Dealing with Barbados Tourism Authority’s claims of success – versus the reality of our crisis and denial

Barbados Tourism Authority’s claims of success ring hollow

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

Of course it’s the easy option to continue burying our heads in the sand and pretending that we really don’t have a serious problem with our tourism industry. The alternative is to address the fundamental issues and shape solutions to the overtly obvious challenges.

Everyone in the private sector is acutely aware of the current situation because they work it and live it everyday. Yet in other, circles there seems to be a climate of malaise and denial. Earlier this year a number of publications carried a statement attributed to the current chairman of the Barbados Tourism Authority during a press conference at the Hilton, quoting as saying that ‘the BTA had spent over BDS$250,000 promoting the annual Crop Over Festival which he said has been a major success’.

As ‘has’ is in the past tense, after studying the long stay visitor arrival figures for July and August, this heady prediction appears woefully optimistic and grossly inaccurate.

“Not a single one of the current government’s eight stated tourism objectives has been successfully implemented, including producing a tourism masterplan, re-structuring of the BTA or targeting the Caricom market more effectively.”

Based on the provisional figures issued by the Barbados Statistical Service, July shows a decline of 18.1 per cent from the USA, 8.3 per cent  Canada, 5.5 per cent UK, 10.2 per cent Trinidad and a staggering 20.0 per cent from Other Caricom. Overall a 12 per cent fall over the same period in 2011.

August got even worse. USA down 12.8 per cent, Canada 2.4 per cent, UK 17.8 per cent, Other Caricom 16.0 per cent. While Trinidad and Tobago showed a growth of 4 per cent, across all markets there was a decline of 13.6 per cent when compared with last year.

When eventually released, it is difficult to imagine the figures for September are  going to fare any better, with October and November traditionally being two of the most challenging months of the year.

Where’s the Rihanna Tourism Campaign?

There also appears to be no news of the promised ‘fully integrated advertising campaign’ in ‘which Rihanna will be doing for her country that will be spread across social media and new media’ and scheduled ‘to be launched in September’. It is almost incomprehensible why this major investment of taxpayer monies has been held such a secret and not shared with the industry that generates the cash to fund it.

Hopefully it will create a greater return on investment than the quarter of million dollars put into promoting Crop Over this year.

As we approach a general election, its difficult not to look back at the current Government’s 2008 manifesto and particularly the pledges made in respect to tourism. Not a single one of the eight stated objectives have been successfully implemented, including producing a tourism masterplan, re-structuring of the BTA or targeting the Caricom market more effectively.

Owen Arthur’s plan to make Barbados a 5 Star destination: Reality or election smoke?

While the opposition talks about turning Barbados into a ‘5 star destination’, it doesn’t explain how and even if that policy decision was made tomorrow, how long it would take to come to fruition. How long does any rational or informed person think this would take?

“In a globally competitive market, we are already so far behind many other destinations, with only a single truly five star hotel comprising of just 112 rooms.”

Sadly, the eroded viability of the industry, compounded by falling arrival numbers, average spend and rampant unbudgeted increases in operational costs have resulted in a lack of profitability. As a consequence many properties are unable to maintain their plant to a high standard, let alone upgrade.

The writing has been on the wall for a long time, and while some may be reticent to use the word ‘crisis’, I am not sure there is a more accurate description.



Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism

6 responses to “Dealing with Barbados Tourism Authority’s claims of success – versus the reality of our crisis and denial

  1. .

    Mr. Loveridge: Your concerns about tourism are sincere, I have no doubt. However, after reading your comments for some time, I note a kind of whining about what governments should or should not do. The truth is that most hoteliers in Barbados seem clueless to the reality that a product lagging at least twenty years behind modern day marketing models simply cannot succeed. The hoteliers have outpriced themselves. The majority of Barbadian hotel workers who go overseas do extremely well; our local chefs are doing very well. The problem is that the industry lacks good managers, , marketing professionals and is sadly lacking in most cases even at the basic level of property maintenance. They are not up to scratch. It is time that the people of Barbados pressure BLP/DLP governments to stop subsidizng the hoteliers and let them get up and get like everybody else. This corporate con game that the hoteliers are playing is the identical one played by the plantation owners in regards to sugar production and agriculture in general: BLP/DLP governments propped up the sugar industry while the owners invested their monies elsewhere..Today those same cry babies have: marinas , golf courses , retirement villages and upscale housing developments, condos and so on while the BLP/DLP were left with the corpse known as the sugar industry. This corporate con game played by the rich, affluent business class must come to an end in the interest of the entire society. Again I ask you one simple question that I posited less than a week ago: Why should we subsidise an industry that cannot even develop a proper website?

