Repeat visitor has “a blast” in Barbados, offers suggestions

Barbados needs lots of middle-of-the-road tourists

by Netta 1465

Niche markets are all well and fine but the super-rich are not going to keep an entire island afloat. For tourism to flourish, Barbados needs middle of the road tourists and lots of them. The type of people who come often and talk it up with their middle of the road friends.

Other islands have what they are known for. Right now, even though I think (I am biased) that Barbados is hands down the best island in the Caribbean, only people who have been here actually know this. Gotta sell it to regular folks who spend US$2-3,000 on a 4 night all inclusive locked up on a prison resort in Jamaica.

I think Barbados needs to open up itself to more mass tourism and not concentrate on the small small market of people who can afford to vacation a different place every other month. These people, when they come, will spend many $$ on grand lodging but because they can, they will not come often enough to keep any island afloat.

I still say reign in the taxation and spend some money on the smaller hotels and restaurant’s and getting the word out that Barbados is another island with great beaches for the day and loads of nightlife only much classier than Cancun.

Condos and their lesser cousins, timeshares, will wreck the economy of your island because too much property will sit empty. All-inclusives are also devil’s work to an island’s economy.

I believe Barbados’ smaller lodging options and intimate, local-owned eateries are what vacationers would fall in love with and return over and over and over again.

Short story: I came in May, 2009. I had a blast. Small hotel, small restaurants, great nightlife and beautiful beaches. That was the extent of my visit. To date, I have been back to Barbados 6 times since May, 2009. The intimacy of the island is what I can’t get enough of. I feel like I am home when my plane lands. I have at least two trips planned for 2012. I can’t stand the thought of an all-inclusive or a large resort. Who needs them?

That is what Barbados wants and needs. Get the little guy and get him hooked. . . . He will come, come often and bring loads of friends and family.

Taxation in Barbados is way over the top. 

However, Barbados has developed a social structure whereas they offer European-styled social services (free health care, higher education, housing assistance, etc.) to their citizens. This is great but the burden of paying for this falls on the taxation system, which is what drives tourism away.

As a frequent visitor to Barbados over the last couple of years, I can say that although I am a shopaholic at home (I shop EVERY weekend at home) and in other locations, besides food and booze, I have not made any purchases other than absolute necessities in Barbados. Because of the tariff and taxation, Barbados holds no appeal for the average tourist-shopper to do more than enjoy the less expensive amenities of the island.

Something will have to eventually give. Perhaps Barbados needs to come up with an austerity plan of its own so that it can lower the tax burden that is placed on business owners as well as visitors.

Every single thing on the island does not have to be taxed to death. That is just plain government greed. There should be some things or some place where tourists can go and spend and spend and spend and not leave 200+% of the real value of the items behind because of tariff and taxation. That is just crazy and bad math.

Netta1465 has vacationed in 15 Caribbean nations and is a Barbados destination expert at TripAdvisor.com

This post is a compilation of two comments by Netta1465 in response to BFP’s post Where is the Barbados tourism master plan?

17 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism

17 responses to “Repeat visitor has “a blast” in Barbados, offers suggestions

  1. Adrian Loveridge

    I was not at the BHTA fourth quarterly meeting. We have to prioritise at the moment and looking after our business is number one. The $120 to attend as well as annual subscriptions of around $3,000 has to be paid for somehow and $120 equates to two gallons of paint.
    I heard some of the reported comments including the rather robust, but totally accurate ones by the BHTA President.
    I don’t think, as one former President remarked, we generally are looking at Government hand-outs, but the administration has to look at the entire industry not just from a cash cow perspective.
    The pressure is on PRICES. Visitors are looking for value-for-money.
    That surely cannot be suprising considering what is going on in the real world. Government’s response has been to allow just about every operating cost to escalate far beyond a level where these increases can be absorbed.
    A huge chunk of our hotel rooms (836 in just one case) desperately need upgrading, but that cannot be done when that particular company lost $20 milion in its last fiscal year. At the same time ‘we’ are trying to sell 3 star properties at 4 star prices to people who know the difference.
    It is having negative effect on the entire industry with in some cases nearly 40 per cent of people posting on the largest social media tourism website (TripAdvisor) that they would not recommend certain hotels.
    If ‘we’ as an industry have any hope of surviving 2012 intact, then I am afraid Government HAS to step in and find a way to bring costs down.
    Laid-off employees will simply not re-elect an administration that appears indifferent to the real challenges we have.

