When I look at my near three decades living on Barbados, it is difficult not to applaud the progress of our fledgling film industry and the key players who have thought past our tiny geographically size and produced world class moving images. However at the same time, I wonder if as a tourism driven economy we have taken maximum advantage and opportunity to increase arrival numbers, average stay and equally important, overall visitor spend through this medium.
What prompted current thoughts was the airing of a new series of the historical Poldark series which is set in the scenically spectacular English south western county of Cornwall.
It has been estimated that around 10 million people in the UK each Sunday night watched the first series. As a result there was a noticeable spike in Cornwall’s visitor numbers with half of those who took part in a tourism survey saying that they had watched the series and a fifth confessed it had actually prompted their visit. Imagine exposing Barbados to 10 million captive viewers every week and the positive effect it could have on all sectors of our tourism sector with a trickledown benefit to all sorts of other goods, services and potential property purchases.
Knowing that several countries offer enticing tax concessions, with Hollywood blockbusters like the Pirates of the Caribbean being a classical example, I ran the phrase ‘film tax concessions Barbados’ through GOOGLE. One of the several location/facilitation entities that popped up stated ‘Barbados has no official backed film commission to liaise with foreign film productions. This means there are no official tax breaks or funding options for filmmakers at present’.
Yet I understand that a Film Commission of Barbados was formed in 2015 which currently has a very limited website presence outlining details of various incentives that may be obtained.
Compare this to one of our regional neighbours with similar climatic conditions, the Dominican Republic. They offer 25 per cent freely transferable tax credit on all qualifying local spend subject to a minimum of US$500,000, 18 per cent VAT and customs duties exemption of temporary imports on eligible goods, among several other incentives. Clearly their Government must consider these concessions cost-effective, otherwise why would they be made available.
To add to the confusion, there is also a Facebook Page under ‘Barbados Film Commission’ which has so far attracted 5 ‘likes’ and has not been updated since 11th August 2013.
Surely, if our Government is serious about attracting this largely high spending niche market business, resources, both financial and human have to be allocated to ensure that we, as a possible beneficial destination can maximise the potential. Years ago I recall being in Marigot on French side of St. Martin during the production of Speed 2 and being frankly amazed at the knock-on effect this had on the entire island economy.
‘We’ have to understand that we are competing with a myriad of other possible choices all offering near perfect filming conditions, but at a substantially lower overall operating cost.