Tag Archives: Barbados Tourism Authority

BTA’s plan is too little, too late to impact the rest of the tourist high season

Price slashing a poisoned quick fix?

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

Under the banner headline ‘BTA working on tourism plan, says Elcock’ and carried in 4th November edition of the Sunday Sun, the chairman of that organisation was quoted as saying ‘that plans are in the works to boost tourism numbers for the remainder of the year’.

If the quotation is accurate, it begs the question: What on earth could you possibly do at this late stage to dramatically improve 2012 arrivals, even if ‘plans’ were already in place?

The article also mentioned that the Minister of Tourism and BTA Chairman was part of a delegation attending the WTM (World Travel Market) in London last week. The United Kingdom, despite the fall-off in visitor arrivals, is still hanging on as our single largest source market, but numbers are just part of the equation. You also have to evaluate exactly how that business is generated and it remains predominately tour operator driven.

Before moving to Barbados, I owned and ran a tour operator business in England for twelve years, so have some intimate knowledge of how they function there. Planning is done way in advance, for pretty obvious reasons. Even a small aircraft like a B737 can cost US$89 million and that’s before considering all the additional costs including maintenance, crewing, fuel, airport charges etc.  So it’s simply not feasible to have it sitting around on the tarmac.

The larger operators own or lease their own aircraft but the smaller ones buy blocks of seats on scheduled or charter airlines. Accommodation has to be contracted with a lead time sufficient enough to market the package, either through High Street travel agents or online.

So if a destination can have any meaningful impact on ensuring those committed seats and beds are filled, it has limited ways of achieving this.

Raising the profile of the destination can help, but if the more traditional ways are used (for instance by advertising in various media options) this can be incredibly expensive even if the national marketing agency has the funds available. Another way is to stimulate demand by pricing – or put another way, discounting the product offering.

As late as 26th April, the Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados was predicting growth in tourism for this year. Included in the three pillars that would make this happen, (and mentioned several times) were the developments at Port Ferdinand, Four Seasons and Merricks Resort. We now realise of course that two out of three of these projects are not going to make any meaningful contribution whatsover, at least for 2012.

After a ‘lacklustre’ summer, any possible recovery seems almost totally dependent on a profitable, but short, four month winter season. Even in normal circumstances it’s a huge gamble – but the situation is anything but ‘normal’ with many tourism businesses economically hanging on by their fingernails.

While several industry players have been outspoken, citing eroded margins caused by unbudgeted increases in operational costs, their cries have largely been ignored by the policymakers.

What this winter offers for many of these enterprises is the bare possibility of survival, so discounting cannot be the solution. Without wanting to sound too dramatic, if tourism enterprises are forced to take this path of price cutting, it could be the recipe for disaster.

The predicament is that the ‘planners’ have left it so late that there may be no practical alternative if a business wants to survive to fight another year.

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Horror stories of the Barbados Tourism Authority

Why is it always so hard to get some action?

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

If you took a straw poll asking who is the most respected broadcasting source, I am sure that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) would be up there, probably at the top of the list. Therefore if a seasoned producer from that esteemed organisation, filmed and presented a professionally made short video, portraying Barbados from a very unsual perspective, wouldn’t it be of interest?

Apparently, not, because our national marketing organisation didn’t even bother to acknowledge receipt of this, and other videos submitted!

I cannot recall just how many times I have heard this from various people, over the years and it graphically reminds me of one of my own personal experiences. I am not going to indicate exactly the year it happened, as the then CEO has moved on, hopefully to other avenues where his skills can be better exploited.

Entirely on my own volition and expense, I  travelled down to Brazil for a week, flying from Bridgetown to Parimaribo (Surinam), Cayenne (French Guyana) and then Belem, with SLM Airways. I met with senior executives of the airline and METS, the long established travel organisation, who were both keen to grow a route between Belem and Barbados, which is only 1,258 miles, or a flying time of around two and a half hours. Then with their representatives in Brazil, major tour operators, travel agents and even the head of what is now Belemtur, the tourism marketing agency of Para State.

At that time, even with over 20 connecting city possibilities to other Brazilian cities, a resident population of around 7.5 million people within close proximity of Belem airport, it was still critical to view it as a holistic approach to what was deemed then, a new emerging market. We also carefully looked at the incredible agro-processing sector in North Brazil, because airfreight charges could play a vital role in the economics of the route.

I wrote a detailed report, based on my meetings, offering suggestions on how ‘we’ could possibly implement such a plan and hand-delivered it to the Harbour Road, BTA offices. I also discussed my findings with the Brazilian Ambassdor to Barbados at that time, who expressed enormous interest.

Weeks went by, with at no time receiving any acknowledgement of the evaluation , until one evening, while attending one of the many ‘cocktail’ parties. Also present was the BTA CEO/President, and I shall always remember his response, when asking if he had seen my detailed observations.

