By Adrian Loveridge
I have always tried to stay away from the various personalities that have been entrusted to guide our number one foreign currency generator, but it would have been almost impossible not to comment on the remarks credited to the outgoing chairman of the Barbados Tourism Industry recently.
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
If accurately reported, there certainly was some very robust and frankly blunt language used including describing the agency as “a slothful, wasteful and inefficient organization in an increasingly dynamic technologically-driven and commercial industry”.
Perhaps, in less colourful words, this has been stated by many in the sector repeatedly over several years, so why is it, after more than three years at the helm, only being recognised now?
And if you analyse the figures, why were corrective measures not put into place much earlier?
After assuming the position of chairman in May 2011, that year only recorded two months of long stay visitor decline.
However, by April 2012, Barbados witnessed a reduction in arrivals for 21 consecutive months. Sadly the release of tourism numbers seem to get later and later each month, with the May 2014 figures taking a staggering 60 days to be posted on the Barbados Statistical Service website.
But all the indications are that so far this year the best we can expect is a ‘flat’ performance to date.
Equally important to highlight is that, during the third year (2013) of the official’s tenure, Barbados registered the lowest stay-over arrivals for any one of the last 11 years.
Of course, it’s easy to blame just about everybody else, politicians, ‘hoteliers in particular’ and the media houses, but sometimes the buck stops here and those in charge have personally to accept some of the responsibility and culpability.
While it is sad to see some long standing members of the BTA leave who I have enjoyed working with in the past and whose competence I do not question for a moment, it was clear changes had to be made.
The current administration now has an almost unique chance to put the ‘right’ people in place and resist a previously almost compelling desire to make more political appointments. There are two clear choices, squander the opportunity or adopt the stance of ‘carpe diem’.
Any entity, whether private or public, operating for such a long time without a specific mandate that ensured spending was cost-effective and directly related to a reasonable return on investment is simply unacceptable.
Government now has a long overdue obligation to ensure this never happens again. And I believe just like publicly traded companies, in the interests of transparency and accountability, there are compelling reasons to publish the audited accounts of the new Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. within six months of each financial year.
Only then will concerned industry observers and taxpayers have sufficient fiscal information to allow for checks and balances on the tens of millions the entity is likely to spend.
Hopefully everyone in the industry will seize this possibility to make a positive difference and, just for once, egos and partisan politics will play no meaningful part.