Horror stories of the Barbados Tourism Authority

Why is it always so hard to get some action?

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

If you took a straw poll asking who is the most respected broadcasting source, I am sure that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) would be up there, probably at the top of the list. Therefore if a seasoned producer from that esteemed organisation, filmed and presented a professionally made short video, portraying Barbados from a very unsual perspective, wouldn’t it be of interest?

Apparently, not, because our national marketing organisation didn’t even bother to acknowledge receipt of this, and other videos submitted!

I cannot recall just how many times I have heard this from various people, over the years and it graphically reminds me of one of my own personal experiences. I am not going to indicate exactly the year it happened, as the then CEO has moved on, hopefully to other avenues where his skills can be better exploited.

Entirely on my own volition and expense, I  travelled down to Brazil for a week, flying from Bridgetown to Parimaribo (Surinam), Cayenne (French Guyana) and then Belem, with SLM Airways. I met with senior executives of the airline and METS, the long established travel organisation, who were both keen to grow a route between Belem and Barbados, which is only 1,258 miles, or a flying time of around two and a half hours. Then with their representatives in Brazil, major tour operators, travel agents and even the head of what is now Belemtur, the tourism marketing agency of Para State.

At that time, even with over 20 connecting city possibilities to other Brazilian cities, a resident population of around 7.5 million people within close proximity of Belem airport, it was still critical to view it as a holistic approach to what was deemed then, a new emerging market. We also carefully looked at the incredible agro-processing sector in North Brazil, because airfreight charges could play a vital role in the economics of the route.

I wrote a detailed report, based on my meetings, offering suggestions on how ‘we’ could possibly implement such a plan and hand-delivered it to the Harbour Road, BTA offices. I also discussed my findings with the Brazilian Ambassdor to Barbados at that time, who expressed enormous interest.

Weeks went by, with at no time receiving any acknowledgement of the evaluation , until one evening, while attending one of the many ‘cocktail’ parties. Also present was the BTA CEO/President, and I shall always remember his response, when asking if he had seen my detailed observations.

To this day, it frankly still shocks me. ‘Well we can’t respond to everything, you know’.

Even with a staff compliment of over 130 persons, I suppose he was right. But I wonder just how many other enthusiastic persons, with ideas and concepts they feel have merit, are just left disillusioned and their time has been wasted.

There appears to have been a notable increase in the number of visitors commenting on our tourism product and performance in the local press recently and through the various social media sites. If ‘we’ plan to stay in the tourism business, it is absolutely critical that we respond in a timely manner. Otherwise, even seasoned visitors may just get the impression that we do not truly value their business and move on to one of the very many other destinations on offer.

16 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism

16 responses to “Horror stories of the Barbados Tourism Authority

  1. What else is new?

    Adrian:

    It is commendable that you try. You know what? They don’t give a HOOT. Most of them are out partying and “Don’t Stop the Carnivalling” so sadly your comments are just like
    “Dust in the Wind”………………..http://youtu.be/g0zSB2WEtwU.

  2. caribeye

    BTA Head’s response is nowadays par for the course! Oh for the days of Cleveland Mayers, or the immensely capable Jack Dear! With them as Chairmen do you think the BTA would even have an attitude like the present one? With an industry as dynamic as Tourism do you think we need thinking like “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it?” We need leadership with the “If it ain;t broke, break it!” mentality so we are always inventing something new and attractive and innovative while keeping the best of what’s worked well for years.

  3. sith

    @Adrian.

    I am interested in your routing. Which airlines and flights did you take. I have flown through Georgetown with Liat and into Belem with Meta but Meta are out of business. I am usin Gol right now but it a long haul through Sau Paulo to Belem. Thanks

  4. Adrian Loveridge

    Sith,
    The column is based on an experience some years ago, when SLM flew from Barbados.
    They still fly Georgetown, Parimaribo, Belem.

  5. Mac

    Adrian. I totally agree. 18months ago, I was in discussion with Daniel O’Donnell & his management to do a two night concert here, they were hugely keen. I had a promoter interested. Tried to enlist the BTA’s assistance. despite phone call & emails, no response & still waiting. Sadly Mr O’Donnell’s team could no longer wait so we lost the gap in his schedule. The BTA need to think differently and proactively instead of just hoping people come here because of the sun. These days there are far cheaper places to get the sun than here. Barbados needs to finds ways to offer more & also look at options for tourist & locals alike for when the rain falls. At present there s precious little.

    Great article as ever

  6. runner

    @sith … Thru POS and Parimaribo with Surinam Airways. an agency in Guyana handles it for me as they are agents for Surinam Airways.

  7. 122

    Elcock is a dork.

  8. “McAdenville, North Carolina
    Since 1956, this tiny textile town (population 651) has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors to witness its annual transformation into “Christmas Town USA.” Residents trim nearly 400 fir trees—some approaching 90 feet tall—with holiday lights as carols chime from a nearby church, adding to the ambiance. The best spot for visitors is the lake near the heart of town, which is ringed by 33 trees ranging from 12 to 40 feet and features an illuminated fountain. This year’s tree lighting is Nov. 30″.(from AAA travel magazine, Going Places)

    Imagine a town of 651 residents attracting “hundreds of thousands of visitors!” for one event : trimming Christmas trees and singing carols. We have been in the serious tourism business for the better part of 50/60 years and we cannot get it right.

