Loveridge on Barbados tourism: The time for remedial action has long since passed

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner.

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner.

Even though it has not become widespread public knowledge, September 2013 became the 18th consecutive month of long stay visitor decline and recorded the lowest stay-over arrivals of any month in the last 11 years.

As someone who has invested their life savings and 25 years in the Barbados tourism industry, it give me no pleasure to state this unpleasant fact, but someone has to say it. If only in the interests of survival.

The time for remedial action has long since passed.

“Once again, it is now a case of damage limitation and focusing on what the private sector can do for itself,  to avoid annihilation of the industry as we know it.”

This may at first appear dramatic, but you only have to look around at other businesses on the island to understand that a sector that has been financially drained for a year and a half cannot be immune from the same challenges others are facing.

Not that our policymakers are listening, but I am going to make a few suggestions…

1)   Establish a National Marketing Committee (NMC) in the shortest practical time, comprising of proven professionals with a rotating Chairman, chosen irrespective of any political party leanings.

The existing Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) board would cease to play any functional part in promoting the destination, or simply be disbanded, based on non-performance.

2)   Place the opposition spokesperson on tourism (regardless of which party is in power) on this committee, to ensure there is true non-partisan participation in decision making and understanding of the current problems.

3)   Every current or planned national marketing initiative should be fully appraised for past or potential cost-effectiveness with realistic targets set and constantly monitored.

4)   A small opportunity team is put in place to systematically follow all mentions of Barbados on the various social media sites, intelligently respond and maximise positive public relations while fostering smart partnerships.

5)   The current Governement either implements in a specified time period, or honestly admits that they are unable to bring about the much vaunted planned restructuring of the BTA and the introduction of a truly all embracing Tourism Master Plan.

6)   As there clearly the political is not there to bring about point number five, sit down with the staff at the BTA and see how the organisation can be shaped into a more efficient slimmed down unit, who can proficiently carry out the direction of the NMC.

7)   Issue a tender to attract a local company, who would re-build the websites of the BTA and Ministry of Tourism, keep them up-to-date and handle the advertising and public relations of these entities, in tandem with overseas placement agencies.

The rationale for this is simple. It presently takes far too long to update in-house websites and social media sites.

8)    One of the first tasks of the NMC would be to explore how our niche markets like villas and boutique hotels could work co-operatively together in joint campaigns to maximise overseas market exposure while sharing and reducing promotional costs.

9)   The travel trade plays a critical role in distributing our tourism product, but frankly, we as a tourism driven economy, have become too tour operator dependent. A plan would be put in place to increase direct rack rate bookings, by ten per cent.

I am going to hold the initial objectives at nine for the time being, because it appears Ten-Point Plans have little chance of implementation and ultimately, success.

4 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Economy

4 responses to “Loveridge on Barbados tourism: The time for remedial action has long since passed

  1. robert ross

    This is a bit stale now isn’t it?

  2. Price

    I wrote in a previous piece. In 2006/2007 the Caribbean Average Daily Rate (ADR) was double that of North Amereica and Europe. The Caribbean Revenue per available room (REVPAR) was double that of North America and Europe. It so happen that all three areas had the same occupancy. Barbados who was one of the main culprits in pushing up rates, lived by the motto of charging the tourist the highest possible rates. It was called “rob the tourist”. As Adrian says it is time for remedial action or better yet it is time to help us Hotel owners who Screwed the island.

  3. markstar

    the price/quality equation just doesn’t work for barbados. having visited >10 times from the uk it’s not an appealing prospect anymore. it’s always up on our possible list but the hotels are generally low quality and expensive. the rigid season based pricing is just so outdated. off to sri lanka this january, thailand in the summer….. I enjoy Adrian’s observations but promotion is only one of the 4 p’s

  4. NYC/BGI

    It is a pity that the BTA and the hotel owners are living in the past days where the the tourist were hungry for sun and sand. fast forward to the 21 century and the BTA and hotels are stuck remembering the good old days. when top tour operators droup many of the best properties because what they wers offering, for the price drove them to other destinations. look at the Gap, outragous in behavior. If the BTA and hotle owners can revisit and change their playbook then there may be a real chance to revitalize the tourism for BGI enough said