Ralph Taylor explains the Barbados tourism disaster

I’m about half way through this video of SoCo Hotel owner Ralph Taylor talking to a BLP meeting last Sunday the 12th of January 2014.

Mr. Taylor tells it like it is, but so far his analysis is missing two factors:

1/ There’s no money left after 20 years of BLP and DLP larceny, neglect and stupidity.

2/ Investors aren’t staying away in droves just because of the numbers: they know that Barbados governments have burned many foreign investors through broken promises and non-payment.

Nonetheless, it’s worth listening to Mr. Taylor, who starts in with how bad things have been in Barbados in terms of declining hotel rooms (and thus declining investment) for the last 34 years…

Number of Hotel Rooms 1980 and 2014

Country      1980        2014      Average Growth Hotel Rooms

Jamaica        10,000    30,000    486% for Jamaica, Cuba, St. Lucia

Cuba              7,226       57,000

St. Lucia        1,245       4,900

Barbados       6,680     5,400      -20%

“We are still not getting new hotel development. We must ask ourselves, why are we not getting this new development?

The reality is that investors are looking firstly for adequate returns on capital, and then all other factors are considered.

When there was a big hue and cry over the concessions to Sandals, my contribution to that debate is that I have long advocated that tourism is an export industry, and therefore its input costs must be free of duty. 

Tourism is a global business. That means that all of the hotels in the region have to compete on a global scale. If a hotel in Cuba, Dubai, can build a hotel room for eighty thousand US dollars and have the finest furniture and fixtures, and a similar hotel room in Barbados is going to cost three hundred thousand dollars, the following factors will unfold:

  • The investor is more likely to choose that destination, whether it is Dubai or wherever it is.
  • The hotel in Dubai can enter the market at a more competitive price than the one in Barbados.
  • The returns on investment in the Dubai product is likely to be significantly better.
  • The consumer will get a better bang for their buck, thereby guaranteeing a higher level of occupancy for the hotel and ultimately Barbados will be the loser.

The concessions offered to Sandals are what every hotel in the country should have. This should be immediately put in place for all hotels. It would have to make the industry profitable and deliver the levels of returns that would interest new investors to Barbados.”

… Tourism expert Ralph Taylor in the video above.  

Quick listen: 6:40 to 10:40


Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Economy

18 responses to “Ralph Taylor explains the Barbados tourism disaster

  1. gentle jim

    Since when did Mr Taylor become a tourism expert? All he did at Almond was to feather his own nest.

  2. Adrian Loveridge

    I have not always agreed with Mr Taylor, but on this point I think he is right. We need to kick start tourism before any more damage is done to the industry.

  3. tedd

    very good lecture ralph
    jim a mistake we make often is to focus on the messenger and not the message. this causes us to miss out on some good suggestions, the messenger is not important , the message can be benifical.

  4. NYC/BGI

    STOP THE BS the BTA 10 years ago was advised that one of the ways to stay abreast of growing tourism in the Caribbean was to establish a meeting and convention thrust. the response was we don’t need any outsider telling or helping us was the response from a BTA official as he was in conversation with customs about his BMW coming in. Bottom line look at the disaster that is in BGI as far as tourism. Total tunnel vision as BGI tourism burns and goes up in flames. Its a sad commentary but real and true.

  5. Due Diligence

    Ralph Taylor said “I am not suggesting that we give any airline a blank cheque, but we use our negotiation skills to put together business deals to assist Barbados’ tourism.”

    Are those the same negotiating skills that led to the agreement to write the $500 million cheques to rebuild Heywoods for Sandals/Beaches.

    The Heywoods deal sets the bar for “investors” – get Government to build you a plant and sign a lease or management contact.

  6. Anonymous

    I notice the soco is part of a timeshare experience. The daily cost of food per adult as about $155 us . who can afford that ?

  7. gentle jim

    Mr Taylor”s guests.

