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Commentary: Tourism Matters: How much longer can we go on shooting ourselves in the foot?
Published on September 9, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Adrian Loveridge

This week marks column number 156, or three years, and I applaud those of you who have remained loyal and focused on the message, rather than the messenger. While I may have offended a few people along the way, that was never the honest intention.

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
From my very first visit in the late 1960s, I always felt that Barbados was a special place. At least in the early days, I had this great utopian dream that, at some stage, within my lifetime, the island could easily become, from a tourism perspective, the Switzerland of the Caribbean.

Easily has become perhaps an almost unreasonable objective, as most of us know, very little success is achieved without considerable and consistent effort, careful planning, attracting passionate and committed persons who can implement coherent policies and maintaining high standards.

Sadly, unless those key components are in place, and working together, there is precious little hope of what must be conspicuously needed and necessary change is brought about in the foreseeable future.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I complimented the current government for announcing in the 2013 Budget, a reduced rate of VAT on hotel accommodation and the DTS (direct tourism services) providers.

At the time, I paid particular attention to the statement made by Minister of Finance Sinckler that “the initiative would cost the Treasury about $9 million (US$4.5 million) million annually”.

Whilst puzzled by this figure, I thought who am I, a mere small hotelier, to question what had clearly been put together by a whole ministry and its many staff members.

Surely, some in depth prior research was undertaken to assess the probable cost to government and the full ramifications.

There appears to be no shortage of state agencies available to glean accurate information, including the ministries of finance and tourism, Barbados Statistical Service, Barbados Tourism Authority and the very vocal Central Bank of Barbados.

It now transpires that not a great deal of thought at all had gone into this part of the “plan”, and what is equally disturbing is that this was not seized on by the opposition in both houses and the independent senators.

It also partially explains why the Barbados Tourism Authority did not highlight the significant savings that our visitors would have benefited from, beginning 1st October. As a result, confusion reigns throughout our tourism marketplaces, the travel trade, within our local tourism industry and, especially concerning, across most of the related social media sites.

Past policymakers may have dismissed media like Tripadvisor as a “menace”, but if anyone in authority really thinks they can ignore a website attracting a quoted 260 million unique visits each month or 70 new contributions posted every minute, then they are clearly living on a parallel planet.

I seriously wonder how much longer ‘we’ can go on shooting ourselves in the foot, while arrival numbers and spending continue to plummet.

Last week, I touched on our current investment climate and whether ‘we’ should be addressing its imperfections. That was before yet another restaurant bit the dust, with the loss of a further 50 jobs.

Citing the reasons, chairman Christian Mouttet of Trinidadian based Prestige Holdings Ltd said, “It became unsustainable due to local operating costs, increasing losses and the declining local economic climate.”

This after reporting a 20 percent hike in profits for the company during its last published six months trading.
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