“Has the effect of the campaign been to simply reduce earned income for the sector, meaning that overall the average visitor has spent considerably less than normal?”
Questions about the latest Barbados Tourism Authority campaign
As we have now passed the latest ‘book-by’ date for the several times re-launched Barbados Island Inclusive promotion, is it time to analyse in depth just how cost effective the initiative has been?
Especially as it was one of the very few, national marketing initiatives for this year that have either not been postponed, cancelled or simply just not implemented in the first place.
Just to remind readers, the stated objective was to generate an ‘additional’ 15,000 long stay visitors between the end of May and the 21st December 2013, who would spend BDS$30 million at a quoted cost of BDS$11 million to cover the promotional costs.
Minister of Tourism (MOT), Mr. Sealy is on record as stating ‘all but $4 million will actually be spent on advertising’.
On 22nd July 2013 the Barbados Government Information Service reported the MOT ‘had revealed that more than 5,000 tourists had taken advantage of the vouchers being offered under the programme’.
We know that even before the October figures are published, that ‘we’ are already experiencing an unprecedented 18 consecutive months of long stay visitor decline. So the word ‘additional’ is critical to appraisal, as if the initiative had in fact, generated any incremental numbers, then it has been at a huge cost.
‘Free Spending Vouchers’ cost Barbados taxpayers $733 per person
‘Free Spending Vouchers’ as they are called, were given to visitors spending as little as two nights on Barbados, but if you averaged the subsidy over all durations of stay, and conclude that all 15,000 will be used, that’s a massive taxpayer cost of BDS$733 per person. So at best a return-on-investment (ROI) of 2.72:1. Makes you think, when other initiatives consistently achieving an ROI of 40:1 were not supported.
Has the effect been to simply reduce earned income for the sector, meaning that overall the average visitor has spent considerably less than normal?
So rather than generate an additional BDS$30 million, have ‘we’ in essence, effectively diluted foreign exchange capacity, as Central Bank figures indicate.
Perhaps equally important, have ‘we’ actually targeted the market that the promotion was intended to reach, or just thrown money at people who would have visited us anyway? And then there are the logistics, with at least one of the participating restauranteurs reporting that vouchers were being redeemed by locals.
Sadly, from personal experience, even at a Director level it is almost impossible to glean overwhelming evidence of the cost-effectiveness of many of these BTA led promotions. I lost count of the number of times I asked for the figures behind the economics of the Best of Barbados initiative years ago. All to no avail!
From a positive standpoint, clearly some individual tourism partners benefited from accepting the vouchers, but has it been to the cost of the industry and economy overall?
Also paramount in this exercise is the number of regular, repeat visitors, who for one reason or another have not been able to benefit from this promotion. Judging by consistent monitoring of social media sites like the TripAdvisor Barbados Forum, this number has been substantial and any plans to resurrect a similar offer should consider very carefully how many more of our cherished guests can we afford to alienate.
Penalizing loyalty to a destination does not seem like a model of good marketing practice.