Is the predicted 6 or 7 percent fall in long stay visitors during the month of January directly as a result of reduced promotional expenditure by the national marketing agency, and if so, has anyone put a dollar value on the consequential loss of tax revenue collected by Government?
Is this yet another example of a failed policy decision, as when Government increased the level of VAT, only to find the overall amount gathered, went down and not up? According to the Central Bank (CBB) from $683.4 million in 2011 to $666.6 million in 2012.
A 6 percent decrease in arrivals when compared to January 2012 would represent 3,157 less people and 7 percent 3,683. Last January was already down over the previous year, albeit only by 0.8 per cent according to CTO figures.
What we should be asking is how much those missing thousands would have spent and is the current dearth of funds to the Barbados Tourism Authority actually costing the industry and the nation’s coffers more than we can imagine.
It doesn’t just end with tax collection, but has to take into account increased benefit payments due to lay-offs and reduced spending by those fully employed. And how will this also impact on overall occupancy levels during the critical four winter months and economy of scale and expense caused as a result of lower lodging levels. Of course these precious winter months also command the highest rooms rates, which in many cases helps the individual hotels limp through the softer summer period.
Are ‘we’ being pennywise and pound foolish?
A regular long stay Canadian visitor asked me why the BTA did not exhibit at the recently concluded Ultimate Travel Show held in Toronto. With a population approaching 6 million people in the Greater Toronto Area, all of which live within an hour’s drive of Pearson International Airport added to which a BTA office in Canada’s largest city, I could not proffer an explanation. Given the climatic conditions, the time of the year and the falling arrival numbers, it didn’t seem to make any sense at all.
Then looking through the exhibitors list and seeing many of our competitors who obviously saw the value of attending the show. Why were ‘we’ not there at a national level? The only Barbadian representative was Swim Barbados Vacations. From the region, those who were present, included Aruba, Belize, Bonaire, Cayman Islands, Cuba, USVI, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, SVG and the Turks and Caicos. Of course its not feasible to be at everything, but could not some sort of collective presence with private and public sector partners be organised to avoid, what clearly appears another missed opportunity. Despite the sub-zero temperatures and snow, provisional attendance numbers were over 12,000 persons according to Show Manager, Julie Miller. Clearly, the vast majority visiting the event, were there for the purpose of choosing a holiday. Just maybe, they were influenced to book an alternative destination choice.
Ironically, a large BTA delegation went to the CHTA MarketPlace which took place days earlier in The Bahamas. With the obvious lack of promotional funds, perhaps this event was deemed more likely to be cost -effective than the one in Canada and could result in driving higher visitor numbers.