Loveridge: Barbados upscale image now a liability for tourism?

Barbados offers good value for tourists – but who knows?

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

One of the areas I think that we (Barbados) have not done as well as we could have, is getting across to our various markets that many of our tourism establishments do in fact offer value-for-money.

Over the years ‘we’ have spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing this image that we are, in some eyes, an iconic and aspiration destination. For many, I am sure that rings true, but with most of our main sources of business under considerable economic pressure, with an ever higher percentage of regular travellers having to consider the cost of their annual holiday, is there more we can do?

Personally, I really think so.

Tourism leakage at 80%

Many eminent people and agencies have written on the subject of the tourism leakage effect, which varies greatly, but some estimate could be as high as 80 per cent in the Caribbean. In very simple terms, it is what visitors spend on goods and services and the proportion that is re-exported to, in many cases pay for what they are consuming here.

According to a UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) report, the highest overall leakage is with all-inclusive package tours, perhaps not surprisingly. The Tourism Concern organisation also concluded that all-inclusive properties employ fewer people per dollar of revenue and have a smaller trickle down effect on the local economy.

Our high dependency of tour operator generated business further compounds the inequitable situation.

So when our policymakers brag about annual tourism revenues of anything approaching BDS$2.4 billion, this graphically highlights the problem and far better anaylsis has to take place to ascertain the amount which actually stays within the destination. If ‘we’ are simply generating revenue, only to spend the majority of it on items that ultimately have to be imported and paid for in foreign currency, what are we achieving?

It clearly would be almost impossible to reduce this to zero, but certainly there is scope to reduce the current percentage. Producing more of what our visitors buy is the obvious solution, which gets us back again to value-for-money.

I don’t believe for a moment that our visitors expect to come to Barbados and be served, as an example, Aberdeen Angus steak, assume it will  taste better and perhaps most relevant, for it to cost less than they pay at home. Is this ‘our’ perception of what visitors actually demand or would they be far more amenable to sampling locally available items, especially if they were far less expensive?

Smart linkages to other sectors are absolutely critical to our fiscal recovery, in the shortest time. While this seems such an blatantly obvious observation, I don’t always see it working to the very best effect.

“It is estimated that approximately one-third of all tourist spending is on food, so agriculture seems the clear target to work with, to reduce imported consumables.” But while this topic has been discussed at length over many years,  progress appears slow to address this issue, perhaps because the sector appears fragmented and disorganised.

Is this just the perspicuity of those of us in the industry or based on the reality of the situation?

10 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism

10 responses to “Loveridge: Barbados upscale image now a liability for tourism?

  1. Mr. Loveridge, It is virtually impossible to think that our tourism planners do not know that a considerable amount of the money earned is automatically eaten up by the same industry. They are just spinning numbers. Neither party has a visionary plan for tourism or any other sector. It is absolutely amazing that you can be so informative and those entrusted with managing this industry believe that their dismal failure is top secret. I have attended functions put on by the Barbados Tourism Authority overseas. The entire room was filled by Bajans. There was no local rum, fish cake or anything representing us. They strut about in well tailored suits and launched programs that we never heard of again. In the fullness of time all these things will come to light. Tourism went from modest offices at the Garrison, under Peter Morgan to a gigantic ministry ,that over the last twenty years has been a breeding ground for some of the biggest jokers ever to receive a check from the taxpayers for doing absolutely nothing and doing it very badly. Barbados tourism is badly managed on the home front as well as overseas. It is a marketing disaster of monumental promotions. Both the BLP and DLP are to blame.

  2. John

    Same with shugar.

    In mathematical terms, the rise in government involvement is inversely proportional to the output.

    Colin Hudson at the Future Centre Trust had a graph showing this inverse relationship.

  3. Calypsolover

    Note: Guests from the UK who arrived on a cruise ship took one look at an area near Speightstown and went straight back to the UK. They disliked the broken down sidewalk and gaping holes, litter strewn beach at the former Almond Beach, the piles of dog excrement on a neighboring balcony placed especially by locals to “enthrall” the tourists and the lack of fine dining in the area They had their fees returned as why should people pay funds for a holiday on an island which is marketed as a high end location be ripped off. . . Will anyone bother to repair the area No of course not, the road has been in this state of collapse for two years? It is also very upsetting for tourists to come here and see dogs caged 24/7 in small kennels or worse and have to listen to their constant barking. Barbados is in danger of slipping further down the rankings as a tourist destination.
    More and more condos are being built, the letting market is swamped and therefore the rental prices are sliding which means owners will be financially challenged and the price of property will continue to descend..Barbados is beautiful but it is being neglected and spoilt by overdevelopment.

