“Has Barbados Crop Over become less attractive?
Should the blame be on higher airfares, especially in the case of T & T – or are there other mitigating factors?”
Adrian Loveridge – tourism expert, hotel owner
July 2013 recorded the lowest number of long stay visitors (47,953) during the same period for 13 consecutive years, so I find it not at all surprising that our policymakers have discussed dramatically curtailing certain events for Crop Over 2014. However, I believe a better analysis is needed to explain away the reasons behind this dismal performance. If you look at the principal markets in the last two years, the figures will reveal that the biggest losses in July 2013 were from the USA (down 10 per cent), Trinidad and Tobago (down 9.2 per cent) and what are defined as Other Countries (down 12.4 per cent).
In all, July 2013 recorded 3,318 less stay over visitors than 2012. This was on the heels of a loss of an overall 6,984 visitors when compared with July 2011. In July 2012 the largest declines were USA (down 18.1 per cent), Trinidad and Tobago (down 10.2 per cent), Other Caricom (down 20 per cent) and Other Countries (down 13.1 per cent). So for the last two years a combined decline of over 10,000 stay-over visitors for the month of July alone.
Has Barbados Crop Over become less attractive? Should the blame be on higher airfares, especially in the case of T & T – or are there other mitigating factors?
Perhaps more of a surprise is the announcement by Sandals Resorts to delay the re-opening of their Barbados property to 28th January 2015. With the frequently discussed dearth of construction work it would beg the question, why could the vaunted US$65 million renovation project not be completed on time – specially when you take into account that the additional lost six weeks covers what the hospitality industry considers the most profitable and highest occupancy period of the entire year?
At published rack rates that could equate to a revenue deficit of between US$7.7 and US$19 million for the 42 day additional closure! As it has been already established the vast majority of Sandals earnings are collected offshore, so the ‘real’ amount that Barbados will lose cannot be easily calculated.
Of even more concern nationally is the roughly 3,000 airline seats, which may not be filled as a result of the prolonged shutdown that could influence frequency and will detrimentally impact overall long stay visitor arrival numbers. While not openly discussed, some thought has to be given to neighbouring accommodation providers in the immediate vicinity of Sandals Casuarina and the economic negative consequences that ten months of construction will have on occupancy. Possibly Government has factored in some sort of relief for these disadvantaged properties with exemption of land taxes for the period.
While the summer may be the ideal time to undertake this work, I am sure very few hotels could afford to write off all or part of a peak winter season as a result of prolonged redevelopment with its associated noise, dust, discomfort and disruption.