Short of a miracle and/or a radical change in the way we do business, it appears we have headed into one of the most challenging tourism summers in recent history – hot on the heels of a poor winter.
With still no game changing strategies, other than one or two tinkering offerings on the horizon, is there more ‘we’ can do to avoid further widespread lay-offs and closures?
The answer has to be YES! And I think we can start by looking at further opportunities on our doorstep.
For ages, I have admired the work of the Barbados Association of Retired Persons. My wife and I have been lifetime members for a number of years and I cannot even begin to think of the savings it has brought us during that period, far outweighing any annual subscription fees.
For a number of reasons I only purchased my first public company shares just over half a decade ago on the recommendation of our accountants. If we are lucky, our small capital investment will return to the level that we initially put into fund by the end of 2013. Ironically, in their latest quarterly report, the fund managers reminded us that during the last five years, cumulative inflation on Barbados reached 38 per cent and that any investment placed with them ‘should outperform money left in a savings account over the long term’.
That same ‘investment’ would have attracted more than a 20 per cent plus return if we had left it in a credit union or similar financial institution, over the same duration. Okay, it still would not have kept abreast of inflation, but at least there would have been a smaller deficit.
So back to BARP. We do not eat out a lot, but have a few favourite restaurants, one of which used to simply take 10 per cent off the entire bill on presentation of the BARP card. Sadly, it has stopped offering an overall discount and cannot wonder if this is not being a little short sighted.
As the impressive membership numbers confirm, BARP reaches a huge and largely better off section of the population. If anything during these troubling times more restaurants should be targeting this market. Probably this age group is more concerned with the ravages of inflation, as they are perhaps existing on a fixed income or pension.
Our banks also have to make a greater contribution. If like others, my monthly credit card statement is not settled in full, we are faced with an almost obscene 21 or 22 per cent rate of interest. Yet at the same time net interest earned on savings rarely exceeds one tenth of those figures.
For the companies who issue credit cards and offer added benefits like miles or points, why not double them for specific periods with our local tourism offerings, including programmes like the BHTA StayCation packages?
Ultimately, its a win-win situation for everybody: Increased merchandising charges and market share, added business at a time when most enterprises need it, protection of employment, higher levels of VAT and other tax/NIS collection. The list goes on.
Smart partnerships have to be the way to go. If you still harbour doubts, just try it for a specified period. Then analyse the overall benefits against the minimum cost of participation.
The results might surprise you.