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 FX 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 from a professor in Canada recently, who stated that one of the deciding factors why they chose us 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.
Submitted by William Skinner
The granting of concessions to the hoteliers, is a capitulation on the part of the Barbados government, which now finds itself with a one step forward two steps backward economic policy; trying to please an essentially lazy and backward corporate class while inflicting serious blows on the already poor and economically downtrodden.
The hoteliers in Barbados have clearly demonstrated that they have failed to capitalize on an industry that has been in existence for over sixty years. They have whined their way into the taxpayers coffers, on the spurious grounds that the concessions granted to the well established Sandals Group should be automatically theirs for the taking. In other words, while very few of them can ever boast or hope to come close, to demonstrating that they can ever reach Sandals’ heights, they have blackmailed the government into giving them similar benefits. It’s akin to a fourth division footballer demanding the same salary and perks of a first division superstar!
Be that as it may, they have also refused to sign on to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which will be used to monitor they operating in good faith with the agricultural community and other businesses, to ensure that the process is not exploited. In other words, the government wanted some formal agreement that the benefits will trickle down to local businesses. Low and behold, the BHTA said that it will not sign any MOU. Imagine a beggar being so bold faced, to be a chooser as well! It was very pitiful and embarrassing to witness a minister backing down from this group.
While this may not be universally accepted by all, can and should the private sector tourism industry do more to help itself? The simple answer must be yes!
I firmly believe there are so many more ways that we can build smart partnerships to build our destination awareness in all the key markets. As an example, many years ago we persuaded the three largest villa rental agencies to jointly produce a full page ‘ad’ that appeared in leading travel magazines like Caribbean Travel and Life. By collectively sharing the costs they were able to attract an audience that would have been price inhibitive if attempted individually.
As first you may think that you were collaborating with the ‘enemy’ and handing valuable business to your competition, but in today’s reality the consumer is savvy and well informed. They can make a defined choice based on their own preferences. There would be nothing stopping our car rental agencies, major attractions and small hotels doing exactly the same and ideally, in one concerted effort, together.
It reminds me a little of the rather repetitive ‘ad’ aired on local radio, ‘how low can you go’. There are almost always consequences for the failure to implement policies and address the overwhelming concerns of an entire industry. Therefore it was inevitable that it would manifest itself in the shortest possible time. The Daily Nation article published last week ‘Jobs on Hold’ graphically demonstrates the dangers of attempting to invest, upgrade and re-open one of our many closed hotels, in a climate that lacks a level playing field.
If the reporting was accurate, then a potential 320 jobs, $4 million refurbishment plan, $5 million in foreign exchange and getting 145 improved rooms back into the marketplace for the upcoming critical winter season is now beyond possibility. That could represent a further loss of almost 300 airline seats per week, which may play a crucial part in helping fill and ensuring the sustainability of the two new Delta flights from Atlanta and New York starting early December. An enhanced Amaryllis would have also helped bridge the gap of product quality offerings from when Sandals is scheduled to re-open its doors in late January 2015.
What I find so incredulous is that our policymakers not think through that no substantive investor in their right mind would speculate millions of dollars into new or improved plant, before having the unimpeded similar concessions that Sandals extracted, in place.
Later this week, for three days, one of the most important travel trade events takes place called Connect 2014. It is estimated that around 97 tour operators representing 74 companies from the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Continental Europe and the Caribbean will attend. Courting crucial business and hoping to positively influence choices around 125 local hoteliers and ancillary service providers will also be taking part.
Along with a number of other industry interests including the Barbados Food Wine and Rum Festival and Bushy Park, the Barbados Tourism Authority or perhaps I should now refer to the new name (BTM Inc) have been kind enough to invite me to make a presentation on our re-DISCOVER initiative. With so many destinations to choose from, often at substantially lower cost, it is, in my humble opinion that we collectively make every possible effort to get across that Barbados can offer value-for-money by providing a greater selection of more affordable options.
For us, the perfect scenario is to persuade the tour operators to place our website address on their client’s final documentation, whether in print or electronically. That way the consumer can plan ahead, budget for their out-of-pocket expenses which helps maximise the potential for participating restaurants.
Submitted by Due Diligence
Father and son Butch and Adam Stewart
In the August 23, 2014, edition of Barbados Today there was an article titled It’s the Mix. In the article, Gordon Butch Stewart, extols the benefits that local restaurants. bars and other businesses will receive from the guests of Sandals Barbados. “I want people to come here and get more than they expected when they are spending their money… People will leave this hotel, probably a hundred a day for attractions outside of the hotel. It happens everywhere. We have a company that is called Island Routes that sells the attraction out there. So our job is to bring the visitors to Barbados and then get them out so they can taste the country, taste the flavour, the different food and [interact with] the different people. I can guarantee you that when this hotel opens, you go down the road [in] the bars and the restaurants [and] you will see Sandals people in there”.
After being virtually invisible for over a year from the Canadian (Toronto at least) newspaper Travel Section, Barbados’ name has reappeared. Not a BTA ad – it is the first ad (I have seen) for Sandals Barbados, a half page in the August 23, 2014 Globe Travel section of The Globe and Mail.
As another BU commenter said, Sandals guests are going to Sandals. DD is sceptical about Butch’s pitch. The amount of business the Sandals’ guests will do with other hospitality and tourism service providers will be very limited.
Even if the repeatedly broken promises confirming that all registered hotels will qualify for the same concessions given to Sandals last year came into practical effect this week, it is now far too late for the vast majority of properties to make any meaningful use of them this year, at least in terms of major upgrading. Whether it was Government’s honest intention or not, Sandals look like they will re-open with an enhanced quality product advantage in late January 2015 that virtually every other hotel cannot hope to compete with.
Again, it’s important to repeat that like most other tourism businesses we welcome the group’s arrival and in the long term hope that it will drive additional investment and upgrading on a level playing field. Despite the continued speculation about added airlift, it simply will not happen until the Beaches property is hopefully completed in a yet indeterminate number of years from now. The short term reality is that we have lost a potential 25,000 airline seats in the interim reconstruction period. That would not have happened if the former Casuarina/Couples hotel had remained open. Only time will tell if punishing around 5,000 rooms, while rewarding just 280 will prove to be a sustainable long term solution to the overall industry challenges.
In hindsight it’s perhaps easy to see how this situation developed. The trappings of a private corporate jet, a luxury yacht, well oiled and orchestrated publicity machine with seemingly impressive amounts of money running into tens of millions being mentioned almost every day. Continue reading