Category Archives: Tourism

BU brings you the up to the minute news about the #1 sector in Barbados and the Caribbean.

Barbados Can Generate More Tourists from the USA by Subsidizing Travel

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier

While still a month away, September presents one of the most challenging times of the year from a tourism perspective, especially from our second largest market, the United States. With three flights daily, two from Miami, and one from New York, unless the scheduled aircraft equipment is changed that amounts to a total seat capacity of 16,680 in and out for the entire 30 days.

September 2013 recorded the second lowest US long stay visitor arrivals (6,198) for the last eight years, with only 2012 performing worse. Even if you factor in those travelling who are not counted in the landed passenger statistics, you begin to get an idea of the problem. Clearly this massive over-capacity or underutilisation is not good, either for the airlines or destination, as there is no profit in an empty seat or vacant room.

Is there anything ‘we’ can do? For many years I have tried to advocate the opportunities that frequent flyer programmes offer. From 7th September until 14th November American Airlines lower their mileage requirement to 25,000 for a return economy ticket from almost any city they service in Continental North America to Barbados. Of particular interest, due to excellent connection times are cities like Houston and Chicago where published round trip normal fares to Barbados would be at least US$789 and $673 respectively. Using miles only the add-on taxes are payable which amount to less than US$60 return.

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Opportunity to Reach Our Full Potential Beckons With the Launch of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier

Trawling through the Internet, when it has been available this last week, I have been almost overwhelmed by the sheer number of beautifully presented and creative local world class websites, clearly built by what appear to be mostly small Barbadian entrepreneurs. Often with stunning images both in still and video format, frequently highlighted by outstanding graphics. It raises the question why any private or public sector entities feel the need to venture overseas for this expertise which is available at our doorstep.

Follow this to a logical conclusion and it is an absolute wonder why so many websites, especially in tourism, look sad, neglected, out-of date and lack the dynamic attraction that is a prerequisite these days to compete on a global stage.

The quality and resolution of images are especially critical. Thirty plus years ago, as a tour operator, I recall spending hours and sometimes days with renowned photographers attempting to capture the ‘right’ picture that would dominate the front cover of a holiday brochure. These would be placed on the shelves in thousands of travel agents throughout the UK. The exact placement in a prominent position at eye level was absolutely vital to ensure maximum pick-up and would directly influence the eventual level of bookings.

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Muni Tax Knocks Small Hotelier for SIX

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier

When my now wife and I ‘discovered’ a then virtually derelict Arawak Inn back in 1988, we never really set out to become seasoned hoteliers. More like having the privilege of living in a big ‘house’ right on the ocean and sharing it with a few friends and the many clients who followed us over the years with our British based tour operators business. Each restored and occupied room was another gallon of paint or new soft furnishing.

Our first major setback came when after paying the initial deposit to buy the hotel, the value of Sterling plummeted from over BDS$4 to the Pound to BDS$2.88 at the time of completion. As all our funds were brought in from overseas, there was no alternative as an option. Effectively this wrote-off literally every cent we had budgeted for renovation and improvement of the property. As new residents it was virtually impossible to borrow monies from the banks. They wanted a trading record, three years of audited accounts, cash flow forecasts and business plans among many other requirements. Suppliers, with very few notable exceptions, would not grant us credit and so we learnt very quickly, how to not only survive, but flourish and transform the hotel from earned trading revenue. While easy to say now, in hindsight, it was probably the best thing that happened, leaving us totally debt-free years later.

What often brings a wry smile to our faces is endlessly hearing the frequent uttering from frankly people who should simply know better, that Barbadian hoteliers have constantly got their hands outstretched begging for Government (taxpayers) monies.

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re-Discover Program a Model for Success

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier

In tourism, just like many other businesses we talk frequently about the bottom line but do we really pay enough attention to the subject. For instance, how many hotels have sat down and calculated what difference a ten per cent increase in average annual occupancy and a net rise of US$10 or US$20 per occupied room night would make to their turnover and viability.

