Unfortunately the recent bad news in tourism is only exceeded by more bad news.
The bad news is that long stay visitor arrivals have declined in each and every single month over the last consecutive fourteen months. The good news is that in May, the fall was the lowest in that entire period with just 29 less arrivals than the corresponding month last year.
With the end of the only national marketing initiative, Barbados Island Inclusive, we are back again in this massive vacuum of marketing uncertainty. The non tour operator dependent hotels will now be scrabbling around to see what, if any, additional funds they can spend on promoting their properties.
Up until the end of May we were already 16,151 long stay visitors down when compared with the same period in 2012, and that year was down by 31,421 over 2011.
Some tourism policymakers are predicting that we (Barbados) will end the year ‘flat’ and hopefully that will be proven right. But sadly, the odds are overwhelming against it. Arrivals would have to average almost 50,000 people each month for the rest of 2013. Especially when you think we have not reached above this target in four out of five months this year, and those included our peak winter months.
Clearly, there appears to be this unscalable wall to any attempts in influencing change in the way we are attempting to do business.
It’s almost as if those in decision-making positions have simply given up.
Perhaps even more frightening, is when you hear comments widespreadly carried in the media that Barbados is ‘outperforming’ many other Caribbean destinations. Regrettably, no journalist asked the obvious question… Well isn’t that due to the majority of the other islands having less room stock?
This is just like saying Barbados is ‘outperforming’ Montserrat, which sadly in reality is the only English speaking regional destination currently with a worse performance than us.
As we move further and further away from restoring viability in the sector it becomes ever more difficult to even contemplate the critical upgrading and re-positioning that is necessary for recovery and survival.
Meanwhile in this inertia, the global competition is getting closer to us. The Thailand based Six Senses Resorts and Spa group have announced they will be opening in nearby St. Lucia in March 2015 – 53 one and two bedroom hotel villas, 48 luxury homes and 62 apartments spread over 60 acres located at Freedom Bay in the foothills of the Pitons. The property will harvest rainwater for irrigation and use geothemal techniques for energy usuage.
Already operating in Europe, China, Maldives, Vietnam, Thailand, the Middle East and Africa, currently their only other regional property is in the Dominican Republic.
Again, it brings the strength and benefits of another world class brand and all the marketing advantages that comes with it.
This is yet another issue that has to be addressed, as to why our neighbours have been so much more successful in attracting the big names. The initial interest seemed to be there, with brands like Rosewood, Meridien, Banyan and dare I mention Four Seasons, but none of them have so far materialised.
Six Senses are not immune from the recession either, so what are ‘we’ doing wrong?