China tourism a ‘pipe dream’ for Barbados? Not according to our ambassador to China

Former Prime Minister Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford told the DLP youth arm on the weekend that Barbados should be pursuing Chinese tourists – if for no other reason that China is the world’s second largest economy and the Chinese love to travel. Sandy says we should cull what we can from the market and nevermind that we don’t have a direct airlift. ‘Stop moaning about no direct airlift and get on with it’ is a good summary of his message.

On one hand, Sir Lloyd’s comments make sense. We must catch as catch can in this economy and we can’t afford to miss any opportunity to attract tourists with money. (As opposed to tourists without money, like many of the cruise passengers who are stretched to pay US$65 a day for their all-inclusive cruises and so they spend zero when their ship docks in Bridgetown.)

But then reality sets in just as it did when Owen Arthur and Noel Lynch announced that tourism from India was the next big thing. Ha! Remember that disaster? And then in 2011 the folks at the Barbados Tourism Authority were just as sure that Russian tourists would save the day. How did that work out?

Let’s consider what it really takes to get from Hong Kong to Barbados, shall we?

According to Expedia.com, “London, GB is the most popular connection for one stop flights between Hong Kong, HK and Barbados, BB.” The site also says that Air Canada runs the shortest flight between Hong Kong and Barbados, with one stop and that “75,477 seats are available per day to fly out of Hong Kong, HK connecting to Barbados, BB” (I would guess that number includes some flights with three stopovers in places like Newark, New Jersey – which JD Power ranked “worst airport in America” and Huffington Post called “a hellhole”.)

Hmmmm…. Nonetheless, maybe Sir Lloyd’s message has some truth in it: the seats are there and we should work at it. Now comes the “but”…

Let’s say we take Air Canada flight A16 nonstop from Hong Kong to Toronto, Canada, leaving May 8, 2012 at 3:10pm Hong Kong time, and arrive in Toronto on May 8, at 6:05pm after spending about 19 hours at Hong Kong airport and on the aircraft. The next flight to Barbados doesn’t leave until 8:40am the next morning, so we have to spend a night in Toronto and then drag ourselves – zombie like – to the morning flight to Grantley. We’ll arrive in Bim on May 9 at 2pm and then spend a couple of hours making our way through luggage and customs and getting to our hotel.

Call it 41 hours of travel door-to-door between your home in Hong Kong and the Hilton in Bridgetown.

41 hours is a long time in transit. Subtract the 41 hours to and another 41 hours return from a week (not to mention travel-zombie recovery time when you reach Barbados) and you’ll see that Chinese tourists simply can’t take a week and head to Barbados. They have to invest at least two weeks to have a reasonable holiday in Bim.

What about going through London on Virgin? Here are the numbers…

Say you left your condo in Hong Kong three hours before the flight. Leave Hong Kong on Virgin VS201 May 8, 2012 at 23:25 hours (wohloss!) and arrive in London on May 9th at 05:25 (zombie!). Then grab the 09:35 flight to Barbados (VS035) and arrive on May 9th at 13:15. Add maybe another two hours to go through customs and get to the Hilton. That’s 31 hours door to door – your Hong Kong condo to checking into the Hilton, Barbados. No sleep except on the airplane. YOU ARE A ZOMBIE.

Now take a day or more to recover.

That is the reality of Chinese tourists coming to Barbados.

Are we that special?

You have to ask yourself: is Barbados that special that Chinese tourists would spend thirty or forty hours getting here? Forget about sand, sun and ocean. Think of the destinations between Hong Kong and Barbados that have beaches, little umbrella drinks and relaxation: Australia, Fiji, Bali, Hawaii, California, Mexico, Jamaica. The flight from Hong Kong to Fiji is nine hours.

What makes Barbados so special that Chinese tourists would choose us over all those other destinations?

I can think of a number of reasons why Chinese tourists would choose an adventure to Barbados – but I’ll tell you this: If I traveled forty hours to arrive in Bim, I had better be greeted by smiling-happy-to-see-me airport and hotel staff. The sullen, pissed off Immigration officials had better not decide to call me ‘coolie man’ with a heavy Bajan dialect under their breath and the sheets on the bed had better not have cigarette burns.

Everybody thinks that Chinese tourism will save us. But when you crunch the travel time, it’s obvious that we’d better not forget those cold farmers in North Dakota come February – because they only take eight hours from snow drifts to rum on the beach.

Our assessment: Until we get hypersonic sub-orbital four hour flights from Hong Kong direct non-stop to Grantley Adams, don’t expect to see hordes of middle class Chinese invading Barbados for a week’s holiday… it’s not going to happen! Sir Sandy is all fired up about China because he is our Ambassador to that country – but I wouldn’t be getting our hopes up thinking that Chinese government interest in our support at the United Nations translates into vastly increased tourism traffic from China.