To use a simple example of a lower end 100 room hotel with a normal nightly rate of US$100 and currently achieving an annual occupancy level of 50 per cent which is pretty typical of many of our properties. In accommodation revenue alone that would generate US$1.825 million a year. Take that occupancy level to 60 per cent at an average of US$110 per room and immediately turnover climbs to US$2.409 million. That’s an income differential of US$584,000. Or US$830,000 if the price rise is US$20 per room per night. Of course, it is not quite that straightforward. There would be higher operational costs, but the net result is a greater overall level of profit and the additional margins can be used to achieve the initial objective, allowing any residue to be employed in product upgrade.

To a certain degree many of our larger hotels are dependent on tour operators to fill at least a critical mass of their overall room stock, but I am convinced through creative marketing this percentage can be reduced to ensure a greater return on investment. As we enter week six since the re-launch of the re-DISCOVER restaurant initiative I would like to use this column to publicly thank the Barbados Tourism Authority for their whole-hearted support. It has been a refreshing revelation and a model example of how the private and public sector can work successfully together to drive additional business.

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OUTSTANDING:Tourism Marketing Inc, Barbados Tourism Product Authority AND 10 Point Tourism Plan

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier

If I could single out a major factor that is holding back the recovery of our tourism sector, number one on a list would have to be lack of implementation. A close second would have to be the time it takes to conceptualise and launch new initiatives and marketing programmes, while ensuring they are fully functional and deliver the desired objectives. Yes, some may make all kinds of excuses like an ageing plant, but if we get both right, then it would provide a solution to this and most of the other challenges we are facing.

This July marks a full year since a one hour plus media conference with two Ministers of Government was held unveiling a Ten Point Tourism Plan. Exactly how many of those points have been fully implemented twelve months later and if not, why?

I can no longer re-call just how many times, I have heard that the Tourism Master Plan is going to be revealed shortly and you have to question does it now indeed have any current significant relevance, since the entire industry was turned on its head after extraordinary unilateral concessions were granted to the Sandals companies. Way back in March the Minister announced it was finally finished and sitting on his desk. Is it now buried or will it eventually see the light of day?

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LBGT Segment is a Niche Market in the Rough

Submitted by Due Diligence
study also found that during the final weekend of the ... festival between June 28, 2013 and June 30 there were 1.2 million visitors ...

… study also found that during the final weekend of the … festival between June 28, 2013 and June 30 there were 1.2 million visitors …

While recognizing that in homophobic Barbados this is likely to be a taboo topic, I want to share it with you and the BU family. Pride Toronto is the not-for-profit organization that represents a broad array of identities such as, lesbian,bisexual, gay, transsexual, (LBGT) transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, two-spirited, and allies; and celebrates the history, courage, diversity and future of Toronto’s LGBT communities. The organization stands for the rights and dignity of LGBT people, celebrating their lives stories and culture.

Pride Toronto hosts the city’s Pride Festival, an annual event in downtown Toronto during the last week of June and one of the premier arts and cultural festivals in Canada. It is one of the largest Pride celebrations in the world with an estimated attendance of over one million people. An Economic Impact Study has revealed that the Pride Toronto Festival brings incredible value to the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario, with $286 million in purchases related to Pride 2013. The study found that the 10-day festival and related activities and events created or maintained 3,470 jobs and generated $60.9 million in total tax revenue for governments. The 2013 study also found that during the final weekend of the festival between June 28, 2013 and June 30 there were 1.2 million visitors.

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Opportunity for the Caribbean to Grab More Cruise Business

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier

According to a recent Travel Weekly (TW) article a total of 30 cruise ships will be sailing in the Caribbean this summer with Carnival alone offering over 1,600 cruises in the region across the entire year. Hindsight is a truly wonderful thing, but it would have been difficult not to predict the massive over-capacity estimated at 19 percent, that has been created in 2014. Kevin Sheehan, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, described the ‘Caribbean train wreck’ as a product of a ‘lemming theory’. He went on to add ‘we all sat in our rooms and did our itinerary planning – on our own, or course – and we all concluded it made sense to go into the Caribbean’. Ken Muskat, MSC’s senior vice President was equally candid, describing the situation as ‘oversaturated with inventory’.

