By Adrian Loveridge
If there was ever a time when the expression ‘you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’, then it was perhaps written to present a personal challenge over the last couple of weeks, while trying to resurrect one of the most successful dine-around programmes in recent history.
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 restaurants understand and assess the merits immediately, even though it may not produce the profits that they would either like or require, on all business generated.
But in these days, guaranteed uniform profitability is not a reality. Almost all airlines use sales and other offers to fill a critical percentage of their seats, just as hotels contract lower than rack rates with tour operators to achieve a minimum viable occupancy mass.
Other tourism entities are not isolated from this actuality in the way business is now conducted.
The target was to persuade a minimum of ten restaurants to offer a fixed price three-course dinner menu at BDS$99 per person with a half bottle of wine, VAT and service charge included.
Take away an average 10 percent service charge and the establishment is left with $89 to provide the consumables and contribute towards the upkeep and operation of the premises. Valued added tax is exactly what the description implies, a tax that is offset against taxable input costs.
Local wholesale distributors have come forward with special deals having seen a supplying potential to provide an anticipated 9,000 bottles of wine representing around $144,000 in additional revenue by when the offer closes in December.
We have also tried to emphasise the desire for participants to source locally available foodstuffs which could go a long way in supporting our agricultural sector.
If a re-launched initiative even comes close to achieving the volume driven before then we are looking at adding around $2 million in sales to the economy.
Those already sold on the concept use it as a tool to attain particular goals.
For instance, to introduce their hotel to regular visitors who may be contemplating alternative lodging options like fractional ownership.
Others to entice early diners resulting in maximising table optimisation while increasing overall revenue and viability.
And as all diners are obliged to make a reservation, revenue and volume control remains entirely in the hands of the individual participating restaurants.
Initially, it will also not cost any partner a single cent to market or promote the initiative, so there is absolutely no risk or investment to recuperate.
There is no doubt in my mind that one of the key factors impacting on what is now concurrent years of long stay visitor decline is that we, as a destination, are not focusing sufficiently on what our markets are repeatedly telling us.
And one of the key issues is not delivering value-for-money, a point rarely missed by our competing neighbours, who continue to grow arrival numbers.
There are numerous reasons for this, which include unbudgeted increases in operating costs and the lack, at least partially, to implement the lower rate of VAT and waiver of duties promised by our policymakers months ago.