BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS. May 27, 2015 – Barbados’ tourism sector broke a 25-year record during the first quarter of 2015 to reach 171,471 long stay arrivals.BTMI Chairman, Alvin Jemmott, noted that there were record arrivals in each of the first three months of 2015 and extended his congratulations to all industry workers and partners for their […]
First let me declare my absolute and total support for those advocating the use and consumption of more locally produced items especially by our tourism industry. When the head of the Barbados Agricultural Society recently boasted that Sandals Barbados promised to purchase 1,000 pounds of local produce each week, no-one thought to question him as […]
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) was kind enough to invite me and a large number of representatives from both the private and public sector to a half day discussion forum last week. To quote from documentation provided the objective was to ‘Maximise Bridgetown’s economic and cultural activity’ by leveraging ‘existing institutions (tangible and intangible) and infrastructure […]
The double positive whammy for our tourism sector last week was the number of English cricket supporters who came for the Kensington staging of the cricket test match and the announcement by JetBlue that it was introducing a weekly seasonal flight on Saturdays non-stop from Boston. From the first flight which began on 7th November […]
From a tourism perspective and many other sectors, it is almost impossible to comprehend how so many businesses seem to think they can trade to an optimal degree without maintaining a fully functioning and up-to-date website and/or Facebook page. Also surprising is the number of local companies who take to the air via radio or […]
While at first this week’s column may seem to stray from the subject ‘matter’ the consequence of certain actions has a direct negative effect on our tourism performance. As a business we get absolutely no ‘free’ state collection of garbage. We sort and separate everything we can with the wonderful assistance of B’s Recycling and […]
Let me be among the first to congratulate a Minister of Tourism for embarking on a personal visit to all the hotels in his domain. He was quick to point out that this was not meant to be an inspection visit but rather a ‘familiarisation exercise’ to view ‘each and every tourism establishment first hand, […]
Over the years, airlines most cruise ship and train operators together with many hotel brands have understood and in the main applied the concept of ‘revenue control’ very effectively. It is almost a given when you board a plane, even when you are in the same designated seating class, that passengers have paid different levels […]
I subscribe to a website called airfarewatchdog.com which for those of you are unfamiliar with, monitors airfares across the world. When Delta Airlines resumed their flights from Atlanta to Barbados, I placed an alert to several times a day, scans all available options on that route whether direct flights or through connecting cities. Last week […]
As a small business person for most of my life, trying to make miniscule budgets become larger profitable realities goes with the territory. As a general rule we adopted a very simple psychology, any marketing dollars spent, had to produce a tenfold return, or ROI of 1:10. For example if you took a quarter page […]
Way back in 2001 we registered a business name and established a website domain under the trading title of MILESCloser. The idea then, which still has not changed, was to target the hundreds of millions of frequent flyer members who largely use their accumulated miles for vacation or holiday travel.
One of the impediments to growing the United States market especially is we are a little further away from key source market cities. Inevitably airfares are often more expensive, resulting in the overall cost of the ‘vacation’ making it more difficult when competing with other destinations. This is especially true with non-gateway departure points. A good example is Minneapolis-St. Paul to Barbados where the current cheapest bookable fare online in October or early November is US$761 economy return. For the same dates the miles required are just 25,000 and US$60.60 in taxes. So by getting rid of the perceived ‘high’ airfare, we then only have to compete on accommodation options.
While this column has never been about individuals, I celebrated a milestone birthday a couple of weeks ago and could not help but spend a little time reflecting on the fifty years that I have spent mainly in the tourism industry. Some people evaluate success or what the definition of it differently and there is nothing wrong with that.
My introduction to the world of commerce at a very early age was driven not so much by any desire to become fabulously wealthy with all the associated trappings, but more by the basic need to fend financially for myself without the benefit of sustained further education as a result of a prolonged illness. Looking back, I learnt very quickly and by the age of 21, I had already become the majority shareholder and managing director of four companies which employed scores of people. This is not a boast, but a simple fact.
Anyone who has used the internet to shop in Britain, North America and Continental Europe cannot fail to be impressed with the variety available, level of service and delivery options. And I wonder with the recent change of ownership, branding and appointment of new management in some of our distribution and supermarket outlets has not presented an incredible opportunity to better serve up to 500,000 long stay visitors that we attract each year. Especially for first time visitors staying at our vast choice of villas, condominiums and apartments and who are unsure of what is available and pricing on certain consumables, at least prior to arrival.
What prompted these thoughts was the appointment of Judith Wilcox as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of TriMart Inc. Her vast knowledge of the tourism industry gained with Virgin Atlantic and more recently, one of our largest villa rental agency, could provide a unique insight in developing better synergies between our suppliers and overseas visiting customers. While there have been various local websites in the past, perhaps now is the time to take this marketing medium to a much higher level with the means to research product offerings prior to homeland departure, pay online with a credit card and delivery to coincide with the visitor’s arrival. It is also potentially a great promotional vehicle to expose more locally made items and build better brand awareness to a much larger marketplace.
One of the most difficult and painful decisions I have ever made was to cancel our last re-DISCOVER the Caribbean Show some years ago, which had become a highly successful annual event spanning over seven years. As well as highlighting and driving new interest in Intra regional travel it was also used as a catalyst to build trade between the islands. It also brought almost around $1 million of foreign exchange into Barbados, filled scores of hotel rooms, generated significant car rental business and helped keep our multitude of restaurants busy, during a traditionally quieter off-season period.
If you were among the thousands of people who visited the show over the two days it took place annually, you would have met representatives from up to 22 participating territories, from Surinam in the south to Jamaica in the north and everywhere in between.
What finally prompted the final decision to stop coordinating the show was the reduced funding by the then Barbados Tourism Authority which even at its peak, represented less than 10 per cent of the actual cost. Plus the sad realisation that they could not find two or more of their staff to ‘man’ a stand for the duration out of what were then over one hundred employees.
I am often surprised and occasionally humbled by some of the people who read this column. Out of the blue a couple of weeks ago, I had a call from a senior executive of the Illinois based third largest credit card issuer in the United States, with a quoted 47 million card holders. He had been following some of our tourism initiatives and wanted to see how we could ‘partner’ to help increase their brand awareness and acceptance on Barbados.
Of all our major markets the United States has, for the last decade, been one of the most challenging. Until the 2014 figures are published the industry at large can only speculate about any real recovery last year. But what we do know though is that 2013 recorded the lowest number (120,584) of long stay American visitors over the past 11 years. So clearly, there is work to be done and I am sure with the recent restructuring that has taken place, we will start to witness increased numbers in the not to distance future, especially if we wish to sustain any added airlift. So what is finally being negotiated with DISCOVER is a win-win scenario that will hopefully achieve their object, while at the same time help to raise our destination visibility in US market, again at minimal cost.
Kudos to the recently revitalised national marketing organisation renamed the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, by facilitating the production of a series of videos where the airline WestJet partners with the chain store Michael Hill Jewellery and a number of Barbadian tourism interests to highlight two couples who become engaged on our island .
At the time of submitting this column already well over 1 million people had watched the three videos and this number will rise substantially over the next few days. Add the media coverage by print, television, radio and other shared social media and realistically millions of people will be exposed to Barbados as a desirable destination. Timing of course, can be everything, and the fact that WestJet posted the videos just before Valentine’s Day can be no coincidence.
To reinforce the positive effect the airline rolled out a supportive seat sale to Barbados which required booking by 14th February, but for travel up to 24 June 2015.