Government should share tourism research… whatever there is of it.

by Adrian Loveridge - small hotel owner

I frequently wonder exactly how scientific and thorough the research on which ‘we’ base decisions, before going on to spend ten of millions of marketing dollars annually.

For instance what proportion of our long stay visitors are directly generated by travel agents and of that figure how many purchase tour operator holiday packages? After establishing those statistics, do we analyze what percentage in monetary terms does this contribute to our overall tourism earnings?

How many visitors book through their flights through a consolidator or use accumulated frequent flyer miles to reach us? What percentage stay in registered hotels, villas, condominiums and other types of licensed accommodation and do we know how long the current average stay is?

Perhaps all these figures already exist, but in my 24 years here in Barbados involved in tourism, I have never seen them. It seems that this could be one of the most critical functions of the Barbados Statistical Service, who already have an attractive website, but sadly does not appear to be updated on a regular basis.

Without this vital information, it is difficult to understand exactly how intelligent and cost-effective strategies could be formulated by the planners and policymakers. If I am wrong, and this information is already in the public domain, then please share it with us, in a format that is easily accessible.

Many businesses, I would guess are presently attempting to evaluate the economics of the rapidly approaching end of the 2011/2012 winter season. Trying to ascertain, what if anything, we can afford to spend this summer to assist in maintaining occupancy and viability, while at the same time trying to retain as many staff as possible.

Few could not have noticed the full page ‘ads’ appearing in the local press bearing the headline ‘Tourism, who cares?’

As I include myself in that category, I proffered my comments on the same day as the first ‘ad’ was carried. Due to technical glitches we were told in subsequent ‘ads’, early contributors were invited to resubmit their comments, which I did twice, but still did not receive an email confirming receipt. There was already a very short response window, just 12 days, even if everything had been functioning properly.

While I fully endorse the objectives behind the concept, I believe it was a huge mistake not to involve our visitors at this stage. The ‘ad’ could so easily have been replicated in a smaller version and given to accommodation providers for placement in every room.

Our visitors already have a very limited opportunity to make their views known to our tourism policymakers, and this could have provided such an invaluable feedback.

Any guests that may have stumbled across the ‘ad’, just might have drawn the conclusion that their opinions are not valued. And if the recent pronouncement ‘that Barbados as a brand is not meeting all the expectations of its customers’ by the BTA Chairman is correct, then surely its even more important to listen very carefully to the areas where we are not performing to the standards anticipated.

Adrian Loveridge

Editor’s note: BFP ran a spelling checker on this article and consolidated a few short paragraphs. BFP created the title “Government should share tourism research… whatever there is of it.” Other than spelling, format and the title, we didn’t change a word.

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3 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism

3 responses to “Government should share tourism research… whatever there is of it.

  1. NYC/BGI

    The travel agency and tour operators are the life blood of the BGI tourism and the BGI tourism know that. the government has been lax in not being able to convert the tourism dept to recognize tourism is an important cash cow for the benefit of the the people. part of the issue of poor results is that there is not an mandate as to how much tourism means to the country, take the Bahamas as a perfect example of educating and changing the operating culture so that the average citizen knew and accepted that tourism put food on the table.Thank PM Pindlling and Clement Maynard for that change in attitude so that you now have the best Tourism operation south of Miami, Wake up BGI tourism before Cuba opens its door and you are set back further than you are now, beating the drums and no one is listening and moving to the beat..

  2. watcher

    Here is what a report would show
    -Barbados way too exepensive to compete for new young tourists
    -average age of a tourist to Barbados is on the increase because young people can’t afford the prices
    -very few travel agents in North America selling Barbados
    -trips from Brasil far too expensive and is not a fix for Barbados (targeting and hoping a country with a warm climate and 9000 kms of beaches and thousands of hotels at a fraction of the price of Barbados hotels is going to have a significant impact on improving tourism for Barbados is a dream)
    -tourist product getting very tired
    -too many beaches cant even be seen becasue of buildings
    -many beaches not safe to leave things while you go and swim.

    What to do?
    -get the prices down and the values up. There are numerous charter airlines who would work with hotel operators to put together competiive packages. Legacy carriers will not get it done.

  3. NYC/BGI

    Well said however the real problem is the outdated playbook and operatng culture. if once the PM realizes that tourism is a cash cow you will see change and a revamping of the unaware BTO,. they place a rep in a big city and it takes 2 to 3 years to understand the culture and since the travel agency industry has been deceminated by the zero commissions on airline tickets there is no replacements. The BTO was told 10 tears ago that the shift should be to small conventions and meetings no one in authority could see it because they were afraid of losing their power because the push was from the outside. Now the complete BTO tourism are ineffective and trying twentieth century in the twenty first century. . .