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
Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier
2014 will mark the hosting of the fifth annual Barbados Food Wine and Rum Festival and I firmly believe that this event has enormous further potential, especially as it takes place during November which is traditionally one of our quietest months. While I understand the challenging logistics of spreading the invited celebrity events over a longer period, there are many additional initiatives that the private sector tourism partners can put into place, which could prolong the benefits.
First I think the entire 30 days could be promoted as a ‘gastronomic’ month with our restaurants, at all levels, offering more affordable eating options. Perhaps the more innovative car rental companies could smart partner with a selection of the eateries to provide an island-wide lunch ‘passport’, even including our attractions at a reduced entrance fee. November provides every component to ensure the concept has the highest possibility of success. From the UK, excess seat capacity on the legacy carriers with Virgin and British Airways, plus scheduled charter seats from Manchester with Thomas Cook offering lead-in return fares from GBP 322.
Climate is also on our side from certain areas of the US and Canada.
Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier
Perhaps, not surprisingly, there is a lot of donor sponsorship fatigue out there and who could blame any sensible corporate entity for not at least ensuring that any ‘investment’ has a reasonable chance of being cost-effective. We are now taking the re-DISCOVER restaurant initiative that we have been promoting with the help of the Barbados Tourism Authority and its successor to the next level, by introducing REWARD vouchers. The concept is that we may be able to entice corporate Barbados to pre-purchase vouchers that can be redeemed at any of the participating restaurants. Each voucher includes dinner for two, a bottle of wine, VAT and service.
A number of our villa, condominium and apartment rental agencies both locally and overseas have expressed great interest in the idea, to a point that some have even placed it on their websites and Facebook pages. They also plan to use the vouchers as incentives to stimulate early bookings and payment of forward deposits. Initially, 1,000 high quality full colour vouchers and inserts will be printed which will equate to an additional 2,000 dining patrons and revenue generation of $198,000. Each of the five sponsors has been asked to contribute $250 towards the productions costs. The reality is that without this support, the idea simply would not become viable. Our responsibility is now to help ensure that each company can recoup their ‘investment’ over the next few months.
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.
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.