Tag Archives: Barbados Tourism

Barbadians Need Authorities to Come ‘Clean’ About the Sector

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier

We are now midway through the peak winter tourism season and it is small wonder that the general populous becomes confused or even bemused when trying to monitor exactly how the industry is performing. Especially when there are a number of proclamations emanating from our policymakers, who many may feel should be better informed. Two of these recent utterings really stand out!

The first when a Minister of Government stated in the foreign press that we have had a good start to the season, when in fact December 2013 recorded the lowest long stay visitor arrivals for that month during the last eleven years. Meanwhile, while accepting the numbers are down, the actual Minister of Tourism partially justifying the dismal sector performance by stating ‘value-added’ is up, totally contradicting the Governor of The Central Bank in his latest video report on our economic condition, who clearly revealed that factually, it is down.

If these incidents were rare or isolated, perhaps it could be just brushed off as possible journalistic misquoting, but the latest ones come after a long list of heady predictions that simply have not materialized. Last year these included ‘a resounding success’, ‘upbeat about arrivals’ and ‘extremely strong’, when referring to Crop Over and July. Later in 2013, ‘it is already a November to remember’ and ‘November had been one of the best Barbados had seen in a while’. In reality, both months set new records over the last decade for recording the lowest stay-over visitors for comparable periods. Tourism interests are then left clambering to source accurate information on which to make educated choices and decisions.

And that’s when they are confronted by the next obstacle.

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What Does the Merger of American Airlines and US Airways Mean for Barbados?

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier

The merger of American Airlines and US Airways has now pushed the combined frequent flyer membership above the 100 million mark. Put another way, almost 33 per cent of the world’s third most populous country, the United States. In any market it would be a difficult segment to persistently ignore, but from our second largest source of long stay visitors, it defies belief, especially during times of economic challenges, when holiday budgets can be among the first to suffer. It may also partially explain why some of our neighbours have overtaken us in American long-stay visitors.

Sadly, the loss of the American Airlines direct service out of New York will further restrict the potential, previously having lost Dallas/Fort Worth and San Juan, plus Philadelphia with US Airways. But with the miles now totally interchangeable between the two carriers, we still have daily service from Miami and currently once a week from Charlotte. Whether the re-organisation will result in a downsizing of the North Carolina hub and curtailment of this flight remains to be seen.

Route changes have yet to be announced, so ‘we’ are not fully aware of any new opportunities that it may present, but that should not stop exploiting what already exists. One of the reasons why I am so passionate about airline loyalty programmes is because existing marketing initiatives in the USA simply have not worked. There has been no overall long stay visitor arrival increase from this market for six years, so surely it’s long overdue that alternative strategies are at least tried.

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Top Gear is Coming to Barbados

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier

After a dismal 2013 from a land based tourism perspective, certainly up until the end of November, it was refreshing to get some good news to end the year. After many early media releases in July, it was finally confirmed this month by the Barbados Tourism Authority that the Top Gear Festival, will make its Americas debut at the renovated Bushy Park Circuit on 17th and 18th May 2014, the first of three consecutive annual events planned for this location.

Several similar ‘festivals’ have already taken place across the world including in Australia and South Africa and according to the organisers ‘further destinations are in development and will be announced in the New Year’.

There can be no doubt that this event has the potential to attractive massive destination coverage overseas. Based on the BBC television series, the audience reach is what can only described as staggering and includes holding the Guinness Book of Records holder for ‘the most watched factual programme in the world’.

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Barbados.org is that You?

Submitted by Due Diligence
Adrian Elcock, Chairman of the BTA

Adrian Elcock, Chairman of the BTA

When I Googled “Barbados All Inclusive” yesterday [17 November 2013] I clicked on the barbados.org link, then http://www.barbados.org/allinclusive_vacations.php#.UoohrxaSKRY,There I found a list of 8 all-inclusive resorts, I then printed pages 1 to 3 of the 5 pages. On the printed page 2 of 5, the same two pictures of the two kids and the two adults which appeared on the website were printed – and, unbelievably,  under those pictures there is an ad for Transat Holidays for – SAINT LUCIA!. A copy of the printed page is attached. When I revisited the same page this morning, and printed page 2 of 5, the Transat/Saint Lucia ad was replaced with an Air Canada/CIBC ad.  Copy also attached. Apparently barbdos.org sells ad space to travel organizations which rotate and appear only in the printed material.

