Barbados economy hooked on tourism – but are tourists hooked on Barbados?

Barbados losing market share in the region!

Barbados tourism market share in Caribbean: 1990: 0.7%, 2000: 0.6%, 2005: 0.5%

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

A recent article in Business Insider entitled ‘The 25 Economies most Hooked on Tourism’ made interesting and in many ways, surprising reading and reinforced my firm believe that we must evaluate our industry product, and what it delivers, much more.

Taken from data compiled by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) it listed the countries* followed by the tourism receipts per capita (TRPC) and average tourism spend (ATS) in US$…

Greece: $1,209 – $965; Egypt: $1,275 – $245; Hong Kong: $1,313 – $660, Switzerland: $1,417 – $1,405; Lebanon: $1,433 – $4,230; Croatia: $1,523 – $865; Austria: $1,876 – $790; St. Lucia: $1,985 – $1,090; Malta: $1,990 – $1,090; French Polynesia: $2,076 – $2,610; St. Kitts and Nevis: $2,652 – $875; Cyprus: $2,904 – $960; Cook Islands: $3,396 – $865; Palau: $4,842 – $1,020; Antigua and Barbuda: $4,947 – $1,375; Anguilla: $5,319 – $1,280;

Bermuda: $5,451 – $1,305; Bahamas: $6,288 – $1,205; Luxembourg: $7,909 – $4,170; Cayman Islands $12,042 – $1,995; Turks and Caicos: $12,420 – $1,885; US Virgin Islands: $12,466 – $2,495; Aruba: $14,771 – $1,445; Macao: $16,797 – $900 and British Virgin Islands: $17,621 – $1,285.

As the most tourism dependent region in the world, it’s perhaps not unexpected that eleven of the twenty five states are within the Caribbean.

But do some of the often firm beliefs on which ‘we’ base critical planning  decisions, occasionally need to be questioned?

Take the perceived attraction of sun, sea and sand for instance.

Yet the tiny land-locked European country of Luxembourg, covering less than a thousand square miles, can boast an average visitor spend of US$4,170. If, the information provided is accurate, then we must start to ask reasons why? What are they doing that we are not?

Where is the Barbados Tourism Master Plan?

Hopefully this is one of the topics included by the long waited Tourism Master Plan. We know that the average visitor spend on Barbados has gone down over the last two or three years, but what would be interesting is to compare with other destinations, both within the Caribbean and extra-regional competitors, and ascertain if this is typical across the board.

As someone that has made a living out of this sector for most of my life, long ago I learnt the critical importance of demographics, especially when marketing funds were limited. As a tiny example, when, as tour operators in the UK, we installed our first custom-built computer system, more than three decades ago, it was programmed to search by last name and postcode. It wasn’t long before we realised that a higher percentage of our clients came from certain residential areas, so of course that is where we targeted our advertising budget.

I firmly believe that we have to better target our markets and look for more reasons why our cherished visitors either, chose Barbados for the first time, or return year after year.

*While UNWTO lists certain destinations in this report as countries, it does of course include British Overseas, US non self-governing territories, special administrative regions of the  Peoples Republic of China and Pays d’Outre Mer of the French Republic.

Photo courtesy of Reisenews Online

13 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism

13 responses to “Barbados economy hooked on tourism – but are tourists hooked on Barbados?

  1. judyjudy

    AIR TAX FROM THE UK NOW EXCEEDS THE FARE BY A BIG AMOUNT. FOR THIS TOURISTS CAN GO TO THE MED FOR SUN AND SAND . FOOD IS CHEAPER THERE TOO. THAT SAID I STILL PREFER BARBADOS

  2. what will they think of next.

    Barbados should never be hooked on Tourism alone. Bad mistake.

  3. H.E.M.P.

    Hooked on industrial Hemp instead?
    Would give our agricultural sector a huge boost!

  4. eleemosynary

    You can be a fool to percentages. Let’s take a day in the life of hotel Peaches which in 1990 had 22 people staying inhouse – and this was full occupancy. And with a need for bragging rights, one went out and meticulously counted all the vistors at each hotel and guest house and found that total guests in Barbados were 100. Peaches is therefore capturing 22% of all visitors and with this information publised, the owners of Peaches started popping the Petrus in wild celebration.
    In 2000 Peaches again is full (22 people inhouse) but when you count all the hotel guests, you notice an improvement; 150 guests came to Barbados. You tabulate and now you are only capturing 15% of total visitors to Barbados. Looking at these capture rates for 1990 and 2000 and noticing the steep drop, should Peaches again be celebrating or should this hotel think in terms of closing shop although 22 guests represent full occupancy? Should Barbados with the 0.7, 0.6 and 0.5 percentages also think in terms of closing shop or should we try to understand what the percentages really mean?