To this day, it frankly still shocks me. ‘Well we can’t respond to everything, you know’.

Even with a staff compliment of over 130 persons, I suppose he was right. But I wonder just how many other enthusiastic persons, with ideas and concepts they feel have merit, are just left disillusioned and their time has been wasted.

There appears to have been a notable increase in the number of visitors commenting on our tourism product and performance in the local press recently and through the various social media sites. If ‘we’ plan to stay in the tourism business, it is absolutely critical that we respond in a timely manner. Otherwise, even seasoned visitors may just get the impression that we do not truly value their business and move on to one of the very many other destinations on offer.

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Shadow Tourism Minister Ronald Toppin: “Barbados Tourism Authority ‘running from bailiffs around the world.” !!!

Outrageous statement from Barbados Labour Party Member of Parliament

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

Sadly every five years or so, we have grown accustomed to, and sometimes forced into hearing some pretty outrageous utterings from those that either represent us in Parliament – or who aspire to.

A video recently posted on YouTube really grabbed my attention, features such a person, while addressing his constituents. Perhaps the phrase ‘political silly season’ explains this situation graphically.

I quote verbatim from shadow Minister of Tourism, Ronald Toppin: ‘The Barbados Tourism Authority owes $42 million’, ‘is in serious debt’ and is literally ‘running from bailiffs around the world’.

Perhaps from an ordinary citizen, these comments could simply be disregarded as pure speculation, but on this occasion, they were spoken by the Shadow Minister of Tourism. Despite the video being widely distributed, no statement in rebuttal, up until the time of submitting this column has been made by the current actual Minister of Tourism or a spokesperson for the BTA, so we are all left to speculate if these statements are factually true.

Mr. Toppin was rather vague on what exactly the quoted $42 million owing covered. Does this include the $30 million loan taken out to subsidise the disastrous chartering of the cruise ship, Carnival Destiny, for instance, which of course, took place under the previous administration?

Knowing the worldwide coverage of social media sites, the question that really has to be raised: are these seemingly ‘informed’ comments in the national interest? To remind readers that YouTube is the most popular video sharing site and the second largest search engine, only after Google.

Did this person consider the incalculable harm that could be inflicted on the reputation of the destination?

It would be almost impossible to function as an effective national marketing organisation without the support of advertising agencies, public relations companies and the various forms of paid media – Let alone the airlines who currently service Barbados, that Mr. Toppin also mentioned are supposedly owed monies. We have already lost substantial airlift and gateways including Philadelphia, Atlanta and more recently, Dallas/Fort Worth.

The video also appears to have official Barbados Labour Party approval as it was posted by BLPNews, which has a direct link to the opposition website.

Of course the slowness in the BTA settling its bills is nothing new. Many will tell you that it has been going on for years. What is surprising, is the amount quoted and why has it has been allowed, if proven, to have lingered on so long – Especially, when the current Chairman has a degree in accounting and spent a number of years with one of the world’s largest auditing firms. Surely, he is kept fully briefed on financial matters and realises the damaging knock-on effect this could have?

When for instance, the next tender goes out, either for renewing an existing account, or replacing the current advertising agency, I cannot imagine any reputable company pitching for the business, would not conduct fiscal due diligence to gauge a potential client’s track history of prompt settlement.

With so many critical issues already challenging our number one foreign currency earner, is it too much to hope, that the contributions made by our politicians, either in power or opposition, leading up to the election are constructive and enlightened.

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Barbados Tourism Authority ‘winging it’ without proper research and knowledge

Domino’s Pizza respected their critics, learned and came out reinvigorated and reinvented. Barbados needs to do the same.

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

In many respects YouTube is a wonderful thing and used responsibly can be a great educational device and a powerful marketing tool. I recently watched a video entitled ‘Domino’s Pizza Turnaround’ –  the true story of how Domino listened to its harshest critics and made their best pizza ever. (YouTube video above)

At the time of writing this column, almost another million people had watched it and while the product isn’t directly related to our tourism offerings, it’s difficult not to draw parallels. Perhaps now is finally the time to sit down and better listen to our customers, our visitors, and ask them what we are doing right and conversely, what we are doing wrong.

“There comes a time when you know you’ve got to make a change.”

“You can either use negative comments to get you down, or you can use them to excite you and energize your process and make it better… We did the latter.”

… Opening statement from The Pizza Turnaround

From a very early working age, I was incredibly lucky to work with some visionary, inspirational and subsequently highly successful people. One thing, that never left the forefront of my mind is that if you expect to sell any commodity, product or service effectively, is that you had better know everything about. And could that be why, perhaps, we are not witnessing an increase in the number of visitors to our shores, when many other destinations are.

