By Adrian Loveridge
After a dismal 2013 from a land based tourism perspective, certainly up until the end of November, it was refreshing to get some good news to end the year. After many early media releases in July, it was finally confirmed this month by the Barbados Tourism Authority that the Top Gear Festival, will make its Americas debut at the renovated Bushy Park Circuit on 17th and 18th May 2014, the first of three consecutive annual events planned for this location.
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
Several similar ‘festivals’ have already taken place across the world including in Australia and South Africa and, according to the organisers, “further destinations are in development and will be announced in the New Year.”
There can be no doubt that this event has the potential to attractive massive destination coverage overseas. Based on the BBC television series, the audience reach is what can only described as staggering and includes holding the Guinness Book of Records entry for “the most watched factual programme in the world”.
The TV episodes are sold to 214 territories across the globe, have 2 million subscribers to the Official Top Gear YouTube Channel with over 500 million video views, 19 million Facebook fans, a magazine circulation of over 1 million and 5.7 million unique users on its website.
It does not end there. A visit to the BBC Advertising online source details many other impressive statistics.
As if in harmony, both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have launched their latest seat sales and, for travel in May, fares on offer are among the lowest on scheduled services to any point in the Caribbean from Gatwick and Manchester, starting at GBP520 including all the taxes, for people booking before 28th January 2014.
Of course it will not just attract Brits, but could help to avoid any additional erosion of airline routes and capacity.
Tour operators are already putting hotel/flight packages into the market and hopefully the smaller accommodation providers will put together attractive alternatives for the independent travellers.
There should also be a tremendous trickle-down effect from visitors attending for our car rental companies, restaurants, attractions, activities and taxis.
Hopefully too, the venue will make an area available where our arts and craft people can display and sell their wares to ensure the majority of visitors do not leave the island with foreign made trinkets.
And frankly, credit where due, for it to be taking place in the slower summer months especially May, is a coup and kudos to all who have made it possible.
Top Gear’s demographics are also interesting: 40 percent of the TV audience is female (often the decision makers in holiday choice), with the remainder, males 18-35 year olds passionate about cars and driving, with dads and lads who like cars and their children aged 7-11.
Our current policymakers have been very vocal concerning trying to attract a much younger average visitor to Barbados, and again this may prove critical in that objective, especially during the traditionally leaner off-season periods.
As with other Top Gear Festivals, I expect a website and Facebook page will be up-and-running shortly, showing accommodation and ticket purchasing options with detailed information about the event.