By Adrian Loveridge
When you read such emotive statements as "in two months we would have reached the enviable target of over one billion earned impressions on our digital properties supporting brand Barbados", you perhaps cannot fail to be left in a condition of awestruck wonder.
Adrian Loveridge has spent 46 years in the tourism industry across 67 countries, as a travel agent, tour director, tour operator and for the last 24 years as a small hotel owner on Barbados. He served as a director of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, and as chairman of the Marketing Committee. He also served as a director of the Barbados Tourism Authority and is a frequent writer on tourism issues
But then, reflecting on the words, what does this actually mean and how does it impact on our current tourism performance?
It’s quickly realised that, while the less informed may get blown away with the flowery phraseology, certainly in the last 17 consecutive months it has not had any positive effective on driving increased long stay visitor arrivals.
We are also now in the third year of the quoted multimillion marketing arrangement with superstar Rihanna and ten months since her long delayed campaign video has been aired. When I last checked YouTube, it had received over 450,000 views. On reflection, at least the inclusion of a "call to action" or proven method of monitoring the level of booked holiday conversion ratio would have demonstrated any cost-effectiveness.
Surely, by now, we should have started to see some sort of return on ‘our’ investment.
Other promotions like the $11 million Barbados Island Inclusive initiative have clearly not made up for the dramatic decline.
This now stands at over 61,100 ‘lost’ long stay visitors from April 2012 until August 2013.
September tourism figures this year have yet to be disclosed, but indications point to the continuation of a dismal performance.
Yes! We know that ongoing national tourism policy direction is largely led by government agencies but, if the same scenario was being experienced by a private sector company or corporation, how much longer could it afford to go on losing market share, month after month?
While those in control of directing our tourism industry continue to function in a flagrant state of denial, it is very difficult to know, if this persists, what more can be done to address the crisis.
The facts speak for themselves. In 2012, of the 25 reporting Caribbean Tourism Organisation members, 19 reported positive stop-over growth.
Four recorded a fall of 1.8 per cent or less and only one, Grenada, approached anything like the 5.5 per cent fall experienced by Barbados. Simply put, of the 25 countries submitting their arrival data, Barbados had the worst performance.
Yet right up until a few days ago, the media is quoting excuses like "some destinations may argue have seen growth, but usually they are emerging destinations which results will reflect, but they are not a mature destination such as Barbados."
This continued facade of delusion must concern us all and, the longer we go on denying there is a problem, the path to recovery becomes more arduous and prolonged.
After all, what other practical choice do we currently have?
Barbadian tourism marketing prowess used to be the envy of most of our regional neighbours.
Nowadays, ‘we’ have almost become the laughing stock in the Caribbean, when plan after plan is proclaimed publicly, then months and sometimes years later, the majority fail to materialise in reality.