It seems almost incredulous to think that within a week or so of this column going to press, that the seeming eternity of the United States Presidential election campaign will all be over and the waiting world will know the results and begin to understand any repercussions that it may bring.
While not wanting in any way to interfere with the internal politics of another sovereign country, I just cannot fully comprehend and accept that this is a model of democracy that we should all be aspiring to. Of course, endless speculation is a dangerous pastime, but those of us involved in tourism cannot help to at least try and understand the possible implications for our industry.
Our tourism planners and policy makers have done what can only be described as a remarkable job increasing airlift to Barbados out of the United States and whatever the election outcome, the entire industry must work together to protect and sustain this additional capacity.
As we rapidly approach the peak winter season it is easy to be swept along in the belief that our American guests visiting us during that time are less price sensitive. That may be true for some, but in sheer numbers the vast majority of our US visitors are still looking for value-for-money and more affordable accommodation.
Like it or not, for the traditional hoteliers, companies like Airbnb and Home-Away have changed what has been accepted as ‘normal’ lodging requirements for decades and until this is fully accepted, there is a danger that ‘we; may not fully capitalise on this growing market. With an almost limitless choice of destinations, we have to find ever more effective ways of spreading awareness and giving reasons why prospective travellers should choose us above other holiday spots.
And within the industry there has to be a better understanding of revenue control. I still find it difficult to accept why a hotel would want empty rooms, a restaurant with vacant tables and a car hire company having vehicles parked-up in a garage, when there are so many creative ways out there to ensure that this does not happen frequently.
Perhaps in some cases there has been an over reliance on ensuring tour operators fulfill these objectives and complacency sets in. Certainly in the hotel sector many of the larger groups have recognised the critical importance of revenue control and it is no longer unusual to see they offer the lowest rates online for direct bookings, therefore eliminating, or at least, reducing tour operator margins and increasing the overall net room rate.
One example during the current Restaurant Week Barbados, is being told that many of the non-participating eateries were only serving six to eight persons for the entire evening, when the cost of joining the initiative was zero and the exposure through social and print media was massive, including full page ‘ads’ appearing on the highest circulation days.
While it is a matter of judgment for every individual owner, it is difficult not to think of the saying ’you can take horses to water, but cannot make them drink’.