    We dress up in the finest and frequent the cocktail circuit believing that is how to market a product.
    Let’s “be brutally frank” and admit that some folks believe that spouting a few catch phrases is all it takes. Our environment is slipping and our tourism product is being poorly managed and marketed. We are doing our utmost to turn our country into an American outpost and our island charm is disappearing.

  9. Ivan Taylor

    What really gets to me and Adrian I so do agree that a hand full of people dictate the future on many in this country.

    We have no Agriculture, little or no industry, the offshore sector seems to be struggling and the main money earner for the country is headed by people who do not seem too bothered, why? their jobs are secure. If they had to work for their money they would all be out of work, It has gotten to the stage that the basic product is tired and run down and the powers to be do not seem to have the remedy to fix it, as soon as they receive suggestions and help they shoot it down because they are scared that outside sources could be right and their precious jobs would be in jeopardy.

    We are in a bigger mess that we care to believe and when I saw the walk out of the Staff of the BTA the other day because of complaints of the “Sick Building” they work in, my sentiments were with the building as I too have been turned back many a time with ideas after traveling and returning excited with the promise for renewed interest in Barbados from a source not already tapped.

    Believe me its not the building that is sick!!!!

  10. Adrian Loveridge

    Ivan, so true.
    If it is a sick building then maybe the air conditioning needs maintenance or replacement. But NO, a new Audi SUV Q5 takes priority.
    Is that really having the interests of your employees at heart?

  11. ComeHere

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Bajan “leaders” are strut proud pretenders, all dressed up and nowhere to go except to fetes where they exchange lies with their fellow unqualified rum-brained problem solvers. This chap Adrian has always articulately made sense, backed up by real time data and statistical facts, but I can clearly see this messenger being slaughtered for daring to tell the truth in the clear light of day. He makes all of these certificate holding scholars look bad. No amount of long talk is ever going to fix the problem as the Golden Goose is long dead. Ripped off tourists, whether bitten by over promised, under delivered accommodation/services, jaw dropping high prices brought on by the crazy duties on items we neither make or grow, or by the insolent responses by those in the service industry “serving” Bajan hospitality, are complaining not only in social media but by simply not coming! Someone tell Delisle Worrell that the country’s real currency, our reputation, has already been de-valued.

  12. You’all got some good ideas but it is almost certainly to be much more simple than all that. You see there is a pig trough and all de big shots are hogging down in there and everyone down below just trying to figure out how they are to get their lil piece, quick before it all run out, cuz it can’t last. I know that.
    Adrian you should have handed your report using someone else, less well known, and got them to engineer themselves to be alone with the body, and then dance around the subject if you have to for a while, sometimes you do not even have to worry to dance, just get to be alone and talk some numbers and make clear this is a business deal you are trying to put together “not some work you are asking them to do” and you want to solicit BTA help (and endorsement) and just listen out for the inevitable “what’s in it for me” because that’s how it works. Just ask a few people, any people after a couple drinks and always alone and they will tell you no problem. I remember a colleague who entered business in Barbados a bit late in life, selling things the easiest “system” to “work” and he we shocked how every company official private and public espc public did exactly that. He could not believe the level of corruption. This was a while ago, you’all think it got better since?

  13. B Agard

    Not only a brand new Audi SUV Q5, but isn’t the man still driving it and behaving like he owns the world supposed to have resigned? Memories are short, but word is that when Rice came to the BTA he demanded that his predecessor return the government owned vehicle he still had and was driving while transitioning!! The predecessor sent back the car, only for it to be parked, while the rented vehicle was used until the first Audi A4 arrived!!
    Oh how short are memories!!
    By the way, has an official date of departure been published or stated for Rice and if so, what is it? Also has the new acting CEO reported for duty?
    If this is the case the BTA would be paying the salaries of two (2) CEOs, and with Byer drawing the salaries of the Marketing Director, as well as the difference for still acting as director of corporate communications and senior vice-president – isn’t it a wonder the BTA is in a mess?

    I live in the USA and I am still in shock that Urban from this market has been named to act as CEO, when he was by-passed as VP for the USA and even for senior VP!! What does this say about Byer?

    Adrian, you seen well informed, can you shed some light on this?

  14. Adrian Loveridge

    B. Agard,
    I am afraid that I cannot. I only know that I was always taught to teach by example. When over 1,000 private sector tourism jobs have already been lost this year, this ludicrous situation in the public sector, on the eve of an election, should not be tolerated.

  15. rastaman

    This cannot be the Adrian Loveridge that supports the DEMS?

  16. FedUp

    Students of Tourism have travelled overseas for the last 15 + years and returning with qualifications to gain the experience,and then be able to properly run this industry. They have instead found themselves as front desk clerks or in other industries not being able to put to use what they have learned. We continue to use Tourism as a political football and put ‘friends” in key areas that are met at cocktail functions. The political interference is How is it that some hotels who do not depend on the BTA marketing can continue to attract visitors to their rooms, but the island as a whole is suffering. Something is wrong and this organisation needs to be restructured, properly funded and the politics and politrics taken out of the equation. Performance must be the goal just like any private organisation for “high-flyers” to keep their jobs. Tourism is down and we cannot hear anything from the BTA. Forget the Minister it is time for this role to more of a guidance than trying to interfere with operations. Goverment is the only place where the Board and a Minister does all the PR activities and the people actually doing the day to day activities are not allowed to express their opinions and put them into practice.