Barbados Food, Wine and Rum Festival – so much opportunity if we take advantage of our successes!

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

From the media release following the launch of the 2012 Barbados Food, Wine and Rum Festival, it was heartwarming to read the President of the Barbados Tourism Authority quote that the event had ‘attracted more than 1,800 tourists last year and 60 international journalists’.

During the entire month of November 2011 a total of 47,208* long stay visitors, across all source markets were recorded, which represented an increase of 5.3 per cent* over the previous year. So if you divide that number into an average stay of 7 nights, that means that nearly one in six of those visitors during the week of the festival, journeyed to Barbados specifically for this event.

Basing the accommodation segment on two persons sharing one room, that’s over 6,300 occupied room nights during a month which is traditionally challenging.

Again, it demonstrates the importance of niches and the value of destination coverage that those invited journalists can bring us.

A number of videos were also produced and a particular favourite of mine was made by the South African based company, Sand Castle Studios TV. (see above) Despite the video being posted on YouTube in March of this year, it hasn’t yet received the viewership volume that I believe it deserves. Perhaps the tourism policymakers can address that, as it certainly could be used as a powerful tool to help drive numbers. (Editor’s note: This beautiful video is NOT found on the Barbados Tourism Authority’s website. What a waste!)

Providing value and a good time…

Hopefully, our wide range of restaurants will work together with the wine suppliers  that week to offer a value-menu, rather like the re-DISCOVER programme that operated so sucessfully for many years. Individual participating establishments all offered a 3 course dinner with a half bottle of wine (per person) for BDS$99. This also gave such a tremendous opportunity to highlight locally available food.

It might also at least go partially the way to get the message across to our visitors and locals alike that eating out can be more affordable.

Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy stated ‘that the event could eventually be one of the biggest foreign exchange generators for Barbados’ and in his opinion ‘the potential is there and the sky is the limit in terms of where the Barbados Food, Wine and Rum Festival could be in the next 10 years’.

I am sure many agree, but that is where I found another part of the media release puzzling, again quoting verbatim ‘ The BTA said it will be heavily marketing the festival in the US, which is one of the island’s major source markets’. This implies that the event will not also be ‘heavily’ marketed in other important areas  like the UK  and Canada, our first and fourth largest origin of visitors and developing markets like Brazil.

I cannot imagine that they do not have an equal percentages of ‘foodies’.

In fact, a not disimilar annual event called Foodies Festival takes place in seven cities across Britain to maximise interest and attendance. It also allows manufacturers of all sizes the opportunity to display and sell a wide range of edible products, including pepper sauce, cheeses, local wines and homemade ice creams.

If this has not already been considered, perhaps the concept could be incorporated in the new Sizzle Street event taking place in Queens Park.

*Source: CTO

5 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism

5 responses to “Barbados Food, Wine and Rum Festival – so much opportunity if we take advantage of our successes!

  1. Mike M

    I for one would love to know where the BTA is getting its numbers for this event since up to now they haven’t been able to give exact numbers as to the numbers of persons who visited Barbados for the now infamous Rihanna concert!

    Could it be creative “guessing”?

    That would be my guess as I hardly believe that with the level of promotion done up to now that this event could have attracted 1 of every 6 persons coming to Barbados last year in during November.

    While Adrian is usually very perceptive and sharp, he missed one here as the 1800+ tourists that came to Barbados really should not be taken as a percentage of the entire month, as the festival is held for a period of just over a weekend to four days!

    If this is true, we should have seen a MAJOR spike in the presence of visitors and large numbers attending the various events. I for one attended three events and I can state categorically that while there were certainly visitors present, it was by no means overwhelming at ANY event!

    Could these numbers be an attempt to spin the information into something positive as Averil Byer and David Rice has failed abysmally to bring or add much new initiatives or ideas to our tourism product mix.

    On the contrary, under the excellent stewardship of this duo, Barbados has LOST several of its past events which brought thousands to the island, including the once extremely popular Jazz Festival and this year will be the second in succession that there will be no CLOBI Cup!
    This really bothers and bugs me as after spending millions to develop the legends cricket tournament, the BTA has allowed it to fall by the way side – just when it was starting to get traction and establishing itself as a legitimate and viable tournament and attraction.

