By Adrian Loveridge
Having sat on the board of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association briefly, you get some idea of what a complex and challenging task it is for any executive vice president and the juggling act he or she has to perform on a daily basis. Keeping everybody happy, in my view, is a near impossible task.
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.
On reflection, I believe the body and its members have been extremely lucky, with very few exceptions, to have attracted the calibre of people who have held the position of EVP.
When Sue Springer was recently interviewed by one of the other media outlets, you could sense the passion and genuine unease in her quoted words, even the journalist prefixed her title with “frustrated”.
I don’t believe that anyone should view her comments as alarmist, as she is reflecting the obvious concerns of the members.
The article was headed “layoffs looming” and pointed out that “the sector may have to brace for problems if the current state of the industry did not improve this summer”.
“[Ms] Springer warned that the first quarter of this year was already looking bleak” and this was clearly illustrated in the 8.2 percent fall in long stay visitors in the peak month of January. Recently, one of our returning guests from the UK reported that the ten rows of seats behind them were all empty and that one flight arrived with 24 people in economy. As loyal regulars to Barbados, I have no reason to doubt them.
We cannot go on thinking that this is a global problem affecting all our competitors, as already pointed out in last week’s column, almost all the rest of the Caribbean recorded strong growth last year.
The new administration has a very small majority and surely I cannot be alone in thinking that all the elected officials can pull together in the national interest.
By the time this column goes to press, I would expect that a new cabinet is in position and we can only hope that the best qualified persons are placed in the positions where they can make a positive difference.
I cannot think of a single private sector player who makes a living out of tourism that doesn’t think some form of radical reform has to take place in the way we market the destination. We can go on burying our head in the sand and pretend there are no solutions, but it simply cannot be business as usual any longer.
Hoteliers are often targeted with disparaging remarks and I would be the last person to agree with them all, but you also have to look at the current crisis in tourism through their eyes. Almost always, they have made the single largest investments. Yes, they largely have the most to gain in the good times, but conversely the most to lose in the present climate of low occupancy, discounted room rates and hugely increased costs of operation.
Any Minister of Tourism that chooses to ignore or downplay this fact is clearly out of touch with reality.
The hotels too are probably the largest contributors in annual subscriptions to sustain the Association, the main representative trade organisation and clearly expect to be listened to.