Barbados visitor stats arrive: Should we panic now, Mr. Prime Minister?

A few days ago Prime Minister Freundel Stuart (above) was telling Bajans there is “no need to panic” about our economy having “the worst downturn in nearly 100 years”.

Today as we read Adrian Loveridge’s latest article (below), we’d like to know what the PM is doing – not ‘considering’ but actually doing – about the crisis in tourism and the trickle-down impact throughout the other sectors of our economy. Failing to note any real activity on the part of Mr. Stuart and the DLP, we’d like to ask, “Should we panic now, Mr. Prime Minister?”

“Frankly, I’d like to hear that the PM is panicking. It would be an improvement over his current laid-back demeanor.”

Take it away, Adrian…

What exactly is going so wrong?

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

The Caribbean Tourism Organisation has now posted the Barbados long stay visitor arrival numbers for the second quarter of this year, and sadly they do not show a pretty picture.

Across all markets – April: down 6.7 per cent (47,979), May: down 9 per cent (37,935) and June: down 4.8 per cent (36, 656). The figures in brackets are actual numbers of landed people and it is compared with the same period last year.

Overall, it equates to nearly 8,400 less visitors and totally negates any benefits from the small gains made in the first three months of 2012.

Based again on CTO statistics, the last average intended length of stay I could find was for 2010 and indicated 9.8 nights. Unless this has dramatically changed, it translates to a loss of over 41,000 occupied room nights based on double occupancy.

While initially these numbers may not seem vast, its the equivalent of filling every seat in more than 56 Boeing 737’s aircraft, or over 4.36 planes per week during the given period.

To put this in perspective, ‘we’ have not been able to sustain even just one flight weekly out of Philadelphia or Atlanta (the world’s busiest airport). Later this month we also lose what has now become a single weekly Dallas/Fort Worth service. This is despite its massive metro population of over six million, annual airport throughput approaching 58 million passengers  and an almost unmatched hub offering nearly 200 connecting cities.

In terms of where the numbers have been lost, if you analyse for the entire six month period, the United States is down 3.1 per cent and Europe is down 7 per cent.

Canada, appeared to be the only glimmer of hope with a 2 per cent increase overall, but this gain came entirely in the first three winter months. Canadian arrivals for April were down 9.9 per cent, May 8.8 per cent and June 7.4 per cent.

Probably, I am the last person to be reminded that we are in the deepest recession for nearly a century and of the inevitable consequences of the APD (Advanced Passenger Duty), but surely these issues would be having a similar negative effect on our neighbours. In many cases they are not.

So what exactly is going so wrong?

For one thing, this is the first year that I can remember that there appears to be no national summer marketing promotion taking place, and while you could certainly question  how inclusive past ‘national’ campaigns have been, has this really made such a difference?

Most of us are aware of the BTA budget restraints, but as the saying goes, if you do nothing, nothing will happen.

What is graphically clear, is that any projected or forecasted increases in arrival numbers or visitor spend will have to be the result of anything that takes place in the last six months of this year. This includes September and November, traditionally two of the most challenging trading months in the tourism industry.

In September, many sector businesses close for annual holidays or refurbishment and some have decided to extend this period for up to six months, as in the case of Discovery Bay Hotel.

Should we panic now, Mr. Prime Minister?

(BFP Editor’s changes: BFP added the title, subtitles and preamble to Mr. Loveridge’s article, as well as the last sentence ‘Should we panic…’ BFP also made some minor formatting and punctuation changes to the article as received.)

30 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Economy

30 responses to “Barbados visitor stats arrive: Should we panic now, Mr. Prime Minister?

  1. yatiniteasy

    Did I miss it, or did the Prime Minister meet with the Tourism private sector to hear their concerns?

  2. barbadosdreamin

    Get rid of BTA and use their budget to subsidize flights from the UK, Canada and the USA. Imagine how many visitors would be on the island spending money if their flights only cost them $200? No need to advertise…the word would get out fast enough on Facebook, Twitter and TripAdvisor. It would be money well spent!!

  3. PLANTATION DEEDS FROM 1926 UP TODAY A ND SEE MASSIVE FRAUD ,

    Lets hope none come and the number get to Zero. Then and only then no one can play with that number 0000.0000.
    DLP and BLP making their own money from fraud deeds and selling to each other , So why they need to care what going on.
    The crooks numbers are better than Barbados numbers. So why they need to care. So dont look for freedom of information . The more they hide it the more it will cost everyone, WAR soon come as like the rest of the World that We love to copy.If Taan want VOTES he better tell the truth NOW.