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26 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, China

26 responses to “China tourism a ‘pipe dream’ for Barbados? Not according to our ambassador to China

  1. Terry Wilcock

    Wonderful response to a wonderful if not slightly strange and misguided idea. I do like the idea of hypersonic sub-orbital flights !! Two hours or less from Paris or London for a subsidised 900 dollar cost would be great, and this island would be full to bursting.

    As in other responses the problem here is not seeing the big picture. We love Bim for what it is, warts and all. There is a huge cultural/language divide with many nations but none more than with China.

    With all the best will in the world I cannot see why they would find a 41 hour flight to a unique but very individual island attractive.
    In terms of revenue it would be great and it makes theoretical sense but I must say that that is where it ends.

    We visited Egypt last year and witnessed at first hand what happens when a perceived tourist treasure trove, in this case Russia, suddenly abandons what for them was a nearby and inexpensive destination, they left in droves even in areas totally unaffected by the troubles.

    Concentrate on keeping the customers you already have happy and content, work on countries where ties are strong, it may take longer but at the end of the day you will have a reliable stream of tourists for all the right reasons, they will always come back because like us they know and love what Barbados is all about.

    Chinese invasion, I am sad to say – I think not!!

  2. Dream ON.

    Let’s see how the Brasilian tourists thing goes first, OK?
    ..before we lock in yet another language barrier to our tourism product
    such as remains.

    If we can handle Portuguese-speaking tourisses with some success
    we might MIGHT be able to handle One Hung Low.

    This, quite apart from having people travel half a ruddy planet to get here..

  3. jrjrjrjr

    The Chinese like to travel but they love to shop whilst travelling. sadly Barbados is sadly lacking in this department.

  4. 180

    Tourism from China is the stuff of pipe dreams. God knows what’s in the pipe!

  5. Moneybrain

    Sandy is NOT a business person and should be forgiven for his utterances.
    I have travelled extensively in the Far East on 10 seperate occasions in the last 30yrs and I am married to an Oriental lady. As much as I love Bim i have always been a practical businessman and the reality is that there are plenty good beach vacations available to Chinese in less than 12 hours total journey time. Thailand ie Phuket, , Malaysia’s East Coast, Australia’s East Coast eg Great Barrier Reef , New Zealand for the varied condensed geography.

    Orientals typically take shorter vacations than Westerners and if they are going far afield are far more likely to go to Europe or the USA. This would be a total waste of money and that money should be spent elsewhere maybe Brazil, Argentina etc. However, please be aware that Argentinians et al do spend vacation time in other Cbean islands that speak spanish eg San Andres in the Western Cbean near Panama. ( I have met several there myself)

  6. NYC/BGI

    I am just amazed at the way the BTA and the PM think that tourism is a simple process. To think that ASIA is a market that will bring tourist to BGI is a pipe dream. BGI cannot have the tools and facilities to lure the Asian tourist, Come on BTA revise the playbook and marketing reality,The BTA was advised and told that the way to sustain an increased tourism is to develop the meeting and conference market place.Tthat info fell on deaf ears due to no vision and pomp egos. Now look at what has happened they are grasping at straws. What a pity. .

  7. just want to know

    Barbadians don’t want Chinese workers, but they want them to come and spend their money as tourists, what hypocrisy, God what a nation of people.

  8. rastaman

    Sandiford is just as good at a Chinese Ambassador as he was as Prime Minister.LOL

  9. Anonymous

    It’s important that the country select the “right” tourist. There is nothing with with Chinese tourist, but will this market be sustainable over a period of time?
    Our culture is vastly different from Chinese and I personally think this market will be short lived.

  10. NYC/BGI

    Get Real!!! there is no Asian market. would you travel to HK to visit their high end amusement park?? by the way the right tourist is one who is just wanting to enjoy the attributes that BGI has to offer, nothing else.

  11. watcher

    Because the flight to Barbados out of Toronto leaves the day after the flights from China arrive, the tourists from China would have to sleep at the airport in the iternational lounge or apply for visas. No Chinese will be admitted to Canada without a visa, A visa for a Chinese person to come to Canada is very difficult to get.

  12. NYC/BGI

    Are you mad, the Chinese traveler is a sophisticated one and there is nothing in BGI to attract even 10 people to travel that far to swim and eat Flying Fish on Friday Night at Oistens,Get real

  13. Duppy Lizard

    Its like the flood of Brazillians we are also awaitng,,,,What In Hells Name is going to attract them?????????????????????

  14. Duppy Lizard

    The saying “You can fool some of the people some of the time but you cant fool all the people all the time”.in this context should be revised “You can sure as hell fool nuff people nuff times”……………….