  2. dem hey

    we dont need no stupid middle of the road, back pack,hand to mouth tourist..dem will only fatigue we immigration and custom officers ..we want the big spenders so when de spend, we can put plenty T&T gas in we BMW cause we are the bestest of dem lil ilsland.. see we gat BMW, Audi and merc by the boatload and look at all dem chart and index, we de pun top

  3. British Bajan Gal

    @ dem hey- in this recession, Barbados needs all tourists, whether they are middle of the road, budget or high earners. Every penny counts and discounting the budget people, who may have under £1000 to spend on a 2 week stay is discounting $3200 plus accommodation going into Barbados, in addition recommendations to others, that Barbados is affordable to all. All this talk about BMW, Mercs etc is rubbish!! If u carry on thay way, u wont have no gas to put in it let alone drive it!!

  4. 32535834/24346-C66

    Dem hey is soooo living in the comfortable Past
    still pretending “everything will be alright baby
    -just wait until the morning light”

    ________________________________

    On another note
    we were boarding at JFK two months ago, and got chatting with a guy who was on our jetBlue flight back to Bdos
    -he said this was going to be his 16th. visit to Bim!

    I was kinda shocked, to be honest
    and thanked him for his loyalty to the island!

  5. Keep 'em coming

    Well, there are different aspects to this. I agree wholeheartedly with the subscriber, because it is the intimate and boutique-style hotels that really score with visitors and bring repeat business. I would differ with him in that I would not call this mass tourism. On the contrary, it is the antidote to mass tourism – it gives the visitor the feel of the country. Given the cost of travel to reach Barbados, especially from North America, compared with reaching the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Cancun, we cannot present ourselves as they do. Loud, brash, in-your-face multi-national brands, which make you feel as if you could be just anywhere. Barbados is not like that, and could never be, given its available land space. So let’s make the best of what we have and the visitors will keep on coming. On the other hand, whilst I agree that government should do what it can to keep hotel costs under control, I believe that there is a lot not being said here. Nothing is said about bad management, or the fact that large sums of money stay outside Barbados, in bank accounts in quaint places like the British Virgin Islands, for example. I have been around the business for many years, and I have NEVER heard a hotelier say how happy and satisfied he is, but the SUV’s keep rolling, and the kids go to expensive boarding schools overseas, etc. The company that lost $20 million in the last year needs a forensic audit to see where its “expenses” eventually end up. I have never seen the CEO in coach class, or staying in anything less that 5 star lodgings. I am sure that same applies to many of the other hotels as well. So if the taxpayer is going to step in to help the sector, which admittedly is badly in need of an injection of funds, then we need to make sure that revenue ends up paying back loans, and not in offshore bank accounts. We should resist strongly the tempation to give assistance without insisting on proper controls in return.

  6. Angela Ifill

    We survived 9/11 so stop the doomsday bull.There is merit in what the article’s author had to say.Under a DLP administration the back pack tourist was targeted under then minister of Tourism Wes Hall who also said Bushy park should be a formula one track and a horse racing track with the horses running in the right direction.I believe the answer will be in sports and niche tourism.Including Casinos.Let’s start with niche:African Americans,Gay,Christian,Asians and the other niches out there.Barbados tourism product needs Casino dollars investors if not it’s going to drop by the wayside.Gambling is outlawed in China but they picked up Macau after four hundred years of Portuguese rule which had a flourishing Casino industry and the Chinese have embraced it and now it’s income has surpassed las Vegas. The Macau gaming model along with Sports tourism is the way for us to go.We need big spenders to revamp our tourist infrastructure with investment in casino/hotel facilities.The entire south coast needs burning down and building stock for this century.From the Caribbean sea we should see a modern day sky line on the south coast.
    We should have listen to former prime Minister tom Adams where the casino business is concerned and Wes hall where sports tourism is concerned.Soon we going to listen to marching lay off Tourism workers about their concern.

