I would imagine (and hope) that one of the imperatives of the newly formed Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA) in the new year will be to indentify and register all currently unlicensed tourism accommodation offerings.
Frankly I have never understood how you can ever successfully market any product, in this case the destination, without knowing what ‘our’ room inventory consists of.
I will be quick to point out that I am in no way advocating imposing any overtly deterrent restrictions on persons wishing to mount the first rungs on a tourism ladder.
It should also not be a big stick approach implying potential threats and intimidation. My initial thoughts would be to build an online enrollment site, which could be entirely self-funding through a small license fee. This surely should not be a challenge as the BTPA has yet to launch a functioning website.
It’s all about protecting our quality, and making a level playing field
Any portal should allow for registering critical quality assurance evidence like fire, health and swimming pool certificates and public liability insurance together with the capability of paying the annual fee online and revalidating participation each year.
Accommodation providers initially would be given a grace period to submit their documentation and if they did not comply then clearly they would not be eligible for any marketing support and/or concessions.
Like many other holiday destinations approved properties would be given a unique identity number and allowed to use approved signage guaranteeing some form of quality assurance standards.
With the advent of websites like Airbnb and Homeaway it has now become a minefield for the potential visitor who presently has absolutely no idea if the thousands of lodging options comply with minimum standards and this obviously does not enhance our reputation.
If anyone is lured into thinking this ‘non-hotel’ element forms a miniscule part of our tourism sector, then understand at the time of writing this column, Airbnb had a choice of 556 alternative Barbadian accommodation possibilities on offer and Homeaway a mind boggling 1,277.
Many excellent examples of quality assurance framework websites are already in operation on which to model ours and I found the Failte Ireland one particularly impressive. Their words, to me, seem to exactly define the intended purpose ‘working with you, we will ensure that these standards meet consumer expectations, help your marketing efforts and support product development’.
Barbados Government behind two years in paying VAT refunds!
I also believe that it would identify a new source of revenue (especially VAT) that is not currently collected and paid into Government coffers, possibly helping to level a playing field where currently those complying with the rules are in many cases severely disadvantaged. This might even allow the administration to recover sufficient monies to repay small businesses like ours who have not received agreed and due VAT refunds for up to nearly two years.
Government has to realise there is a consequence to this policy. Hotels largely upgrade, maintain and enhance their properties in the quieter summer months, when cash flow is acutely stretched. If the owners feel that do not stand a realistic chance of reclaiming the VAT element payable upfront will be repaid on-time, then they simply won’t embark on those improvements. Plus with our current reduced national credit rating, it is almost inhibitive to borrow money at commercially available interest rates.
While many accept we have a largely ‘tired’ hotel plant it is almost entirely fallacious, especially when the means to correct the problem is being at least partially withheld by the people making that observation.