Costa Rica vs Barbados: One tourist’s experience

More lessons from others – and a bite of a Mars Bar

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

I frequently think that we try and make tourism far too complicated, when the recipe for success largely boils down to the way we treat our customers, or in our case, visitors.

I recently spent a week in Costa Rica; 5 nights in a small property called Oxygen Jungle Villas. Two nights in a Marriott just outside the capital, San Jose and an overnight in each direction at the Sofitel Miami. What impressed me especially at the two brand name hotels was the standard of service, at every level and all departments. If I had to describe in a single word, it would be faultless.

Room rates were probably a little higher than I would have ordinarily paid, but when you equated it with the value-for-money received, the cost became almost irrelevant.

While I had visited Costa Rica before, it was thirty-something years ago, so you can imagine the changes. The American Airlines flights in both directions to/from San Jose and Miami were virtually full and clearly a predominance of visitors, even during this, an off peak period. Contrast this with the Miami/Barbados flight, which barely had a 50 per cent load factor.

The first impression at SJO airport, while standing in the immigration line, were the LED flat screens, although silent, showing attractions, activities, local products and restaurant choices. Already giving arriving tourists options and choices of how to spend holiday monies during their stay.

This is such an obvious opportunity for our airport, and you wonder why monitors haven’t been installed so far.

And as a destination, knowing that we cannot compete with the lower price, mass market alternatives, surely a committment to the delivery of service excellence is the direction we should be aiming for, at all grades of accommodation. Everybody on the same page with a common purpose.

“Will you marry me?” M&Ms !

(It’s called innovation, development, targeting new markets, making our product special.)

At first, it may seem a illogical leap from the topic, but are there lessons we can learn from other sectors? Next time you take a bite out of a Mars bar for instance, as 2 billion people annually do, spend a few minutes to study the five principals behind one of the world’s largest privately owned corporations.

A fourteen minute video (above) on YouTube, entitled ‘The five principals of Mars’ takes you around the globe giving examples of how the company puts them, Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency and Freedom, into practical (and profitable) use. To me, at least, it graphically demonstrates that we all must keep our minds open to new ways that our product or service can be improved.

Paraphrasing the objectives of their 6,500 ‘associates’ as they are called, who are employed by the company, the stated goal is to ‘create lasting, mutual benefits for all those involved in our business success’. Perhaps in these current economic circumstances, it has never been so important to help those who are assisting you to achieve your goals and aspirations.

We talk about closer co-operation between the various sectors, but seem rather reluctant to implement the conversation. Have we really become too willing to accept mediocre as the ‘norm’ and incapable of forging smart partnerships?


Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism

5 responses to “Costa Rica vs Barbados: One tourist’s experience

  1. Amazed

    Interesting Adrian. Interesting comparisons. Hello: do you honestly think that Bajans even understand the term “forging smart partnerships” far less than engaging in them??????

  2. Adrian Loveridge

    Amazed, I believe that many do. The trouble is they are frustrated when they try to implement them.

  3. judyjudy

    Having just returned from Barbados for the 30 th time I can honestly say it will be my last holiday there. Shop staff were rude /indifferent/lazy- 2 were asleep . I can get this treatment anywhere in the Meditteranean for a quarter of the price. Thanks

  4. Yes, a very interesting article Adrian; I am in full agreement with everything you said about Barbados. I am Bajan by birth and have travelled extensively around the globe and am yet to find shop/hotel/motel/whatever, staff as rude as I find in Barbados – sad to say. Even J’ca with it’s high crime stats, still rank higher than Bim in courtesy and politeness to visitors.

  5. Peter,England.

    Complacency has arrived in Barbados and unless checked now will spread throughout the tourist industry.
    From Taxi drivers to waiters an attitude has crept in which is more akin to London,which has never heard of customer service,but then again tourists don’t expect it in a major city,but definitely do in a small Caribbean island.

    The previous poster is spot on about the Marriott way and if i were responsible for tourism in Barbados the training company the Marriott group employ would be commissioned to inject their magic on your beautiful island.