As we enter another new year, perhaps the best way to sum up the mood of the industry is to quote the title of the classic novel by Charles Dickens, Great Expectations.
As and when the long promised concessions to the sector become a reality there is a hope that viability can be restored and collectively we can re-build the arrival numbers without sacrificing the average duration of stay.
Personally I feel there are many more ways the diverging interests in tourism can work better together with joint promotional activities. Some may inevitably benefit more than others, but that is almost impossible to avoid. What cannot be disputed is with this approach the destination garners increased visibility and that will become increasingly more important if we are going to regain past long stay visitor falls in critical markets like the United States.
The previous Chairman described the Barbados Tourism Authority as ‘a slothful wasteful and inefficient organisation in an increasingly dynamic, technologically-driven, and commercial industry’
Over the years we have pioneered a number of co-operative campaigns including the first joint villa full page ‘ads’ with three of the major rental companies collectively advertising, the first 12 page Barbados supplement in a leading magazine targeted towards Caribbean travellers, the first intra-regional travel event, the first fully functioning small hotel grouping, Barbados Treasures, Carib Escape, airline/accommodation inclusive packages, our Rewards Card and MILESCloser, a frequent flyer programme, among several others.
More recently we resurrected the re-DISCOVER dining initiative which was initially rolled out in early 2002 after the tragic events of 911.
While exact numbers have been difficult to quantify, because we rely on each restaurant reporting back, there is every indication that over 13,000 locals and visitors sampled a re-DISCOVER menu in 2014.
What all these projects have in common is that they all cost relatively little to conceive and successfully implement, with every single one proven to be cost-effective.
Each ‘project’ was consistently monitored and assessed for success or failure with a return on investment varying between 10:1 and 40:1.
Simply put, sharing expenses makes sense, especially in a marketing medium like advertising that is largely considered as relatively expensive and it allows smaller partners to make a bigger presence, in existing and emerging markets.
It must be obvious by now that with the current Government fiscal challenges that ‘we’ are not likely to see a return to $100 million annual budgets previously granted to the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) and its replacement in the foreseeable future.
Clearly the previous Chairman felt unable to perpetuate this uncontrolled spending by describing the BTA as ‘a slothful wasteful and inefficient organisation in an increasingly dynamic, technologically-driven, and commercial industry’ when demitting office.
Given the inherited financial baggage, I seriously doubt that we will ever see this scenario repeated with the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI), so the only other logical conclusion is for the private sector to step up to the task by driving its own national marketing initiatives.
Without a marketing professional from the national trade body, the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association on the board of BTMI, it is difficult to see how any potential synergies can be exploited to their full potential. I personally believe this is a huge oversight.