Barbados Tourism Authority needs restructuring. Government needs a kick in the behind*

Brazil Barbados BTA website

When will we see any government really do something to improve the BTA?

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner - now selling!

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner – now selling!

The honest intention of this column has never been to be controversial for the sake of controversy, but more to pose questions that perhaps often only need to be asked as a result of poor communication.

One of the eight stated tourism DLP objectives contained in the 2008 Manifesto was to restructure the Barbados Tourism Authority. Of course, in over five years holding office it simply did not happen.

Sadly, while I tried to obtain a copy of both party’s 2013 printed Manifestos, our local constituency BLP branch had run out and the DLP office was closed on the day we tried. But I understand that the same objective has been promised again in the second DLP electoral term with a planned formation of two new organisations – one concentrating on marketing and the other dedicated to developing the product.

The question I am therefore asking is: With an overwhelming majority during the period 2008-2013, why could the restructuring not be implemented?    

During my brief period sitting on the BTA Board of Directors I remember asking the then Chairman what the timescale was for re-organisation. Hardly hesitating, he responded ‘six months’, which at the time I thought was woefully optimistic.

The administration was narrowly re-elected after the 21st February poll by a tiny majority, with nearly 40 per cent of the eligible electorate choosing not to bother voting at all. Compound this with the alleged widespread vote buying and we are at best left to guess whether if in fact it took place and as a result had any overall effect on the final results.

Don’t get me wrong; I am personally in favour of the proposed restructuring. You only have to study the arrival figures, average stay and spend for the last five years to see that it is overly evident that ‘we’ as a destination are not performing to our optimum.

The Minister of Tourism seems to share this view, quoting in the media verbatim ‘There have been endless complaints about the operation of the BTA from the private sector. Therefore, we are restructuring to make the entities modern, responsive and private sector orientated. By putting the right people and the right systems in place in terms of the running the organisation, we should see better results’.

I don’t think many private sector tourism partners could disagree with any of these noteworthy intentions.

The Minister also stated that the issue will soon go to Parliament ‘to become part of the laws of Barbados’. So when this eventually happens, will any of the Government’s elected members be off the island, on one of the many overseas trips or missions undertaken?

Will the Opposition unilaterally agree and vote for the restructuring plan to ensure that it really happens? And then even assuming it has the three required readings in the Lower House, will it be rubber stamped by the Senate?

It was a joy to listen to some of the submissions of the Independent Senators during the recent estimates debate and hear, at least for me, clearly knowledgable, well researched  and pertinent questions being asked on the subject of tourism. Does this indicate a new chapter in the direction of our tourism industry?

* Editor’s note: Adrian submitted this article with a far more politic title. This is BFP’s choice for a title so doan blame Adrian! Same goes for the subtitles.

13 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism

13 responses to “Barbados Tourism Authority needs restructuring. Government needs a kick in the behind*

  1. Terry Wilcock

    The problem we all seem to have these days relates to the inability or maybe willingness for many in authority to step back and take a good hard look at what people want and the perception people have of what is on offer. Sadly many holiday destinations fail to refresh their thinking and are stuck with the old guard who have, and always will, do what they have always done. Removing them is of course a different matter and even here in the UK there are regions that are living in a byegone vacuum. We recently visited Cardiff, not a city I would have ever put on the top of my list, but what a transformation. With clearly good fresh leadership and thinking they have for me come up trumps,even with the poor weather there was everything you can think of to keep yourself entertained and all at reasonable cost. A long way from beautiful Barbados I hear you cry BUT for all at the top over there LOOK AT WHAT YOU HAVE and sell that. Rely solely on the mega money and you will fall into the cash trap that makes everything look good on a temporary basis but long term leads to poverty for the masses.Barbados must be the easiest “product” on earth to sell, but step back and look how this can and should be done, never assume that the whole world already knows what you have. There is no quick fix but with passion and strong leadership you can pull yourselves out of this dive into despair. I only wish I was there to help.