  15. BadBob

    Hold on there partner! You mean to tell me that my friends, RibBone and Willie, have been raising cats and dogs for their new Chinese Deli WON’T get the Hordes of Mongols that they that had hoped for!? These fellows have been working their hearts out stealin the cats and dogs for the grand opening BBQ in August.
    At least “Plan B” is still moving forward. The Green Monkey Menu for all of the Bazillions of Brazilians that will be flying into blessed BIM!
    *And will the Brazilian Babes be able to wear those thongie things to our beaches? Which beach should I plan to troll? I am looking forward to the editor helping on this burning question.

  16. what will they think of next

    If Barbados is not special to Chinese how come they are so many Chinese here in Barbados?
    I was walking thru Manning Land, Bank Hall yesterday and got the shock of my life, a Chinese family living in a Bajan board and shingle house and their children in the road playing cricket with their black Bajan neighbors.
    How they know about Manning Land, Bank Hall from all the way in China?

  17. Mark Fenty

    BadBob, I don’t find it funny as all, when someone uses “Empirical Generalizations” to besmear another race or ethnicity. It just shows a lack of respect on your part, for one’s culture and way of life. So I beg you to cease and desist with such unacceptable behavior sir. I understand quite well, the concept of free- speech and all that stuff, but remember this sir, free-speech comes with some measure of responsibility.

  18. Mark Fenty

    BadBob, I don’t find it funny at all, when someone uses “Empirical Generalizations” to besmear another race, or ethnicity. It shows a lack of respect on your part, for one’s culture and way of life. So I beg you to cease and desist with such unacceptable behavior sir. I understand quite well the concept of free- speech, and all that stuff, but remember this sir, free-speech comes with some measure of responsibility.

  19. Mark Fenty

    @”Anonymous”

    Anonymous you have said that, “It is important that Barbados selected the right kind of tourist”. And your speculation was based on the fact that china’s culture is fundamentally different from that of Barbados.
    Now lets me ask you this question sir , who would you consider the right kind of tourist? For one thing, millions of Chinese vacation in the United States yearly, and many Americans do likewise in China . With this in mind, isn’t it safe to argue that china and United States have vastly different cultures?
    So in essence, your speculation amounts to nothing more than a basket of holes; if you are merely using “cultural differences” as a barometer for determining the sustainability of tourism between Barbados, and china.

  20. Mark Fenty

    Anonymous, it seems rather unintelligible in my estimation, for someone to use their personal opinion to repudiate a venture without meticulously examining the statistics. When one advances an opinion especially of this nature, it has to be substantiated and corroborated with empirical data. Now, please don’t misconstrue what I’m saying here, because I’m cognizant of the fact that statistics don’t always validate the evidence, but it is nonetheless, a viable basis for strengthen one’s argument.

  21. Mark Fenty

    On the issue of Chinese families residing in Barbados, if one take a closer look at “Caribbean History” particularly between the period of 1838 to 1917. I am quite sure one would arrive at the answer as to why there are
    so many Chinese families in Barbados, and the Caribbean for the matter.

    Now according to the history books, after the emancipation of the slaves in the western hemisphere; many of them did not want to work on the plantation any longer. So this created a vacuum in terms of labor- shortest for the plantation owners. So starting in 1838 to 1917, the planter- class brought a quarter million East Indians and thousands of Chinese as indentured servants, on a five year contract to fill the vacuum left opened by the ex-slave. Now it is important to note, that the majority of the Chinese and East Indians were of course, sent to the larger plantations in Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad, but make no mistake; some were brought to Barbados during that period.

  22. Mark Fenty

    The one thing I would like to inculcate on the minds of those few intolerant Barbadians is this. We are all the same beings but in different disguise.
    I’ve met many Chinese- West Indians in here in the United States,and some them are more West Indian than you or I. It must be noted that, Chinese- West Indians have always been apart of the Caribbean ethos, but of course, this is more evident in Trinidad, Guyana, and Jamaica where the populations are much larger than Barbados.

  23. NYC/BGI

    History is as it is history. What is the issue as to Chinese tourist. its a waste of time and effort to try to reach out to the Asian tourist, When BGI had an opportunity to woo the South African Tourist the reception by BGI when the Chairman of South African Airways stopped overnight on their way back from Seattle picking up a new 747, was a major embarrassment hence SAA
    did not reevaluate stopping in BGI before Miami. Nothing has changed as to thinking outside the box by the BTA,

  24. Moneybrain

    @Badbob
    Now those cats and dogs will be in your food at other Restaurants famous for Burgers, rotis et al. CAVEAT EMPTOR. Those oriental friends did give you a wink wink but you did not see their eyelids move!

  25. Harry callihan


    i don’t think so.