  8. Fisheye

    Ralph has always been effective with 10 words answers to questions. Making speeches has never been his strength.

    Regarding the content, he was the leader in giving airlines and tour operators large sums of the BTA purse. Ask him about Sunturs in Italy or Virgin Holidays in the UK. It was easy for him as Chairman of the BTA to give Virgin 2 million pounds. Thereby, Virgin and others who got these funds knew which hotel had to filled first.

    It was not his money but we all paid. Unfortunately Ralph has little to say to us who know the truth about his careerr at Almond and at the BTA.

    Tourism will not revive if visitors feel that they are not getting value for money. Our Caribbean competitors are far better at this as Barbados today does not give this value the visitor or more importantly the tour operator contracting manager seeks.

    The question to be asked is what is this “value”. Here is an example –

    1. Comfortable transfer from aircraft to immigration and not the packing of the buses that transfer clients today.
    2. Smooth and easy access through immigration. The landing form is too long and should be able to be completed online before arrival.
    3. Possibility of purchasing drivers licences at the BTA booth at the airport while awaiting luggage. (Especially for Barbadians coming home)
    4. A taxi system like at JFK. You are given a voucher stating the taxi cost and if you have a query, a number you cal call to report inaccuracies.
    5. A system of beach/watersport entrepreneurs where one can rent chairs, umbrellas and find clean bathrooms as well as beaches cleaned daily. They should also be trained lifeguards and defibrillators.
    6. A national honeymoon program to entice honeymooners similar to the Happy Honeymoon program in Aruba.
    7. Varied entertainment for visitors of all ages. Discos, jazz, reggae/calypso bars and clubs. Dinner shows, Changing of the guard at Parliament, Several establishments serving high quality afternoon tea at reasonable prices, Keep the feeling of little England alive!
    8. Car rentals in the USD 30/day range.
    9. Good quality, local restaurants off the beaten track. i.e St George, St Thomas, St Andrew serving great fish and seafood. New and exciting local menus low on carbohydrates and high on vegetables, salads etc
    10. A 3 course dinner in a restaurant for USD 40 incl service & tax.
    11. A system to keep Bridgetown, Holetown, Oistins, Speightstown or parts of these towns open until midnight. Late night shopping or simply strolling and buying an ice cream, listening to a local musician,
    12. Sports activities in the afternoon for visitors.i.e 6 a side football at Dover or organised volleyball on Accra beach. Twice weekly Golf competitions at Rockley, Barbados Golf Club where club rental and green fees are included at a discounted price. All promoted via hotels
    13. Beach art galleries and underwater art galleries in sheltered bays like Brandons, Carlyle, Worthing.
    14. Access to free wi fi at all restaurants, gas stations, shops, malls, – everywhere. Even though visitors are on holiday, they are expected to check their mail regularly.
    15. Be able to purchase cheap SIM cars everywhere which can be used on holiday as roaming charges are high.
    16, Visible Police to ensure security.

  9. Adrian Loveridge


    Some very good points. I especially like 2 and 3. Number 2 could also help speed up the collection of critical data for marketing and not having to wait two or three months to get this information off the Barbados Statistical Service website (even when it is working).
    Number 15 could help one of the newer telecom entrants grow volume at little cost. Number 9 is a point I have thought about for a long time. We are short on eating establishments when you can get a main course of local food for about BDS$25/30 each. And if you cannot turn a $3 piece of fish into an attractive $25 main meal, then there is something wrong.

    Thank you and I just hope that your suggestions are picked up by our policymakers, but don’t hold your breath, they think they know everything already.

  10. Anonymous

    As a frequent visitor (for business) I like #8. Car rental as exists
    is a joke. In re: #14 why not make the entire island WiFi hot. Last
    time I stayed at the Hilton still no WiFi in the rooms. Think of the
    publicity AN ENTIRE NATION WiFI ENABLED. I know of no others
    except possibly Vatican City.