  2. lawson

    My neighbor who is far from poor just took a vacation to mexico with his family, but what seemed odd was he was driving to montreal instead of leaving from ottawa 2 hours away.He told me he saved 400 plus dollars leaving from there.He is not what I would call cheap, what disturbs me is this is a sign of the times where even rich people are trying to cut costs, which may leave barbados in its present format, as a playground for the very wealthy losing out on the bulk of people who still have the money to travel.

  3. If those in Barbados who are responsible for the island’s tourism industry do not wake up and smell the roses real soon, then the history books will read, “Barbados was once a most sought after holiday destination in the Caribbean, not only by tourists from around the world, but as an island in which to invest in property. But alas, the current state of Barbados is primarily due to the island wrongfully believing that it was still a haven that all and sundry would crave to visit, no matter what facilities or lack thereof, were on offer. Failing to implement a number of strategies to attract visitors who want wish to return to the island again and again was the final nail in the coffin for Barbados”. I guess a policy of ‘let’s close the stable door after the horse has bolted’ will prevail.

    Barbados had better get its act together – real fast – if it doesn’t wish to attract more negative publicity from orderly Germans who are due to arrive on the island’s shores later in the year.

    On a slightly different note, why on earth would anyone suggest having a special court for tourists who have been the victims of crime in Barbados. Tourists and local residents alike are entitled to go about their daily business without coming to any form of harm at the hands of criminals. If I was born and lived in Barbados, I would give serious consideration to looking for another island or country to call home,

  4. Peter Quinlan

    All excellent comments. Terry’s comment is right on the mark– promote from within, promote what you have, don’t be complacent. This is our mentality here in Newfoundland & our tourist numbers are surging; all with (for the most part) terrible weather.
    Lawson makes a good point regarding access. I cannot understand why Air Canada doesn’t offer non-stop flights from Ottawa, seeing that many people from the Ottawa area vacation down in Barbados (have you ever been to Bert’s during a Senators game?) And Maureen’s point should be well heeded as well– again It gets back to the general consensus that many Bajans have that Barbados is heaven in the Caribbean while not realizing the numbers keep dropping because other similar destinations are offering just as good a product at a cheaper price, with better (& happier) service. It will be interesting to see BTA’s response/plan.

  5. John Smith

    In general we have an outstanding product which is called “Barbados”. Compared to most other destinations we have a healthy mix of getting it right. Sure, the Maldives have great beaches and outstanding 5 star service but there is nothing outside the resorts.
    Crime is still controllable and we do not have armed guards and locked gates at our hotels. Of course, our service needs to improve and our hotel infra structure needs to move into the 21st century. We need to create incentives for training and our unions need to understand the signs of the times.
    In general though, we need to put the best professional persons in positions of tourism authority and that has not happened. As long as we select through criterias that include nepotism, friends and heritage rather than actual achievements, we will never be able to compete with the world tourism leaders.

