Leading UK based specialist insurer, Columbus Travel Insurance Services Ltd trading as Columbus Direct recently published the results of a survey which was picked up and carried in most major British newspapers in print and online including mass circulation tabloid, The Sun.
Based on the responses of 2,000 British adults it revealed that 16 per cent of people or eight million Brits have opted for a staycation this year in the United Kingdom rather than travel abroad as the Pounds now buys less Euros and Dollars than it did at the beginning of last year.
Way up there in terms of choice are US Dollar currency actual or pegged destinations where GB pounds 500 buys GB Pounds 70 less than it did in 2016.
Conversely those heading to other long haul destinations such as Japan, Mexico and Malaysia will get better value for their Sterling when compared with August 2016.
The Sun which boasts a daily print and PC readership of 4.36 million highlights a number of ways on ‘How to save money’ with a small number of holiday tops. It was encouraging to see that No.3 on that list was to ‘choose a fixed-price set menu in restaurants to ensure you’re not over spending’. It appears many holidaymakers especially the Brits and Canadians are heeding this advice as this is reinforced by the increased number of requests for the re-DISCOVER lunch and dinner voucher.
No. 5 on the Sun savings is ‘Claim back local sales tax on shopping’ and they mention Singapore and Morocco in particular who appear to both have well-thought-out and implemented schemes in place. Is this an area where Barbados can be more proactive?
Our Chamber of Commerce and various trade associations surely can devise a much wider scheme where the scope and depth of a greater number of participating merchants can be enhanced.
Clearly, with years of internal inflation we have become a very expensive destination and I doubt that many of our visitors consider that we truly offer value-for-money any longer. To the better-off visitor, this of course is only one consideration but the recent record number of long stay arrivals with depleted spending is starting to take a toll, according to the many tourism partners I have personally spoken to.
At the media and industry conference hosted by the Minister of Tourism last week I suggested that Government may consider lowering the rate of VAT on stand-alone restaurants, activities, attractions and car rental to 7.5 per cent, the same percentage as most hotels enjoy. At best the suggestion received a very lukewarm response, but where this has been enacted in other holiday destinations, in every case it has driven more arrivals and more net spend, which has resulted in a higher overall tax contribution to Government coffers.
Staying with lower prices drive demand, it was interesting to see American Airlines offer a fare of US$189 return from Miami at US$198 in the opposite direction (presumable the VAT element). Perhaps most surprisingly, this fare, at the time of writing this column, was available during most months of this year. With JetBlue’s announced reduction in their Fort Lauderdale service, it would appear AA is fighting back.