I suggest it might be timely for those who control barbados.org, the “Official Website of the Barbados Tourism Authority“, to do a bit of due diligence into the workings of its website.

Unanswered Questions About the ROI on Tourism Initiatives

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier

As we have now passed the latest ‘book-by’ date for the several times re-launched Barbados Island Inclusive promotion, is it time to analyse how cost effective the initiative has been? Especially as it was one of the very few, national marketing initiatives for this year that has either not been postponed, cancelled or simply just not implemented in the first place.

Just to remind readers, the stated objective was to generate an ‘additional’ 15,000 long stay visitors between the end of May and the 21st December 2013 who would spend BDS$30 million at a quoted cost of BDS$11 million to cover the promotional costs. Minister of Tourism (MOT), Mr. Sealy is on record as stating ‘all but $4 million will actually be spent on advertising’. On 22nd July 2013 the Barbados Government Information Service reported the MOT ‘had revealed that more than 5,000 tourists had taken advantage of the vouchers being offered under the programme’.

We know that even before the October figures are published, that ‘we’ are already experiencing an unprecedented 18 consecutive months of long stay visitor decline. So the word ‘additional’ is critical to evaluate because if the initiative had in fact generated any incremental numbers then it has been at a huge cost.

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Is the Ministry of Tourism Underachieving?

Excerpts related to tourism Budget Speeches 2008 to 2012:

  • There are some critical national concerns and a Tourism Master Plan is currently being designed by a new Unit in the Ministry of Tourism designed to look at our tourism development strategy in a holistic way addressing our product, land use policy, marketing, carrying capacity and linkages to our other sectors and the lives of Barbadians among other matters.
  • The expansion of the luxury tourism market will include the construction and opening every two years of a major internationally branded luxury hotel and associated branded residences catering to the five-star and ultra luxury tourism market.
  • The expansion of the luxury room stock will also assist in the establishment of the Health Tourism market in Barbados.
  • I [the late David Thompson’s first budget] have just returned from a CARICOM Heads of Government meeting at which tourism, regional and international transport were discussed for one full day. Some important decisions were taken including the commitment to a regional brand, the establishment of a Caribbean Tourism Marketing Fund and discussions are taking place between LIAT and Caribbean Airlines Limited on their future together – Budget 2008

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Investment Landscape Needs a Fillip

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier

Up until submitting this column, the Barbados Statistical Service had not yet posted either the August or September 2013 tourism arrival figures, so I suspect it will be sometime before figures for October this year are known, via this important agency. Fortunately, news agencies like Bloomberg extract the information from the Central Bank of Barbados and publish online, albeit some weeks later.

What we do know is that September 2013 recorded the lowest long stay visitor arrivals for any month during the last 11 years. October 2012 welcomed the lowest stay-over visitors for that month during the last decade and unless October 2013 exceeds 36,071 persons, that also will set yet other record, sadly not one we want to boast about. I don’t think a single individual on Barbados is not aware of the current Government’s fiscal challenges, but surely there is no better time to channel all available human resources into areas where a positive difference could be made.

Over the last few weeks I have been viewing tourism from a different perspective. That of a potential first time investor into Barbados and sadly, if ‘we’ are honest and objective, there are many areas we are sadly lacking. Some may even say, deficient. Bearing in a mind, a non-national considering investment in Barbados, at least initially, may not be familiar with the various agencies and their names mandated to smooth the process. So the first port-of-call is likely to be the website of the Ministry of Tourism (MOT). In a seriously competitive sector with dozens if not hundreds of destinations seeking to attract the all-important foreign venture capital, that introductory impression is critical.