  4. ComeHere

    Hold on. In the Business Authority, back page, this BTA marketing genius seems to feel that the GEN X and Yer untapped tourist market is the key to Bajan prosperity; then contradicts herself by saying it is important to cater to the luxury market (spelled older rich white people). Show me a handful of young adults anywhere not struggling to keep food on the table if they even have a job. IF somehow X and Y choose Barbados as a holiday destination, they’ll choke on the import duty inflated prices of everything, and along with the mind numbing experience of our world class service, never return. But you have to like her 7.2 % increase in visitor arrivals versus the REAL negative gain numbers reported in the above article—keep lying to each other about how well we are doing in the tourism effort and it will magically get better.
    A non sequitur, but equally indicative of the insanity in this country where no one is responsible for anything other than their own self interest, how does the CEO of Banks Holdings suddenly discover that he has 60,000 cases of unsold milk? Must be the fault of the Trinis! Already having raped shareholder value by diluting the Banks shares for quick FOREIGN PARTNER money to build a grandiose brewery in order to sell a few pallets of loss leader beer to the UK, this buffoon Cozier is going to make sure there gine be nuf cryin over spilt milk unless Gov’t comes to the rescue. Who suffers? The farmers, the small man, then the rest of us hapless consumers who will have to make up for the loss through higher milk prices.
    We as a nation are adrift at sea without a Captain. Sure as ass hope God is indeed a Bajan. Start praying.

  5. West Side Davie

    Yes, it is time to panic. I said a year ago it couldn’t get much worse but I was wrong. It was a year ago that Sinckler was reassuring the public that the worst was over. Everybody was fooled and the bottom keeps moving down.

    It will get worse than this. We haven’t seen anything yet.

  6. Global Economy....

    …has been going sideways for the last 4 years
    and shall continue sideways for the next four
    despite all the brave talk to bolster faith in a rotten,corrupt global finance system under severe pressure
    -the worst since Oct. 1929!

    Given THAT tiny consideration,
    from which Barbados is strangely exempt
    it’s a wonder we had as good a season as we actually did!
    But don’t think that Bajans can do one whit to make Northerners pull their pocket for anything like than a far-flung Caribbean holiday at great travel cost
    and at great hotel costs when dey reach!

    We are overpriced: we are poor value for money!
    My wife has been hearing constant complaints and remarks about how insanely expensive it is to holiday here.
    We have finally bled the Golden Goose dry of blood.
    Mission Accomplished.
    Q.E.D.

  7. 36

    We keep hearing that the BTA’s budget is constraint, but I am sure that I recently saw its arrogant CEO/President driving an Audi SUV!! This is by the way a step up from what appeared to be a perfectly fine Audi A4!

    If this is the example of leadership in difficult financial times, then I applaud David Rice, and I guess it is fair reward for the ‘tremendous” turn around at the BTA in terms of arrival and overall global market awareness.

    Oh, it is also a reward for the BTA having its tourism national plan, finalizing its four-year restructuring, and having all the staff so hyped and filled with moral that they can’t wait to get to their jobs and work their butts off to get people here.

    Barbados is such a wonderful place as I can’t think of many others where a man who has single-handedly presided over the demise of two premier events in the Barbados Jazz Festival and the CLOBI Cup, as well as oversaw the downgrading of several others – there was just ONE English School in Barbados for the prestigious Sir Gary Schools Tournament – a low in its over 25 year history! What about the Friends and Family programme? Is this active and working?

    Yet Minister Sealy decided to renew that man’s contract and one of Rice’s first acts was to upgrade his already luxury vehicle!

    It is no wonder that the entire tourism industry is high priced and low value, for if this is the head surely the body is rotten!
    In these trying times, even if the Audi SUV was budgeted, it could have been deferred and the money diverted to a more immediate need – like marketing Crop Over in the USA and UK where funds were so low that sums as small as $1500 had to be approved and all travel suspended unless approved by – you know who!

    All is still not yet lost but we must retool the industry starting at the top with value based strategies that trickle all the way down.

    While Barbados is very expensive, most don’t complain too much about price as long as they believe they have received the full value – if not more – for what they have paid.

  8. Global Economy....

    -and that’s the problem: they haven’t received Ritz Carlton value for their money. Not even close.

  9. Peter

    A group of us (3 families) used to visit your beautiful island and stay in various houses on the West coast.

    After 5 trips in as many years we could not believe how the costs have escalated in all areas,car hire,supermarkets and dining out.

    It would appeear that most of your businesses have this perception that all visitors are wealthy celebrities and kid themselves that charging $600 for a meal out will be accepted by all….reality check urgently required.

    There are other islands in the Caribean with as much appeal but are more realistic with their pricing structure…at least for now,anyway!