Probably what partially influenced the key players into redeploying more vessels to the Caribbean this year was the poor performance of its ships in Europe between 2010 and 2012, due to weak economies and the reluctance of many North Americans to pay higher transatlantic airfares.

Other factors that have led to the supply of Caribbean berths being more plentiful this year include the growth in size and number of ships the industry operates, together with the decision to position them in the region throughout the year. The thinking behind this last point was, to quote TW ‘Executives of all the lines say that having a year-round presence avoids having their brand fall off the radar with travel agents, building sales momentum throughout the year’.

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Discover re-Discover Barbados

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier

This last week has been what can only be described as an adventure in learning or how to maximise the results of a microscopic marketing budget while transforming a concept into a revenue generating tool.  Hopefully it will play at least a small role in maintaining viability and employment in our tourism sector. The very first lesson learnt is that you cannot expect to achieve this by yourself, but need ‘likeminded’ people who are willing to donate their time and often incredible skills to take the initiative to a higher level.

Another prerequisite is having a cluster of interested players who can see beyond normal existing boundaries or to coin a rather over used term ‘think outside the box’. It is then also absolutely critical that the initiative is supported at a national level rather than ruling out ideas that may appear to be emanating from personalities or messengers who may not garner universal approval.

Using the social media, I have frankly been amazed at the reach it is possible to achieve, at no or very low cost. By targeting specific areas and special interest groups, a higher take-up level is clearly attainable. The Barbados Tourism Authority have given their full support by compiling superbly written full page features in both local newspapers and have already, or are about to issue media releases throughout all major markets. Ideally these will be used by travel publications and trade press to spread the word to a massive potential audience.

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Barbados Tourism Officials Asked to be Customers for a Day

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier

Should we, as a sector or in fact a nation, be overly concerned that the Ministry of Tourism has not had a functional website for months? In this time when both foreign and local investment is absolutely critical to upgrading existing plant and product, what sort of message are we sending when a default statement ‘This site is temporarily unavailable’ is the response that greets potential users of the portal.

For those non-nationals not familiar with how things work on Barbados it could also be the first point of reference and a vital source of information, including contact details for the Minister, Parliamentary and Permanent Secretary together with other heads of department that may facilitate any possible investor’s plans. It should also provide important links to other agencies, both public and private to help facilitate seamless access to enable informed decision making.

Frankly from a prospective overseas investment perspective you are currently forced to plough through a multitude of websites. And that’s even assuming you actually know the names of the many agencies involved, which is highly unlikely unless you have intimate local knowledge. If there was ever a legitimate call for a single ‘one-stop-shop’ then this is a prime example. Yes! Continue reading

Time to Target Niches in Tourism

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier

June is traditionally one of the most challenging months of the year. In fact June 2013 recorded the lowest number of long stay visitors for that month during the last 11 consecutive years. The most recent national marketing initiatives, notably the Barbados Island Inclusive promotion, since inception, have clearly not made any significant difference.  Some even may argue that ‘we’ have spent precious marketing dollars diluting average visitor spend, rather than generate any meaningful additional numbers to our shores. This may partially explain while the programme was not repeated in the United Kingdom this year, but surprisingly retained in other markets.

If it has not yet been subjectively analysed, I think it’s time to look at specific ways we can target niches that may have a reason to travel in these softer summer months. While this seems blatantly obvious, I am not always sure we apply the principal in the most objective way. Living where I do, one group who are attracted by the normal strong easterly trade winds in June are the kite boarders. Yes! Other corners of the globe may have similar tempting conditions, but can they boast year round warm seas?

And the often spouted observation that these visitors are at the lower level of our typical ‘tourist’ budget spenders, is in my personal experience, an absolute myth. Take an early morning walk around their favourite accommodation offerings and count the number of rental cars. They also eat out in our restaurants and provide critical revenue throughout the sector when things generally get quieter.

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