UPDATED March 27, 2013
The tourist numbers are tanking – they have been tanking for a long time. Global financial problems are taking a toll, it’s true, but our numbers are especially bad and worse than most in the Caribbean.
Many folks think that a little more advertising will take care of things. That might get us a few more tourists, but that won’t cure the foundational problems that we have with our tourism product.
This article from our own Nevermind Kurt tells it fuh truth! We drove the old tourism economy taxi right into the ground without changing the oil or performing normal maintenance. We just made money with that old taxi until it could go no longer and we didn’t save for a new one. So here we are trying to make our living driving an old rust bucket of a taxi while everyone around us has a shiny new taxi. No contest where the customer will take their money!
Here’s our original article…
“We cannot continue with the Barbados Tourism Authority’s current philosophy of advertising instead of ensuring product quality. We have to change the road we’re on, or there will be nothing left for our children.” …BFP staffer Nevermind Kurt
“Maybe BTA should advertise some derelict properties as well. LOL Sometimes I wonder if we do not realize the damage we do to our island’s reputation Maybe frustration sets in but Barbados must come first CZMU and other agencies have a mandate, but quite often MONEY just is not there. ”
BTA Deputy Director Austin Husbands chides Mullins Bay Blog for posting an expose of destroyed beaches and empty hotels: You probably will not see this in the glossy Barbados tourism literature
Memo to the BTA: Deceiving tourists doesn’t help Barbados in the long run
When I first read Austin Husbands’ astonishing comment on the St. Peter, Barbados Facebook group, I became angry and started to write a slashing rant aimed squarely at the BTA’s Deputy Director. Then I sat back and thought about the tremendous pressures that our tourism industry and every Bajan is facing at this moment. I also thought that Mr. Husbands believes that he and our tourism industry are trapped by circumstance into carrying on with more of the same: concentrating on promotion rather than on product quality. (ie: “We need the tourist money NOW… no time for foundational changes. Advertise MORE!”)
I’m no longer angry at Mr. Husbands. I think he’s wrong in his approach, but I understand where he’s coming from. I understand his generation’s current desperation and exasperation that while the BTA spends tens of millions of dollars advertising and promoting a Perfect Image of Barbados, concerned Bajans and disgruntled visitors are posting photos of the truth online. Has Mr. Husbands ever read TripAdvisor or Carnival Cruise Lines forums? He should… every day.
“We ordinary Bajans and many of our Barbados regulars have a fundamental disagreement with the Mr. Husbands, the BTA and our political leadership about where our tourism industry is taking our country.”
Ordinary Bajans believe that there is no real plan, that it’s all happening willy nilly and that the long term good of Barbados is being shunted aside for short term profits and personal gain at the expense of our children’s future. Irreparable damage is being done – socially and environmentally – yet the vast majority of our tourism “leaders” can only see the next financial quarter. I understand that, but I’m also saying it’s time to get off the road we’re on.
It must be frustrating and exasperating for Mr. Husbands
I feel sorry for Austin Husbands and those who think like him because it is all falling apart and they don’t want to admit that our entire approach to tourism has been so wrong for so long. For the last 20 years we should have spent 50% of our BTA advertising budget on maintaining and developing the quality of our product and that includes ensuring that visitors are safe.
Instead, we talked about quality but took no real action and committed no resources of any consequence to anything that mattered long term. We poured hundreds of millions into nationalizing tourism through Hotels & Resorts and other scams and in the end it was all money down a big hole.
“Over the last decade, we’ve lost hundreds if not thousands of dollars on each tourist who arrived. Can you really understand that? Can you understand the truth of what I’m saying?”
We said “yes” to any condo or water park developer with a couple of million dollars in “consulting fees” and a PowerPoint presentation. We had a hundred plans and schemes. Indian tourists were going to come by their thousands – except they didn’t. Then stem cell tourism was going to be our forte – until it turned out that our “partners” were importing stem cells from murdered babies in the Ukraine. That little foray turned out well, didn’t it?
Then it was the Chinese tourists who would save us. Now it is the Brazilians who are the centre of our attention, and all we hear is a lot of talk about attracting them, but nothing about getting them back for a second visit.
We walled off our Western coast and allowed developers to build groynes in the sea to capture sand for the condominium’s beach. We didn’t care that the groynes destroyed neighbouring beaches up and down the coast just as long as certain privileged hotels had their sand. None of the newspapers asked if there was a correlation between political contributions and permission to build groins, or if any politicians had shares in the projects. The Barbados news media should have asked those questions.
See something wrong? BTA says “Shut the hell up!”
The BTA Deputy Director is of the opinion that Barbadians should keep their mouths shut about the environmental rape of the West Coast and how the environmental damage and wholesale uncontrolled development is killing our tourism product and tourism. Mr. Husbands says there should be no talk, no photos, no discussion and certainly no public criticism while everything goes to hell. The tourists might find out!
We’ve got news for Mr. Husbands: once they come to Barbados, the tourists know. That’s why in recent years the BTA has had to find “new markets” and new customers all the time. Our return rate of tourists is not anywhere near what it used to be.
This is how we got to where we are now – by pretending everything is fine, fine, so fine, until all we have left to sell is a veneer of what Barbados used to be.
Our current philosophy is that we’d rather attract a million new tourists every year for one visit never to return than maintain the quality of product that would attract a steady core of repeat visitors who wouldn’t dream of vacationing anywhere else.
Mr. Husbands, I think you are a fine man and that you love Barbados as much as I do.
We have this disagreement about the future and the way to get there. I think that your, and the BTA’s, vision of the future is coloured by the day to day pressure to pay the bills and the interest on past debts and mistakes.
We cannot continue with the Barbados Tourism Authority’s current philosophy of advertising instead of ensuring product quality. We have to change the road we’re on, or there will be nothing left for our children.