Tourism Success Rule #1: Never create an expectation that you don’t fulfill.
From an entirely tourism perspective, what can the Minister of Finance do next week to help kick start a beleaguered sector that has been systematically smashed to the ground with unbudgeted massive increases in operational costs, while attempting to survive in a dwindling market?
It is a very big question and clearly for a Government that is experiencing the most challenging fiscal malaise for decades, the options are limited.
There can be few hoteliers who fail to recognise that much of our plant desperately needs to be re-vitalised and upgraded. But with 15 consecutive months of declining long stay visitor arrivals, widespread discounting of rooms and escalating expenses, how can this be achieved?
In the recently announced Ten-Point Plan, those tourism partners who qualify, will welcome the small rebates in electricity and water charges, but realistically how far do they compensate for previous increases of 72 per cent and 60 per cent respectively. Let alone a 50 per cent increase in land taxes, 16.6 per cent hike in VAT and prolonged delays in re-paying agreed VAT refunds.
The proposed APD Voucher, seemingly unique to any tourism driven Caribbean destination, was cleverly linked to a minimum 14 night stay ‘at participating hotels’. It is still unclear after declaring that ‘villa type accommodation will be available for marketing’, if this segment will benefit from any subsidised voucher. After all, these guests also eat in our restaurants, rent cars, shop and patronise the attractions.
So two weeks after the ‘media briefing’, the lack of implementation has created a vacuum of unanswered questions, rather than producing an unambiguous marketing tool to stimulate additional bookings.
Our policymakers seem to have forgotten that Barbados is largely a tour operator driven holiday island and that it is critically important to fully inform the travel trade of any conditions of use, if you wish to maximise potential business.
Put your yourself in the place of the average ‘Brit’. If you were even contemplating a package holiday to Barbados after reading about this ‘proposed’ initiative, would you not delay booking until the financial benefits of the voucher have been enunciated?
Also posted on the BTA website is the re-launch of the Barbados Island Inclusive programme from 8th –23rd August (depending on which market) until 21st December. So are there going to be two subisidy initiatives operating at the same time, which could have a combined cost of over $1,200 per visitor?
One thing for sure; whatever is proposed in the 2013 budget it will be absolutely meaningless unless the measures are actualised in a timely fashion.
What became of the previously described ‘newly established’ Hotel Refurbishment Fund contained in the 2012 Budget ‘in which $50 million has been earmarked for hotel refurbishment for financing to refurbish and/or upgrade their hotel plant’ ? And to make it clear, we are not talking about grant monies or hand-outs here, but loans at commercial interest rates.
Sadly, to date this particular fund does not appear to have become a reality and you cannot fail to speculate that if such a fund was effected two or three years ago, that it may just have prevented the closure of some hotels – notably Almond Beach Village.
It brings back into focus, yet again, that while all sorts of possible aids to recovery are discussed, proclaimed and paraded in the media, ‘we’ dismally fail to implement potential solutions to the problems.