  2. judyjudy

    Just returned from a month in Barbados. Stayed at 2 different resorts – both of which were noticably less busy than previous years. Bridgetown is shabby beyond belief whilst the work ethic is sadly lacking. In 2 shops staff were actually asleep and clearly not amused at being woken up by potential customers. If business is poor the shop will close . Staff will be unemployed. How clever do you need to be to work that one out. So workers take note. At least show some enthusiam to customers. They pay your wages at the end of the day. And the stories we heard about restaurant employees taking cash in hand and not putting meals through the books was shocking. So workers appear to be feathering their own nest whilst the business suffers. It is theft ! The island is not appealing any more. My last trip there after 30 + years of happy holidays. And to the beach bums – NO I AM NOT A COOL CHIC . NOR AM I THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE. I AM OLD ENOUGH TO BE YOUR GRANDMOTHER SO PLEASE DO NOT INSULT MY INTELIGENCE BY SPOUTING CRAP ESPECIALLY IN FRONT OF MY FAMILY.

  3. Dallas

    My first trip to Bridgetown was my last. Fortunately it was only a stopover on a cruise ship! Filthy place with unfriendly people.

  4. Mike M

    Woe be it for me to try to defend the tourism industry of Barbados, nor the successive governments that have run the BTA into the non-functioning waste of time it has become, but I challenge anyone who calls Barbados filthy!!

    I have travelled the world and apart from the Far East, and a few countries scattered across South America, Europe and Canada, Barbados is one of the most organised and clean countries out there!!

    Can it be cleaner? Sure!! But one of the things often commented on by visitors is just how clean the streets are and the general lack of garbage – even in the so called ghetto areas it really isn’t that horrible.

    There isn’t an English speaking Caribbean island cleaner, and very few of any language that can measure up.
    If you want to insult, fine, but stay with facts? I wonder where YOU are from, DALLAS, to make the comparisons!!?

    As to Bajans being unfriendly,,,again, sure some are, but to write the entire country off as such is unfair and unjust. Bloggers have got to be more careful with what they write, as it is then there on the internet for the world to read what is often a biased opinion based on a one-off experience.
    I have travelled the world and have experienced HORRIBLE service of some sort in every destination!

    In general, the hoteliers in Barbados are like most of its traditional business men and owners – generally white and poor, very poor, managers.

    William Skinner is 100% correct! After inheriting a loaded deck with sugur, the inept owners ran it to the ground by refusing to modernize and market. The Barbados Development Bank/government, bailed them out, but rather than invest in the plantations and their plants, they deposited cash in overseas accounts and bought beach front land – which in the 1970s was still considered rab-land and owned by poor blacks.

    The rest is history as the tourism industry took off and hotels, guest houses and villas sprouted all over the island.

    Profits were sky-high initially but as time passed and challenges and competition grew, just like the sugar industry, the inept owners failed to stay current and history has repeated itself with a failure to invest in their plant and people.

    Spoilt by success and profit achieved in-spite of their lack of skills, a full circle has been achieved with these same people now being again being bailed out by tax payers monies – and again, none of this money seems to be going back into keeping their hotels modern, their staff trained and marketing their properties to prospective clients.

    We need to stop this vicious cycle and let these vultures support themselves and their livelihoods.

    Profits are still there to be had, maybe just not at the silly levels they were in the past, but these people may just have to grow up and life in the world that we live in – or be forced to!

  5. victor

    Dallas says filthy island and unfriendly people. Well Bajans are not unfriendly and yes the island is a lot cleaner than it was but harking back to JudyJudy’s comments about staff being asleep, etc. you can see how a visitor off a cruise ship for instance might think Bajans were unfriendly having encountered the usual rude shop staff in Bridgetown! One reason people go on cruises is to get a taste of places they may wish to revisit. Don’t shop and bank staff in Bridgetown realise this when they treat tourists with disdain?