By Adrian Loveridge
June is traditionally one of the most challenging months of the year.
In fact, June 2013 recorded the lowest number of long stay visitors for that month during the last 11 consecutive years.
The most recent national marketing initiatives, notably the Barbados Island Inclusive promotion, since inception, have clearly not made any significant difference.
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
Some even may argue that ‘we’ have spent precious marketing dollars diluting average visitor spend, rather than generating any meaningful additional numbers to our shores. This may partially explain while the programme was not repeated in the United Kingdom this year, but surprisingly retained in other markets.
If it has not yet been subjectively analysed, I think it’s time to look at specific ways we can target niches that may have a reason to travel in these softer summer months. While this seems blatantly obvious, I am not always sure we apply the principle in the most objective way.
Living where I do, one group who are attracted by the normal strong easterly trade winds in June are the kite boarders. Yes! Other corners of the globe may have similar tempting conditions, but can they boast year round warm seas?
And the often spouted observation that these visitors are at the lower level of our typical ‘tourist’ budget spenders, is in my personal experience, an absolute myth. Take an early morning walk around their favourite accommodation offerings and count the number of rental cars. They also eat out in our restaurants and provide critical revenue throughout the sector when things generally get quieter.
Maybe it is also time to look again at the meetings, incentive and conference market. During the off-peak periods airlines could well be more prepared to negotiate more affordable bulk fares. And these don’t necessarily have to be massive groups, but twenties and thirties, travelling for a purpose.
As an example, my son-in-law works for a US based supplier of medical equipment. Last week they flew him and his colleagues out to Bilbao in Spain. This week they will dine with a select party at the newly opened Shangri-La Hotel at the Shard in London.
Certainly, from my many years of organising incentive travel around the world, it is a far greater motivating alternative than rewarding people with taxable income, especially when it is presented as a unique and enhancing experience.
Perhaps a third area that could be explored, especially following the continued success of the Barbados Horticultural Society’s spectacular latest display resulting in yet another gold award at the Chelsea Flower Show, is how can we lure a greater number of the huge British gardening fraternity?
Could a simple start be a partnership with one of the major UK gardening magazines to produce a three attraction pass including Hunte’s Gardens, Andromeda and the Flower Forest and included with a week’s car rental. My guess is the demographics of avid gardeners would include a high percentage of people who are not forced to travel in school holiday periods making June the perfect month for such a concept.