  11. horrifying

    The twenty per cent decrease in hotel rooms in Barbados since 1980 compared to a 400 plus per cent increase in Jamaica over the same time is truly shocking and speaks volumes of the inmates running the asylum.

  12. Adrian Loveridge


    The reason why car hire rates are so expensive on Barbados are the taxes imposed. I looked up a current Customs Clearance local website and the MINIMUM excise duty on a car up to 1500cc is 46.95 percent. A 3000cc car is 76.34 per cent. On top of this you have VAT (sales tax) of 17.5 per cent and a further environmental levy. It turns a car like a Suzuki Swift that costs around BDS$35,000 in the UK to over BDS$60,000 on Barbados. Our Goverment recently revised the various car taxes to add at least another $8,000 per car. This is the problem with our tourism product, everybody wants it to be cheaper BUT until Goverment reduces the level of taxation, there is not a hope in hell.

  13. yatinkiteasy

    Some good news here…Have not seen it reported in local media, but I may have missed it.

  14. Credas


    Your point 3: how about asking why a Barbados driver’s licence is even needed, for drivers with say a valid EU or US licence? It’s just a paperwork & hand over your money exercise anyway, no checks are made. To a tourist it feels like another rip-off tax.

  15. yatinkiteasy

    Credas.. I totally agree…I have rented a car in the US , Canada, Italy, and used my Barbados Drivers License.
    We are not alone in this stupidity..you can’t drive in any Caricom territory unless you get an expensive Visitor`s License..its just a rip off.

  16. distant voice

    a good debate and shocking revelations about tourism.
    In my humble opinion, part of the “tourism product” consists of the infrastructure of Barbados. In the last 38 years, I have seen almost no improvement in the sidewalks on the south coast and west coast highways. Sure some sections of the west coast have been improved, but the width of the concrete is insufficient. Walking anywhere is dangerous and if you are a wheelchair user, forget it.
    The planning regs state that the sidewalk should be 11 feet wide on highway 1 and 7. The road reserve should be 21 feet from centre of road and the road is 20 feet wide. Subtract half the road..10ft and there you have it.
    So now what about all the site hoardings for projects that either never started or came to a sudden halt? Holetown is now dominated by 12 to 16 ft high hoardings located in many cases less than 24 inches from the kerb of the road. They block access to the sea. They create a depressing environment. They are an insult to all who want to see the setting sun in all it’s glory. Visitors feel cheated and angry. When will the Chief Town Planner stand up and use his power to serve notice on the developers to clean up, open up and restore our most valuable asset…the beaches and free access to same.
    Doesnt it bother anyone when you drive around and see visitors picking their way along the edge of the road, having to walk in the road to get around broken drain covers and bust up culverts..? Are we Bajans going to ignore the fact that visitors are likely to get their heads smashed in by passing side view mirrors on cars trucks and buses?
    Hey and what about shops. Well, there arent any. If there were proper sidewalks, there would be shops. Visitors love to shop and boutique type shops thrive on walk in trade. No walk ins, no shops. And what about diabetics? Walking helps to slow down the onset of diabetes. So for Bajans sidewalks are essential. We have probably the highest number of amputees in the world per capita…where are they? They are indoors dying of poor health because they cannot get out of the house and find a sidewalk for exercise, or visit a friend.
    We should all be ashamed of ourselves.
    Our governments have failed. Just remember, it is our fault for allowing this situation to develop. There is no money left.
    Check out David Commissiong’s and Peter Boos’s recent comments on the type of government systems we should be considering.
    Accountability, and performance based administration is what we need.
    we must wise up and take control of the issues. Get rid of the self serving politicians. Change the system of government. Run the country like a business. Make it profitable.

  17. distant voice

    BTW…my clock says 8.46 pm on 25th Jan..how come the post is different?

  18. clickzap

    BFP’s time and date stamps are GMT. Your time is whatever time it is wherever you are! Welcome to the world!