By Adrian Loveridge
If I could single out an overwhelming major factor that is holding back the recovery of our tourism sector, number one on a list would have to be lack of implementation.
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
A close second would have to be the prolonged time it takes to conceptualise and launch new initiatives and marketing programmes, while ensuring they are fully functional and deliver the desired objectives.
Yes, some may make all sorts of other excuses like an ageing plant, but if we get both the above right, then it would provide a solution to this and most of the other challenges we are facing.
This July marks a full year since a one-hour plus media conference with two ministers of government was held unveiling a ten point tourism plan. Exactly how many of those points have been fully implemented twelve months later and, if not, why?
I can no longer recall just how many times, I have heard that the tourism master plan is going to be revealed shortly and you have to question does it now indeed have any current significant relevance, since the entire industry was turned on its head after extraordinary unilateral concessions were granted to the Sandals companies.
Way back in March, the minister announced it was finally finished and sitting on his desk. Is it now buried or will it eventually see the light of day?
We are also now just about a month away from the stated launch of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., and Barbados Tourism Product Authority, the two new entities that will replace the existing national promotional agency.
With less than five weeks to go, will there be a seamless transition, especially at a time when we should be welcoming larger numbers of visitors during Crop-Over?
Contact details and working websites are prerequisites and form a critical role in communicating with all the interested partners in tourism, including crucially the media and social networks.
Will the product division now finally address the hundreds of unlicensed accommodation offerings and if so, how?
Has any of the staff or managerial posts been advertised or is administration entirely relying on filling these jobs from within existing civil service departments?
It would appear that, if there is not at least some new and inspired direction, it will be yet another expensive and time wasting exercise in futility. The game of musical chairs has to come to an end at some stage.
Good news that Delta Airlines will be returning with a nonstop service from Atlanta and introducing New York. Six million people live within an hour’s drive of Hartsfield airport. In terms of passenger traffic, it is rated the busiest in the world, handling a staggering 94 million passengers last year.
I have one concern, though, with the fare levels. Online the cheapest fare in the start-up month of December is US$781 return. Given the choice of destinations people in the Greater Atlanta area have, I wonder if this may not be a deterrent factor.
Conversely, the New York service has a lead-in fare of US$389, which compares very favourably with JetBlue at US$518.
This may well change as the effects of competition kick in.
Certainly, USA arrival numbers are a cause of concern, with 2013 recording the lowest number (120,626) for 11 consecutive years. To fill this extra capacity, that number will have to rise by 28 percent in 2015.
Clearly a daunting task!