  7. Alice in Dreadland

    Casino’s bring a whole set of unpleasant baggage to a country. If you think we have a concern with prostitution then it will seem like nothing when the casino comes to Bim. And as there is big bucks to be made from selling sex (female, male, children) then look for an increase in human traffiking & organised crime……It is still possible to open & operate a business in Barbados without getting a weekly threatening request for ‘protection’ money. Once organised crime gets a grip then it will broaden its greedy tentacles to reach out to any thing it can consume……I say NO to casino’s & YES to increased sports tourism.

  8. chillin

    @Keep ’em coming
    I have been around the business for many years, and I have NEVER heard a hotelier say how happy and satisfied he is, but the SUV’s keep rolling, and the kids go to expensive boarding schools overseas, etc
    ===========================
    bang on target keep em coming, hoteliers are the weathiest economic group in Barbados many own mansions in ritzy London nieghbourhoods and expensive condos in the Mediterranean. Their drumbeat of doom for tourism and at the same time seeking governement handouts of poor taxpayers money is sickening.

  9. Wonderer

    Maybe there is hope yet. I understand that both David Rice and Averil Byer are currently on leave and a Urban Cumberbatch is currently acting CEO at the BTA!! That pompous Rice talks the talk but does not have a clue about what it takes to get people here and to extract money from their pockets. Rice’s contract ends next year and I for one cant wait to see the back of him. Byer knows how to play the game so she will survive but maybe she too will crawl off into the sunset when it finally sinks in that she will never be CEO of the BTA. We need good ideas and then see them implemented. This group has done nothing sustainable or innovative apart from the Food & Wine & Rum Festival and the jury is still out on that as the numbers reported dont quite add up.
    Was watching telly recently and saw visitbarbados.org on the boundary boards at a Chelsea game vs Man City!! This game was watched by tens of millions across the UK and the world, so well done as this is the high end UK market we should be targeting!
    Maybe Petra Roach should be brought home to run the BTA as only the UK seems to be doing anything of any real note and value. The legends football was absolutely amazing!!

  10. watcher

    Well something better happen becasue the place right now looks a little empty. It is all about getting the cost down and the value for money up. Do a little comparison shopping and see what it costs a family of 4 to go to Barbados for a week compared to say Cuba, Mexico, or the Dominican. Then realize that today money is spent mostly where the value is best. The internet has changed everything. The world economy has changed everythng. To be in the game.Barbados had better adjust quickly .

  11. Nostradamus

    Alice in Dreadland or maybe that should be Alice in Dreamland maybe you haven’t noticed but although we don’t have so called “casinos” we have gambling “dens” which any poor Barbadian can go to and gamble their wages or life savings away 24/7, and many do. Check Marhill St., Oistins, Sunset Crest, football pools, horse racing, slot machines, lottery tickets etc etc.

    Kindly explain the difference between a casino (apart from card and roulette table) and our poor people oriented gambling dens.

  12. Nostradamus

    By the way, lest there be any misunderstanding, I don’t gamble and have never even bought a lottery ticket but I support the right of those who want to, to do so in a well regulated environment. Whether it’s a Casino or a gambling den.

  13. Alice in Dreadland

    @Nostradamus

    I thought I would draw your attention to the following research paper abstract; it would appear that I am not the only person living in your so called ‘dreamland’.

    Title: Macau casinos and organised crime

    Author(s): Angela Veng Mei Leong, (BSocSc, MPhil; PhD candiate, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London; Research Associate Fellow, Centre for Criminology, University of Hong Kong)
    Citation: Angela Veng Mei Leong, (2004) “Macau casinos and organised crime”, Journal of Money Laundering Control, Vol. 7 Iss: 4, pp.298 – 307
    Keywords: Casinos, Crime, Macau, Money laundering

    Article type: Research paper

    Abstract: Presents research into how casinos in Macau, the “Monte Carlo of the Orient”, link with organised crime. Outlines the research methodology, which includes 16 in-depth interviews with staff from law enforcement agencies, the gambling industry and elsewhere, plus field observations and secondary sources. Describes the pyramid structure of the “bate-ficha” business and the triads which act as bouncers and protectors. Looks back at how the Macau colonial government regarded gambling as a vital industry from which it obtained most of its revenues, and in return gave the Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM( the gaming monopoly; this symbiotic relationship created openings for triad infiltration and resulting skimming, money laundering and corruption. Concludes that the relationship between government and gaming had benefits, but the monopoly structure gave no incentive for improvement, while the situation anyway deteriorated in the 1990s as casino revenues fluctuated; unregulated competition led to increased crime and there is now urgent need to reform industry policing and management.