  10. Manchester Disunited

    @ Peter

    True. The costs are astronomical. We love Barbados but last year we went to Cuba for the first time and what a surprise it was. For fun we stayed at a bed and breakfast on the outskirts of Santiago de Cuba and rented scooters. There were a few police checkpoints but everyone was friendly and it was amazing to be invited into people’s homes as happened frequently. It was the most unusual and wonderful vacation we’ve had and the overall cost was probably 40% of what we would have spent on a package deal to Barbados. It has us thinking about where we should go next for an adventure. I’ve had enough of lying on the beach sipping rum type vacations.

  11. Peter

    Thanks Manchester,now on our wish list!

  12. Bdos Unfree Press

    question apart from pimping around the statistics of the number of visitors to the island no doubt holding prayer vigils hoping for declines what does Loveridge do to justify his existence

  13. Adrian Loveridge

    Bdos Unfree Press,

    Quite a lot really. Now lets hear YOUR contribution.

  14. 36

    It is almost hilarious that just as a comment was written here in BFP, Minister Sealy is in the news saying that his and all Ministries are looking at budget restraints and costs savings!!

    Thank God for BFP and it writers for letting the public know that part of these savings include a man HE appointed to purchase a Audi SUV through the BTA.

    The Minister is quoted as saying: GOVERNMENT is leaving no stone unturned in its quest to tighten its budget and curtail expenditure in each of its departments as it battles “to control costs”.

    Sealy added: “Part of the headache we have is trying to pay the salaries of the existing complement of public servants. That’s what we are all about. It is about holding back until we can ride out this period we are in.”

    Boy, what a way to hold back and lead by example!!

    If this wasn’t so farcical it would almost be laughable!

  15. eleemosynary

    When I read the stats I am not surprised but I am amazed at the comments. There seem to be ignorance as to what is happening around the world. The United States is in a recession or as some ecomomist describe a depression. Europe is worst off than the USA with major economic problems. People travel when they have some disposable income or mostly when they are willing to take a chance and place travel expenses on a plastic card and pay later. Presently, I am afraid to travel because I am not sure if I will have my job when I return. Just remember that every tourist who comes to Barbados is not well off even if they play that part.

    Barbados is “very very” expensive and there is little value for the price paid. Look at the “typical” hotel room in Barbados and compare it with rooms and facilities at other destinations and you will see the disparity in price and value. People are looking for bargains and are choosing destinations knowing their vacation might be the only one in 5 or 10 years. This is not a BTA or Government issue this is an economic and a hotel issue. Ask yourself as a hotelier why those people in the 6.7 % drop in occupancy did not return to your property in Barbados, or did not help fill the void by telling enough friends and co-workers of this wonderful place call Barbados. An industry as complex as tourism does not keep growing year after year. It is silly and shortsighted to think that this continued growth is possible. Tourism growth is tied to economic growth.

  16. Adrian Loveridge

    eleemosynary,

    With the greatest respect, please read the column a little more carefully. The point being raised is WHY so many OTHER Caribbean destinations are doing better that Barbados despite all the external forces.
    Why cannot Barbados fill one little plane of out of Atlanta a week, when St. Lucia can fill FIVE?

  17. TWWIFOS

    A very reliable economic indicator is my gardner. When he’s fat and happy, it usually takes him a couple of weeks to get over here after i call him. Last week I called him on Monday and he was here on Tuesday. So does just about every other person that I call for work these days. Good time to get some work done, if you have any extra to spend!

  18. Canajan

    A Friend of Barbados from the Great White North comments.

    As a retiree and frequent visitor to Barbados, I find the time to read, or at least glance through three Toronto newspapers daily – The Star, Globe and Mail, and National Post. Each has a weekly TRAVEL section.

    Over the past six months there has been an almost total lack of advertising of Barbados and/or Barbados destination packages – by BTA or tour packagers including Air Canada, Westjet, Air Canada Vacations and Westjet Vacations. Almost like there is no advertising budget – for BTA Canada at least.

    At the same time it seems a week does not go by that St. Lucia is front and center in one or more of the three newsparers – partnered with Air Canada or Westjet or Sandals

    There may be a connection to the declining arrivals reported by CTO.

    It is also worth noting there are half to full page ads at least weekly by Sandals in one or more of these newspapers promoting their Caribbean destinations – often featuring St Lucia

    It has never been explained to me why Butch Stewart was rebuffed form Paradise Beach – only to allow another group of investors to start the Four Seasons project (which those investors will probably never complete). Whatever the reason to send Stewart packing 10 years ago, with Sandals well oiled marketing machine government should not only welcome Stewart now as the purchaser of the Almond Beach Village property; but should encourage or even support Sandals as the purchaser.

  19. Barbados no more

    @Adrian Loveridge

    Why cannot Barbados fill one little plane of out of Atlanta a week, when St. Lucia can fill FIVE?

