Was the Barbados Minister of Tourism aware of Virgin Atlantic’s massive seat cuts?

“If you were aware of such a massive cut in Virgin’s seat capacity, would you spend so much of the available Barbados tourism marketing budget on a heavily discounted programme?”

Was the Barbados Tourism Authority blindsided when launching the new tourist subsidy?

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner - now selling!

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner – now selling!

Sometimes timing can be everything and that has left me to question the recent launch of the Barbados Island Inclusive promotion.

On Saturday 20th April 2013, the Minister of Tourism held a local media conference to launch the initiative, which according to reports is expected to cost a staggering 11 per cent of the annual budget of the Barbados Tourism Authority. Without wanting to repeat information already in the public domain, the objective is to drive an ‘additional’ 15,000 long stay visitors this year, who are expected to spend $30 million.

Tourism Minister Sealy

Tourism Minister Sealy

The following week the Minister then traveled to the United Kingdom, where, I believe, he met with several British travel interests, including both Virgin Atlantic Airways and Virgin Holidays. On his return, the Minister appeared on a 45 minute long CBC News Extra programme, where he was the only speaker. While TV8 clearly had a full hour available, no time whatsover was allocated to attending  journalists so they could pose any questions, they may have wished to ask.

Personally, I think this was a huge mistake.  It gives the impression either that there is no accountability and/or,  it is not important to keep the public (and industry) fully and accurately informed.

Then just days later, something truly dramatic happened, that appears to have caught many major private sector local tourism players completely by surprise.

Virgin Atlantic brought forward their previously announced plans to change the type of aircraft operated on the Gatwick/Barbados from October 27th to 3rd May. At a stroke, that decision could easily result in the loss of between 36,000 and 40,000 seating capacity out of London by the end of the year.

Surely at the meetings the Minister would have gleaned what plans Virgin were in fact actually going to implement,  just a week or so later?

After Virgin’s recently announced losses of GBPounds 93 million (US$141 million) for the last financial year ending February, which followed an operating loss of GBPounds 80.2 million for the previous one it is blatantly clear that that some rationalisation of the carrier was inevitable. Especially when you bear in mind Delta’s acquisition of 49 per cent of the airline in 2012.

As that’s when I have to come  back to the timing. If you were aware of such a massive cut,  which could remove one in four of the previously available seats on the route servicing one of our largest source markets, would you spend so much of the available marketing budget on a heavily discounted programme?

Nick Parker, the Caribbean Regional Manager of Virgin Atlantic was recently quoted ‘that  the smaller aircraft does not represent  a declining market, but rather targeting the high-end niche that is a priority for an island like Barbados’.

Many might agree. But why then are our policymakers committing such a large proportion of the available national marketing budget to subsidise visitors to the tune of BDS$733 per person?

And that is of course if the programme achieves stated targets.

Would it not be more cost-effective to raise overall destination awareness, including attracting more holidaymakers that would help fill the additional Upper Class seats available on the A330-300’s? Again, as pointed out by Mr. Parker ‘the Upper Class market can more withstand the APD’.

8 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism

8 responses to “Was the Barbados Minister of Tourism aware of Virgin Atlantic’s massive seat cuts?

  1. Pingback: Was the Barbados Minister of Tourism aware of Virgin Atlantic’s massive seat cuts? | Barbados Blog !

  2. travelmatters

    Adrian,

    You are 100% correct on this. Barbados is not being marketed overseas to build awareness. This batch of money, from all account I am hearing, is not producing the results aimed for – it will be another “Rihanna Barbados” campaign fiasco producing nothing for our island.

    If the people who are running tourism in Barbados right now (the Minister and Chairman of the BTA) cannot do anything right – why are they still there making decision on our taxpayer money? They obviously have not a clue at what they are doing. I guess that is what happens when you have an engineer and electrician running tourism.

  3. Rastaman

    Who is the engineer and who is the electrician….????LOL If it wasn’t so serious it would make a great comedy.

  4. The Oracle

    Barbados’ tourism marketing is about maintaining the established marketing status quo of the last 20 years plus because that status quo has been remarkably consistent at ensuring marketing dollars keep flowing into the pockets of whoever holds the Ministry and other key Tourism corporate positions. Follow the money, its never wrong.

  5. I was at launch of SoCo by St Matthias Rd, and Sealy was ribbon cutter, he saw me and asked if I am “going to give trouble…”

    I stated once the ceremony’s done, I wanted to interview him briefly on how can there be a Tourism Reinvigoration Plan when the Master Plan is not completed?

    Big mistake…

    Soon as ribbon cutting was done? Sealy did the 100 metres faster than Yohan Blake, Tyson Gay & Usain Bolt combined! I have to do like them and lie, then LIE in wait for their hasty departure…

    I said this to say Sealy is a poor Minister and the only difference between him and a parrot is their plumage and what they squawk.

  6. Adrian Loveridge

    Ian,

    You are assuming the Minister has a plan. Who would he get to formulate such a plan from current tourism officials, who fully understands the industry?

  7. Pingback: Barbados Tourism Minister runs from press interview about Tourism Master Plan | Barbados Free Press

  8. patricia jackman

    my comment may not mean much but i have been living in london for 14 years now and have always notice that Barbados is not advertised not even in the travel shops. All the other carribean islands are boldly displayed. It bothers me so much as a bajan that I have fouund myself thnking of what I can do to help promote our beautiful island. The other islands have TV ads competitions etc.we have nothing