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Fly All the Way to Barbados When $1 Canadian was Worthed $1.72 Back in the Day

Submitted by Due Diligence
1956 Financial Post

1956 Financial Post (Canada)

I really could not make this up. I was out on Saturday to an auction sale at an old home in an high-end neighbourhood (not my neighbourhood). Among the stuff they were selling was a bunch of old books, magazines and (1956) newspapers. Thinking it would be interesting to compare the news of the day to the news of almost 60 years ago, I picked up three editions of The Financial Post published in May and June 1956.

The Financial Post, which is now a daily section in the National Post newspaper, was then “Canada’s National Weekly of Business, Investment and Public Affairs”.  This was not a newspaper read by the ordinary Canadian; rather its readership was the business elite – those in the upper income levels who in 1956 had the resources to make an annual trip to the places of sea, sand and sun – for some even to own a second home. In 1956 DD was still a primary school student, had no investments and no interest in public affairs, so had no reason to read  “Canada’s National Weekly of Business, Investment and Public Affairs”

Today I decided to leaf through the three 1956 newspapers. My first thoughts were that they were talking about the same business, finance and investment issues in 1956 that are being discussed in today’s papers. Then, to my utter shock, an advertisement on page 12 of the May 26, 1956 edition of The Financial Post jumped out a me.

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Sandals Almond Chronology II

Submitted by Due Diligence
Lee Issa, Chairman of the House of Issa

Lee Issa, Chairman of the House of Issa

In July 2012 ARI/N&M sold Almond Beach Club, to Fairweather Holding Co., which operates Elite Island Resorts  for $33 million, the proceeds of which was used to pay down bank debt that had been incurred to keep ARI afloat.

It is not clear who owns/controls Fairweather/Elite, January 4, 2013, the Jamaica Gleaner reports that Couples is finalizing negotiations to purchase Casuarina.

“Couples Resorts is finalising a deal to acquire a hotel in Barbados, making it the first Jamaican resort group to venture into that market. It’s also Couples’ first venture outside of its home market. Couples chief executive officer, Glenn Lawrence, confirmed plans on Wednesday to purchase the 280-room Almond Casuarina Beach (ACB) Club in the eastern Caribbean island. “We are involved in firm negotiations,” said Lawrence, adding that the deal was expected to conclude on or before January 31, at which time more details would be forthcoming.”

For undisclosed reasons, Couples did not purchase the property; but January 29, 2013, announced it had agreed to manage Casuarina (it turns out) under a lease.

In an article in the Trinidad Guardian about N&M dated May 22, 2013, included The group continues to unwind its hotel properties. The Jamaican-based Couples Hotels have leased Almond Casuarina Beach; the lessee has an option either to acquire the hotel by September 30, 2013, or enter into a long-term lease arrangement.

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Managing the Transition in Our Tourist Industry

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier

If you have not done so I implore you to read – especially if you are involved in tourism or financing – what in my humble opinion is an excellent article entitled The La Source Saga. The author S. Brian Samuel spent 20 years with the World Bank, primarily working on the Caribbean Project Development Facility with the specific task of raising finance for regional businesses.

Brian honestly admits that La Source was one of his favourite projects and in fact on retirement, he took up the post of Executive Director when it re-opened in February 2008, after the ravages of Hurricane Ivan. Within three years of its original opening, La Source financially broke-even and achieved a year round occupancy of between 72 and 78 per cent, prior to Ivan striking the island. Even with just 100 rooms, which then represented only 8 per cent of Grenada’s total room stock, it was providing a staggering 20 per cent of the entire hotel guests to the destination.

The article goes on to graphically detail the challenges that followed, leading up to a second closure, or as the writer describes it, ‘Death and Rebirth’. Faced with mounting unemployment, declining revenue and a real risk of losing further airlift, the Government of Grenada, had to do something and I understand that Sandals had already expressed an interest. To seal the deal, the then Minister of Finance, Nazim Burke, gave them ‘something special’ and concessions granted included:

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