  4. BBaywatch

    In a group email that I received this morning from one of the Linkedin travel/hotel groups there was a reference to Royal Westmoreland offering 50% discounts on villa stays over Christmas – so I’m not sure that any ‘upscale image’ is helping high end tourism much either. I do believe that brand Barbados has been damaged by the gross overdevelopment of the island. Chasing the market to the bottom with mega resorts will not help either.

  5. Sean Chandler

    “Chasing the market to the bottom” is the best description I’ve heard yet for our tourism marketing efforts.

    I am not directly involved in the industry, but I have eyes and ears and I have lived in and visited other countries. Barbados has nothing unique to offer, and plenty that needs fixing.

  6. gee

    Barbados is my favourite place on this Earth. However you do not offer value for money your hotels are way overpriced and not competitive. Barbadians have taken tourism for granted and Barbados needs to get its head out of your beautiful white sand and compete.
    I also believe there is much customer service training needed to deliver a higher standard of service to your visitors.
    Reduce your packages and you will see an increase in first time visitors.

  7. Canadian Tourist

    Currently spending my last day at Dover Beach and what follows are my thoughts after two weeks here:

    Customer service, a field I used to teach, across the island gets an “Adequate” grade. It should be “Excellent”.

    Drug dealers need to be arrested and existing laws enforced. On my daily walks to the Dover Market area or along the St. Lawrence Gap, I’m constantly propositioned by the dealers. Due to my build and frame I’m not intimidated by them but several of my fellow travellers are. This doesn’t go well, especially when noted on their Facebook accounts. Free Advertising isn’t always the best.

    Taxi rates need to be posted. Having visited the island several times, I have an ideal of the going rates, I also know when I’m being fleeced.

    Stop ogling/wolf-whistling/offering black-paddle at/to our wives. My wife is hot and can handle/put down any attention she gets, and I quite frankly am amused by it. However, most aren’t and this is one area that I keep hearing complaints about from fellow tourists. There was a huge defence of this culturally idiotic practise on Trip-Advisor which is going to become harder to defend when those that are appalled by the practice take their vacations elsewhere.

    Finally, stop supporting Arsenal FC. You’re better than that.

  8. Adrian Loveridge

    Canadian (cherished) Tourist,

    Thank you for your honest feedback and we ARE aware of all the points that you have raised. Sadly, we are not too good in the implementation dept., and it takes a near crisis to get our policymakers to act in a timely manner.
    Have a safe reurn to the snowny north and rest assured those that make a living out of tourism, REALLY want you back.
    I am afraid I am past the Arsenal stage, my team is Ipswich Town, so there is no hope for me.

  9. Sith

    The problems also relate to a very overvalued currency with a fixed exchange rate. The competitive destinations are getting the benefit of a floating currency rate. Barbados is not. That has put the cost up of coming to Barbados. Without that problem being fixed it won’t matter. It is going to be a long time before the Euro back to where it was in comparison to the us$. My estimate would be there has been a 25 to 30 percent swing over the last 5 years. Have a look at the Brazilian Real the currency of one of our new source markets. 3 years ago the real was 1.50 to the us$ now it is 2.09. So on currency cost alone it going to cost Brazilians 30% more to come to Barbados. On the other hand it is costing 30% less to go to Brasil.

    I recently bought while on vacation in Miami some nice 1.75 liter Carribbean rum for $13.47. Cheapest I can find in Barbados is about $18.00 and in georgetown I can get it for $7.00. Something very wrong with our currency valuation system.

  10. Greg

    in the 90’s, I spent about 18 months on the BTA Board, before resigning in protest. During that time I spent my own money to visit the NY and London offices and got the then-new ad campaign approved, but I absolutely refused to accept any directors’ fees. When I resigned, someone told me I was the first person in history to do so. That about sums up the BTA right there………