Years ago, when I participated in a number of overseas sales and promotional events, both consumer and trade travel to support the BTA’s efforts, I felt that I had an overwhelming obligation, obviously not just to know about our own little property, but as many other hotels, attractions and restaurants as well. I cannot think or more than four or five hotels on Barbados that I have not either personally visited and in several cases actually stayed in. Similarly, I have experienced our many dining options and activities.

“How many from the Barbados Tourism Authority have actually stayed in a package room at some of the hotels at the gap?”

Yet, if you look closely at our tourism policymakers, the agencies they represent, including the hundreds of staff at the Barbados Tourism Authority and Ministry of Tourism, how many can say the same? Start with the board of the BTA for instance. How can you possibily make informed decisions and define strategies, when you do not have an intimate knowledge of the product, warts and all?

It is not a criticism, but a simple basic common sense observation.

Recalling some of the larger travel shows, often on your feet, for hours at a time, of course, a huge spectrum of society is going to approach you, but at least you knew whatever the question, that you were capable of offering an informed answer. Matching the right product with the client’s need is absolutely critical, if you want people to return.

In an evermore competitive world, ‘winging it’ is no longer an acceptable way of doing business. And if you are not throughly au fait with your own product, how can you compare it with the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors?

Has the time finally come, to put all the politics aside and place the very best qualified people in place with proven ability, irrespective of any party allegiance, to the benefit of the entire country and its population. It would appear that so very much depends on ‘us’ having a profitable winter season ahead.

In the national interest can ‘we’ continue to, or afford to take further chances with this industry?

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Barbados Tourism Authority Chairman Adrian Elcock: We’re trying to be like St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Elcock talks a good game, but what’s with the negative results in the latest tourist arrival stats?

by Passin Thru

“I think what we’ve been doing is trying to make Barbados a cool place to be…

The Grenadines is what tourism is to St. Vincent. It’s cool. You know you can go down to the cay, or whatever and have that little charming getaway. We’re trying to create that same aura here”

BTA Chairman Adrian Elcock starting at about 5 minutes and 45 seconds into the YouTube video CROP OVER 2012 – Adrian Elcock, Chairman, BTA – ZYNC TV

No kidding. That’s what BTA Chair Adrian Elcock says at about where we’re going with our tourism. Yes, he says much more than that and a lot of it is good and good concepts and ideas.

But what about the implementation? Where are the positive results?

We are in trouble.

Barbados tourist arrivals down 12% despite Crop-Over. July cruise ship arrivals down 37%

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Barbados Tourism Authority responds to TripAdvisor commenter

Three days and 150 comments later…

A few days ago we told you about Mr. Frank James, who posted a comment on TripAdvisor.com about his poor experience vacationing at The Gap. Our story Barbados Tourism Authority, police need to read this TripAdvisor conversation about The Gap detailed Mr. James complaints and resulted in some other negative comments about the sad state of affairs at The Gap – an area that used to be known for its vibrant nightlife and as a friendly and safe venue.

It apparently took 3 days and 150+ comments, but the Barbados Tourism Authority replied to Mr. James. Alright, good… but why wasn’t the BTA all over this from the first day? There is no reason why they should not have seen Mr. James’ complaint on the first day. That is the standard I would expect from our national agency looking after the mainstay of our economy…

Good morning Mr. James,

Your letter has been passed on to me by Mr. David Rice, our President. Firstly please let me say how very sorry we are that you have had to experience such annoyance during what was supposed to have been a very peaceful and romantic vacation. We are none the less grateful that you have brought this matter to our attention and we assure you that we will be meeting with the Police Liaison Officer to address these matters. As you can imagine this is most embarrassing and annoying for us as a destination and will do all possible to have this very distressing practice curtailed. We shall get back to you with our results and sincerely hope that you will give us another opportunity to welcome you back to Barbados and to try in some way to make it up to you.

Regards

Gerald A. Cozier

Manager Corporate Affairs/Quality Assurance
Barbados Tourism Authority

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TripAdvisor hits 75 million reviews: Barbados Tourism Authority thinks it can be ignored.

The largest, most popular travel website on earth is TripAdvisor.com. Founded in the dot-com boom 12 years ago, the website survived and thrived due to the emphasis on the opinions of ordinary folk who have no agenda except honest reviews of accommodations and services during their travels.

Oh sure, businesses and others attempt to skew the results, but TripAdvisor is wise to the common schemes designed to misuse the venue. And if TripAdvisor discovers that someone has an agenda to make or break a hotel or attraction, the website ruthlessly hunts down the offenders, kills their writing and makes sure that users can rely upon the integrity of the website.

That’s why TripAdvisor is the #1 travel website on the planet.

TripAdvisor just hit 75 million reviews and opinions… so the BTA did what?

The Barbados Tourism Authority does not have a dedicated program to monitor TripAdvisor and to address the negative and positive comments and reviews about Barbados. Such an omission is inexcusable.

But, hey… what do you want from the BTA having to operate with only a lousy $100 million dollar annual budget?

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