  5. Adrian Loveridge

    eleemosynary,

    You don’t seem to have read the full column. Please look at second last paragraph where that is exactly what I am calling for. Look at the figures and try and interpret WHAT they mean.
    By the way. 22 rooms = 44 guests.

  6. Peter

    Unfortunatley most of your hotels and restuarants think and charge as if we are all “A” list celebrities making Barbados a ridiculously expensive destination.

  7. eleemosynary

    You cannot look at figures and interpret what they mean. I suggest always a story as part of the figures. You are expecting people to do the impossible. Don’t publish the figures unless you are willing to publish the story.
    Peaches is a hotel I used because you were connected to a hotel close to this name and the 22 is just using example. Don’t become lurid and touchy; come on please enjoy a bottle of Gewurz… in that hot and steamy weather.

  8. 50

    “Luxembourg – What are they doing that we are not?”

    Never thought of Luxembourg as a tourist destination, but it is home to many EU institutions including the Secretariat of the European Parliament. The visitor spend is high because the visitors are EU diplomats on expense accounts.

    I’m not quite sure what Mr Loveridge thinks the lessons for Barbados might be.

  9. Sunshine Sunny Shine

    I do not know much about what is done to lure tourist here. Nor do I know what would attract tourist that we have repeat visitors every year going on 5 to 10 more years. What I do know is that the Caribbean has a ring to it that says tropics and when that word is spoken particularly in Europe the imagination of many Europeans go into hyper drive. Now like all other Caribbean destinations they too have the three S’s, the hotels, cuisine, the sites, the history, the day and night entertainment, and the shops. So why are they doing better than Barbados: Could it be our hot hot hot prices; could it be that we offer very little in adventure? Could it be that we do not offer the peace and comfort tourist use to enjoy without the constant harassment sellers. Oh dear what could the matter be?

  10. John

    It’s a long time since I visited Luxembourg as a student living in the Netherlands.

    I first went because friends were going and then kept going back whenever I had an excuse.

    The scenery hooked me.

    I remember listening to Radio Luxembourg at university in the UK.

    … and I enjoyed the history along the way passing thru Belgium.

    Battle of the Bulge country.

    Somehow I got in Bastogne whenever I went.

    Seems so long ago, …. more than three decades!!

    For me there was always something different about Luxembourg and I enjoyed going there.

    I didn’t contribute much to the GDP but loved the visiting the place … and driving there!!

    If I looked I am sure I could find my old Michelin maps.

  11. what will they think of next.

    By the way. 22 rooms = 44 guests. Not all the time.

  12. Fyan Burner

    I have seen this tourism story for months now and there are those who selfishly seem to want the country to continually invest and re-invest in this failure of an industry. This behaviour is selfish and self-serving plain and simple. But just take a look at those who promote this idea. They and only they, are supposed to have anything while the rest of the country should be willing to give their last penny to this failed venture so that a certain class and colour can live high on the hog.
    Barbados’ Tourism product has no competitive advantage and hence cannot compete on the international market. There have been a few contributors to this forum who have said as much and they have met with varying degrees of resistance from Mr A.Loveridge who seems to think that he can make people accept what his vision is for Barbados and Barbados Tourism.
    But don’t listen to any of us. Standards and Poors said it in their downgrade of the Barbados Fiscal rating. Go and listen or re-read the report. It is an indictment on the complicity of the people and government of this nation.
    Here are some simple no-no’s.
    No more money in Tourism. No paying of AA and Jet Blue to come here while still charging full price to our citizens for tickets. No more propping up dead hotels and guests houses. No more muppets in Parliment! No more EXCUSES!

  13. eleemosynary

    You are a little tough on Adrian and making it somewhat personal but you are absolutely correct and I hope that Barbadians take the time to read your posting. You must understand that most hotels operate like parasites where they take as much as they can and only give back what will harm and destroy. I always think of Sandy Lane hotel as the biggest parasite there is. They pay their taxes but 99.9% of the population will never see the innner workings of this hotel. Just imagine you have a supposesdly world class hotel and not one school kid will ever be able to set foot near Sandy Lane hotel. This hotel should be a motivator for kids to get into the hotel industry but whoever owns this property has recognised that Barbadians are not good enough.