    I travel from the UK to Barbados at least once a year and sometime twice a year….I do do this because I work seven days a week until I have enough money to have a nice holiday and then I start the cycle over again…I aint rich or have millions in the bank, so to answer your question:

    Barbados is very expensive, service is low and there is a general feeling when in Barbados that you are not welcome, coz you are white and foreign

    The West Coast in now a concrete jungle

    And yes the recession, now means that everybody is looking for a deal, rich or poor, people are looking for a deal and thinking is this the best value….in Barbados the answer is pretty much a big NO
    simples

  20. eleemosynary

    Barbados is not quaint any more. There is no uniqueness. There is no value for the price paid. Canadians on the East coast are heading off to Cuba in droves. Why? Cuba is different! Cuba is different and there is value. Any island that looks like an island and offers the “expectations” of an island will do better than Barbados. There is an adverse impact with tourism when so-call modernization becomes more important than natural beauty.

    I have spent hours interviewing a family who vacationed in St. Vincent rather than to my country of Barbados. I was shocked that this family would choose St. Vincent. The feedback was amazing but it wasn’t something I didn’t know. It was summed up this way.They wanted their kids to experience island living and from all their research, St. Vincent was a better choice. Again this is only one family and should not be used as the basis for decision making but as a bit of conjecture that leaves you to wonder is this part of the 6.7%.

  21. Mac

    Two things. Has anyone noticed how many new Government vehicle are popping up?

    Secondly, I’ve always wondered why there isn’t more for people to go/do when the rain falls besides the bars?

  22. The truth

    @Mac
    yes I have …
    I am of the opinion that government employees should drive there own personal cars. It is owned by them and they take care of property that is rightfully there’s.

    As for the global economy moving sideways remark….check your facts. As mentioned above Barbados is poor value for money.
    We are an over priced tourism destination that shines in poor customer service and tourism harassment. I called it in 2009 and I will reiterate today….
    Where we are losing on the global tourism pie , countries like Mexico , Dominican Republic & Cuba are gaining so that 4 year crap is blowing smoke up peoples asses.

    The government needs to move into other industries and swiftly. Barbados is a one time destination for most people and the sooner we realise that , the sooner we can move forward as a nation.

  23. Peltdownman

    @Adrian
    Why cannot Barbados fill one little plane of out of Atlanta a week, when St. Lucia can fill FIVE?

    I think that Canajan has summed it up in one word: SANDALS!

  24. Adrian Loveridge

    Peltdownman,
    You could probably be right, but it should be something our tourism planners KNOW and what can WE do to make a positive difference.

  25. repeat visitor

    it always puzzles me to look at a major newspaper like the NY Times in the US or the Globe and Mail in Canada and see no advertisements for Barbados in any way, shape or form. so how are people supposed to know the island exists as a destination? i’d say the marketing has been messed up for years, unfortunately it’s been at the same time as many people are just staying at home.

  26. Canajan

    Saw the SANDALS TV ad for St Lucia last night on CBC (Canadian not Caribbean). Piton shots are stunning, the resort shots are inviting. It is obvious why people are flocking to St. Lucia.

  27. Duppy Lizard

    During my shallow education in geography many years ago I was taught that tourism was a very fickle economy for any country to rely on due to some basic factors,,,,

    (1) Trend in tourism.
    (2) Civil unrest.
    (3) Economic factors.
    (4) Physical disasters.
    (5) Health.

    And probably a few more I really cant remember.

    It seems to me that the above of which Barbados seems to be affected by at least two should also include,,

    (1)Lack of service (mistaken for servitude)
    (2)Blatant overpricing.
    (3)Undetermined/misguided hotel/apartment qualifications.
    (4)Lack of understanding of the trickle down benefits.
    (5)Lack of Govermental honest commitment(Not nepotism).
    (6)Proper education in th hotel industry(Not quick fixes).

    Unless we hit rock bottom like Jamaica did in their fairly recent civil unrest and afterwards came out with a game plan that included $millions that to this day continues to be spent on their advertising etc..,,
    We aint going nowhere……………

  28. snappy

    Where is the Tourism Master Plan? If you don’t know where you are going, you are bound to end up nowhere.

  29. Day runs until

    THE news out of Saintt Lucia is the island is broke its borrowing money every month to pay its public servants. Its a scenario difficult to imagine because Adrian Loveridge frequently reminds us of the economic tourism miracle Saint Lucia is.

    ADRIAN come explain Saint Lucia’s plunge towards bankruptcy given the millions of tourists arriving daily from ATLANTA> UK> + other parts untapped by poor rakey by Barbados.

  30. Wildgirl

    @ Day runs.

    And your point is? St. Lucia is by far a more preferable vacation destinatio than Barbados. Just wait until the new airport opens!