  14. I think everyone agrees that changes need to be made and need to be made urgently. What are the best things about the Barbados tourism product? What do we do really well that our visitors cannot stop raving about when they go home? What is it that we have/do that nobody else anywhere has/does that is currently translating into massive foreign exchange? How do we make that more prominent in the world?

    Once we’ve identified those key areas then how do we duplicate this success in other parts of the island? How do we improve this product by getting the stakeholders (Hoteliers, Government, Workforce, Citizens) involved in the process in meaningful and sustainable ways?

    Now turn your heads the other way. What do we do really poorly? What are the most hateful aspects of our tourism product? What is Jamaica doing right that we are not doing? Who are their customers (demographics)? Why are they going to Jamaica and not Barbados? How do we do what they’re doing right but do it better and with a Bajan flavour? If we only want wealthy patrons then how do we court more of them? Are we advertising inside their country clubs or at the side of the field at a Manchester United game (I think not)?

    Or are we going to be real and see that one person can only eat so much food, drink so much alcohol, sleep in one bed at a time and take up so much beach space and therefore it’s better to place our bets on 10 hand-to-mouth backpackers instead of 1 rich bitch? Are we going to be flexible and acknowledge that Barbados has accommodations that will suit the wallets and tastes of both demographics and by courting only one type, the hotels that welcome the other type are going to suffer?

    And last but not least, are we going to stop treating our visitors like cash cows, crackheads and criminals and start welcoming them ALL like honoured guests in our home? How are we going to lend support to law enforcement who are battling the ills of tourism? The idea here is not to waste time on guesswork solutions but to develop a plan strictly on what we know for sure works and do that with the aim of taking Barbados to #1 in the world (or the Caribbean if you please). This will only work with all hands on deck and everyone feeling like they are a part of the plan and the work and not just looking to Government while Government is looking to the few who are sitting as Parliamentarians.

    The people who are in the trenches know what works, they know the solutions so go ask them! #1 will not happen overnight but why not with another 50 years of consistently high standards and continued growth and #2 is nothing to feel shabby about either.

  15. Lovely piece and so true, all inclusives are good for places like Cuba but not Barbados and yes get the regulars.

  16. 32535834/24346-C66

    BIG PROBLEM:
    A huge problem affecting the mindset of the average Bajan
    (and the average Bajan is involved in this from head to foot, whether we choose to recognize this or not)
    is our socialist mentality acquired since 1966 independence.

    “Government is to do everything” is the mindset.
    “We the electorate are to sit back and get our entitlements as promised by politicians.”
    I have watched this process now since independence was thrust upon us, back when I was just a teenager
    and in the long run it IS NOT WORKING! never mind what BS is fed to this nation of Mensa intellectuals!

    How then do we change a 40 yr. old socialist mindset and “economy”
    into a CAPITALIST (WORK for yuh money DON’T expect entitlements) mindset and real-economy?

    Forty years of illusion will not be undone in forty weeks, not even in forty months.
    Good luck changing us into conscientious WORKERS
    not expecting Guvment to look after We from the cradle to the grave!

  17. John Randall

    We will soon be making our 25th visit to your lovely country. We count it as our home away from home. So many good things going for you and we have seen both positive and negative changes over the years. Better training of staff in the service industry has meant better, friendlier treatment of the tourist trade for the most part but improvement is needed, i.e. the customs people on arrival could at least offer a smile and a welcome to Barbados. We are what has been referred on here as “middle of the road” people and have found Barbados has lots to offer us and I agree that advertising should be directed to reach all travellers not just the “rich”. Please preserve your beaches keeping them open to everyone. That is a major draw for us and the people we know who have been coming to Barbados for years. Let the world know this. I know it is only one small part but so important. We love Barbados and we love the Bajan people. We hope you more than prosper for generations. Thank You