  6. Distant voice

    I note the comments by the first 4 and feel compelled to make a list of specific problems that need to be resolved.
    1. Sidewalks: In particular, we need sidewalks all along both sides of highway 7 and highway 1. These sidewalks need to be the full width of 10ft, between the kerb (11ft from centre of road) and the road reserve (21ft from centre of road) If this were achieved, visitors and locals could walk to restaurants and bars and their homes, shops could open up for pedestrians, and more walk in trade would stimulate businesses everywhere. Look at Hastings, where it is almost impossible to walk due to broken storm drain covers, no sidewalks at all in most places and huge vehicles speeding along with wing mirrors at head height. The truth is that persons have been killed by wing mirrors on trucks.
    2. Unfinished Beachfront Developments: For various reasons, we have on the south and west coast, (hwy 7 and 1) many unfinished large hotel/condo projects, complete with 8ft and 12 ft high hoardings along the roadside. Most of these hoardings are illegal. They have been erected about 24″ from the kerb, thereby obstructing the pedestrians right of way. They should be on the road reserve (21ft from centre of road).
    Not only do they create a depressing sight for visitors and locals, they block views and access to the beach. More than 50% of the coastline of Holetown is blocked off by site hoardings…..The Regency, Beachlands, and the old Cheffette site have ruined holetowns beach side.
    On South coast’s new boardwalk, we have The Caribbee Hotel, and Harlequin, plus dereliction of the old Ocean View hotel and the Regency Cove hotel sites.
    Add all the above together and the result is a squalid, hostile and dangerous environment. Visitors to Barbados are shocked and disappointed by what they see and are refusing to come back. I see them picking their way along the edge of the road dressed for dinner and having to inch their way (with young children) hugging the walls when large vehicles pass and trying not to fall into the many holes and storm drains.
    This is now our “Product”. It is inferior and insulting to all (visitors and locals alike).
    The BTA and MTW need to put together a plan of action as follows.
    1. Start a rolling program to build sidewalks on South and West coasts, where necessary serving notice to all property owners to move back their guard walls and other obstacles (or have them CPO’d if necessary and moved by MTW)
    2. Chief Town Planner needs to serve notice on all coast line developers to finish what they started or tear down site hoardings, clean up site and make safe and allow pedestrian access to beaches.
    When a developer wishes to start back, they should be required to provide the Chief Town Planner with a viable programme and clear evidence of funds available to bring the project to it’s conclusion.
    Finally, this message is ultimately for the benefit of Barbadians. If tourism is doing well, we all do well.
    Cooperation with foreigners will bring great rewards. Wake up Barbadians, take control and own your island. Make it work, learn what your “product” means to your customers, provide the service, control your prices and consider that crimes against visitors are crimes against yourselves and the economy of your country.

  7. Caribbean Lover

    Barbados has been in tourism for well over 200 years; and had never really had to sell itself; but times have changed; tourists no longer worship just white sandy beaches and swim with turtles; they’re, instead, looking for a bit more: mountain climbing; mud-baths, etc.
    And it’s this change that Barbados, and the BTA, don’t know how to respond to.

  8. Iain

    I agree with most of the points made by visitors to your blog site.
    Things are getting bad in Barbados – but I see very few comments or commitments regarding “self help”.
    Raise funds and appoint your own tourism director; build a website; create social media traffic; distribute e-letters to the travel industry. The options are endless.
    Instead of continually bleating, be proactive and show the BTA how it can be done. I’m sure the skills are there on the island.

  9. 37

    I used to spend a lot of time in Barbados. Even bought a house there that ended up a diaster just about as bad as Merricks. The builder, Rupert Spencer walked off of the job site and did not complete the houses. Have a look around Barbados and you see lots of unfinished properties. So real estate investment in Barbados gets badly affected becasue bad news travels faster than good news. Then there is the personal safety factor which is in serious decline. Having been robbed on Pebble Beach you then realize you can”t safely enjoy the beach becasue you are always looking for who is coming along. So little by little these negative experiences begin to have a impact on destination choices. Add that to a monetary system tied by fixed exchange rate to the strongest currency in the world and the conclusion will be that Barbaods is in serious serious trouble.

  10. Roverp

    WHY DOES THE BTA NEED RESTRUCTURING? WHERE IS THE STUDY OR ANY TYPE OF EVIDENCE TO SUGGET THAT?

  11. Adrian Loveridge

    Roverp,

    If you have ‘lost’ over 100,000 long stay visitors during the last five years, while spending up to BDS$92 million annually, do this think they don’t need restructuring?

  12. PLANTATION DEEDS FROM 1926-2013 AND SEE MASSIVE FRAUD ,LAND TAX BILLS AND NO DEEDS

    Barbados Tourism Authority needs to go, none of them fools know what they are doing,

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