Going Local helps tourists get value – and keeps Bajans employed
While I can see the attraction of corporate Barbados offering Caribbean cruises as competition prizes or sales inducements, it is difficult to accept what if any real benefit the country gleans from the exercise. Payment almost certainly would ultimately be made in foreign currency (FX) to ship operators who legally avoid any significant taxation and largely employ extra regional crew.
We have been heartened at the initial response to recent launch of re-DISCOVER REWARDS vouchers by local companies – especially as many of those who have responded are looking at it from a national perspective. These businesses have made a considered decision to help protect Barbadian jobs, whether directly in the hospitality industry or sub-sectors like agricultural, food and wine distribution. Many of the participating restaurants have also made a conscious effort to use locally available produce, which again helps retain the foreign exchange and hopefully spread earned revenue right across the society.
While not wanting to use this column for propaganda or promotion, I just wonder how many people have figured out that this initiative is (to the best of my belief) absolutely unique across the Caribbean. It is a point that has not gone unnoticed by both our tourism planners and potential visitors to Barbados.
It was truly heart warming to receive a social media posting recently from a professor in Canada, who stated that one of the deciding factors why they chose Barbados over another Caribbean island was the fact they could eat every night of their stay at a different affordable restaurant, even over a three week stay.
Part of the battle is persuading the yet to be convinced various dining establishments to understand the concept. As with all businesses, there are fixed costs regardless of the number of customers. The first ten patrons per night at a set menu price perhaps will not be the most profitable, but they help negate those otherwise irrecoverable overheads. Speaking to a number of the participating restaurateurs it is also clear that the offer is tempting many more people out to eat and several are returning days or weeks later. As reservations are essential it is also very easy for each establishment to revenue control the number of diners taking up the offer or enticing them into early evening bookings, proving an opportunity of enhanced table usage. None of this is rocket science, but if properly managed it can make a vast difference in profitability and maintaining improved customer service.
The other ‘bonus’ is seeing the customer ratings of the dining partners rise on social media sites like TripAdvisor, as they have in several cases. For sure, first time visitors to Barbados, especially those on limited budgets, compare past patrons personal experiences and the level of satisfaction.
Higher ratings are not only earned by selecting degrees of service quality, ambiance and product offering, but also by the volume and frequency posted onto the site. So if comments are not current, the danger is that a particular restaurant will be overtaken by another.