I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Breakfast Press Conference held recently Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy and trying to put partisan politics aside, in my humble opinion it was one of the best presented meetings of its kind that I have ever attended on Barbados. Apart from the many representatives of the media, several ‘captains’ of the industry attended and to be fair I have to admit that I was really impressed with the candid and relaxed way Minister Sealy responded to the many questions posed.
My single concern is in the absence of a functional website of the Ministry of Tourism, a suggestion would be to post preliminary statistics to enable the entire tourism sector and other interested parties to analyze.
One frequent caller to the Down to Brasstacks call-in programme has repeatedly alleged that the increase in long visitor arrivals has been caused by counting and including fly to cruise passengers. Clearly from the information provided, this does not appear to be the case and the less informed observers can glean factual numbers and percentages from the document provided at the meeting.
In the interest of balance we all have to bear in mind our overall tourism numbers over the last few years have not been worth boasting about. The 2015 figures demonstrate categorically, that by placing the right people in the right positions can make a huge and positive difference. Sticking with long stay arrivals, when comparing 2015 with 2014, the leading markets recorded a growth of 24.8 per cent in the USA, 13 per cent in Canada, 14.1 per cent in the United Kingdom, 3.2 per cent in Germany, Trinidad and Tobago 5.8 per cent with the Other Caribbean 13.1 percent. The two areas of disappointment were Brazil, down 26.8 per cent and Other Europe down 14.4 per cent. The Brazil figures though can be partially offset with a 19 per cent increase in the Other Central and South America market.
When you think Canada has witnessed a 30 per cent devaluation of their dollar when compared with the US$, we are extremely fortunate to have maintained and even enhanced their loyalty to the destination.
With the introduction of the new jetBlue service out of Fort Lauderdale from April, the already impressive increase in US arrivals looks like it will set new records for 2016, after years of near stagnation.
As the Minister reminded us that Florida has the third largest population of the 50 states, estimated at 20.27 million* but even more important a large percentage of that number are retired and have higher than national average vacation time.
Perhaps the most enlightening figures, possibly included to end the countless speculation about average length of stay, compared the number of day stay in 7 durations, from 1 day to 29-182 days. Only in two of them did we see any significant reduction, again when comparing 2015 with 2014. 8-14 days fell from 35 per cent to 33 per cent, across all durations and 29 – 182 days fell from 6 per cent to 5 per cent, which perhaps only reflects the current challenging global economic position.