Barbados tourism industry feeling the pressure, taking undeserved flak from know-it-all politicians
For the first few days of her reign, Patricia Affonso-Dass (photo above courtesy of The Nation), the newly elected President of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, perhaps concluded that she had joined a battle and was undergoing a Baptism of Fire. If many of our policymakers took the effort to better understand the tourism industry, they would have been more guarded with what I thought were in some cases rather unfair comments.
Tourism is a lot more, of course, than about a bunch of hoteliers, but often it is those same people who sacrifice freely, enormous amounts of otherwise quality and productive time with their families and businesses, while endevouring to make a positive difference.
Two years of attending endless meetings, attempting to juggle with all the vested interests and egos and so often without the resources that other entities seemingly take for granted. And they do this without all the perks, benefits and salaries others receive, including politicians, who in some cases can retire at fifty years of age with a taxpayer pension for life.
Sadly, most of the contentious remarks played out in Parliament and the media could have been entirely avoided with better communication and if the ruling party are seriously considering the possibility of re-election, they may wish to address this issue.
Like any trade association, the BHTA is there to represent its members who contribute significant annual subscription fees, which in a time of eroded profits, inflation apparently out of control and other escalating operational costs, have to be justified like any other expense.
I have no doubt many in the industry, consider that ‘we’ as a destination are now in crisis.
You only have to do a little price comparison on the internet to see the amazingly high level of discounting going on in most of our markets, which some concede is the only practical way of keeping the doors open.
While, the $5 million additional funds granted to the national marketing agency in the recent budget is welcome, frankly it is a drop in the ocean and arguably too little too late. Again, reflecting the abysmal level of information dissemination between the private and public sector, the majority of the players have no idea how these monies will be spent, or if they simply will evaporate and be used to pay all the yet unfulfilled financial obligations.
In my short time on the BTA board, Return on Investment (ROI), was a frequently used phrase, but this seems to have gone out of the window in more recent times. The current level of anticipated return, seems dismally low. $5 million carefully and creatively deployed, should produce, in my humble opinion, $100 million in earned revenue.
As to the merits of yet another small and medium size hotel refurbishment fund: Unless access to these funds are simplified and available to all our registered properties, the danger is that this new proposed equity scheme will become just more smoke and mirrors. If you just address our small hotels, of which we have around 120, providing roughly 2,500 rooms, that’s an average of $20,000 per room to upgrade, before allowing for public areas like swimming poools, landscaping etc.
Not surprisingly then, the overall amount of $50 million is being questioned.
Tax moratorium doesn’t undo the damage already done to the tourism industry
And finally: the moratorium for two periods on land taxes is very welcome… but why now when the damage has already be done with the last 50 per cent increase?
BFP editor’s note: Barbados Free Press created the title and subtitles for this piece and changed some of the paragraph breaks. We also inserted the BHTA President’s name and made some very minor sentence structure changes. Other than that, the piece was printed as received from Adrian Loveridge.