

  12. repeat visitor from Canada

    Here the comments I sent by email to Whitepaper , an address I saw stuck away in a story in the Advocate. I encourage others to send their comments as well.

    Here’s what I said:

    1. inform visitors about the rising crime levels so that they can stay safe and secure;

    2. offer coupon booklets to visitors who stay more than a month and to any visitor under 30 to increase the number of young people who visit;

    3. offer rebates to long-stay visitors, for example, a bonus or a rebate of 10 per cent on their lodging in a privately operated villa or apts because they spend money in Barbados- a visit to Ilaro Court is not a very good “reward” for people who pump thousands of dollars into the local economy;

    4. better promote local events such as this weekend’s Barbados Horticultural Fair or the one-day Jan. 29 opening of the Graeme Hill Nature Sanctuary, provide good directions to these events for tourists and information about all similar events (which is invariably lacking because all Bajans “know” what is happening, and where) and inform local taxi drivers picking up cruise visitors about events so they know what is happening and can give even cruisers a more unique experience;

    5. promote local cuisine and encourage restaurants to offer more local foods such as cassava and give more descriptions about local foods, such as mauby or pudding and souse;

    6. restart a meet-local-residents program to match up visitors with locals who work in the same field or offer a service to help visitors act on their interests, for example, to visit a farm;

    7. offer “deals” to under 30s at hotels, all-inclusives, etc: it’s pitiful how few youth visit Barbados!

    8. target groups in other countries using local people in these countries who will know why visitors would like Barbados- for example, for Canadians, emphasize the warm people, beautiful beaches, healthy food and safe water, and find a way to make Barbados more affordable or competitive with cheaper destinations like Cuba. Why show the East Coast rocks when Canadians want value and safety for their money?

    I hadn’t read the comments posted here, but I can see the other Canadians were thinking along the same lines.

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  14. CanuckBajan

    Great to see lots of ideas being contributed – hopefully the Tourism Ministry & other stakeholders take notice!
    Regarding the cost of hotels in Barbados, keep in mind the numbers below. Mexico & DR may have nice walled-off resorts to visit but do tourists feel safe going out into the communities. Would you want to live there? Barbados has a much higher standard of living than the axis of cheap all-inclusive beach destinations because most people can make a living wage. Cutting salaries, etc to to compete with Mexico, Cuba, etc is the worst thing we could do!

    CIA World Factbook GDP per Capita (2010)
    Canada: 39,033
    Barbados: 21,700
    Mexico: 13,800
    Cuba: 9,900
    Dominican Republic: 8,600

    IMF GDP per Capita (2010)
    Canada: 39,033
    Barbados: 22,296
    Mexico: 14,266
    Dominican Republic: 8,647
    Cuba: n/a

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28PPP%29_per_capita

    Minimum Wages by Country
    Canada: 16,710
    Barbados: 8,208
    Mexico: 1,753
    Cuba: 229
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_minimum_wages_by_country

  15. Capt. Nobody

    Listen, the big difference between Bim and other destinations is the low level of crime and harrassing against tourists. If Barbados lose this big “plus” we are getting in biiig trouble because on the other hand there are heavy prices at supermarkets and accomodations. Be aware…