    It is understood that axing the Jazz Festival was a pure personality clash and ego trip by Rice, who it is said can’t stand the best bone in Gilbert Rowe!
    While I think most would agree that Rowe is a bit much to take, the Festival did offer value and all he needed was some control, not the event being killed and creating a huge void in our events calender.

    Barbados is without doubt the culinary capital of the Caribbean and while I believe that this niche can indeed create long stay visitors by the hundreds, I travel quite a lot to our major “source markets” and just don’t believe that it has happened as yet.

    Certainly not based on the promotions and advertising I DON”T see when in the USA, UK or Canada, or for that matter, even the Caribbean!

  2. Adrian Loveridge

    Mike M, thank you for your observations. The reason for the column was to highlight the quoted number of 1,800.
    I too, found the number suprising as I had already spoken to several people in the industry who indicated the that people who came specifically for the event was between 300 and 400 persons.
    Even if you accept the higher figure thats a BTA spend of at least $625 per person.
    I have averaged the overall total November 2011 long stay visitor arrivals to show a representative number for the week of the event. As it was largeley targeted towards the US market, its unlikely the average stay was above 7 nights.
    On the subject of the CLOBI Cup. I have asked both Kensington Oval and the BTA to confirm the event will NOT take place this year, but have not received any response.
    These are two verbatim quotes by the BTA Chairman, Adrian Elcock
    ‘that in spite of the cutbacks the BTA will still need to contribute $600,000 to the venture’ and ‘it was crucial to still stage a competition to maintain the CLOBI status’.
    It would be interesting to learn exactly how many long stay visitors that $600,000 generated.

  3. Mike M

    Thanks for your clarification Adrian. My information suggests that the amount contributed to the CLOBI Cup over the previous years is well on the upside of three million dollars, which to me was/is not a bad investment as the tournament had a ton of potential, even if only as a brand.

    It is now September and clearly you like rhetoric as there is no way there could be a CLOBI this year as the travel agents and tour operators have not been informed and absolutely no advertising or promotions are being done overseas.

    The irony is that in its last year, 2010, the matches were played to big crowds and the final night was almost a sell out, finally giving the BTA and the legends something to build on and use as a marketing springboard to sponsors, potential teams and most importantly, to fans, as people like to be associated with successful events.

    I am also surprised that you didn’t comment on the BTA’s decision not to support the Jazz Festival, as I personally know some folk who stayed at your hotel for this event and had a ball, so losing this event must have impacted on you in some way.

    With so many restaurants, hotels and attractions closing or leaving (Harbour Master to Trinidad), we just can’t afford for the BTA or any government to discourage or pull support from key events and still expect growth or to buffer what you so aptly described as the ‘challenging’ months for tourism.

  4. Adrian Loveridge

    Mike M,
    sitting on the BTA board briefly, was for me a revelation. I felt that I had to practice due dilligence which turned out to be almost impossible. I would not dream of spending taxpayers monies any less carefully than our own funds. I found it almost impossible to extract justification for several ‘projects’ including the Best of Barbados programme and Jazz Festival. As the board minutes would prove, I repeatedly asked questions but rarely got answers.
    If the CLOBI Cup has been cancelled for this year, why is it still on various websites. It just makes us look so unprofessional.

  5. BA 88/98

    Why does the BTA constantly sound like amateur night at the local church? We constantly fail to capitalize on the opportunities that fall our way. Some star takes a vacation in Barbados, some real estate watch board says good things about retiring in Bim, some Bajan gets written up in Alaska in the Fairbanks newspaper. We never follow up. We should have been all over Alaska. My Gawd, wouldn’t they want to vacation in Barbados in February? The local paper made a story about Barbados pastor meets Alaska pastor. You don’t think we could have followed up on that? IT WAS FREE PUBLICITY! It would have taken nothing, no energy hardly at all.

    Stupes is the BTA!