Tourism Matters: Rational reasons for closures

The Sunday Sun article went on to state that while the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) usually spends between $100 000 and $200 000 promoting Crop Over around the world, this year it spent a whopping $630 000.

Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy said “it is unprecedented. We have never seen those levels put into marketing Crop Over”.

The minister detailed the markets where these monies were spent: $278 000 in the United States, $122 000 in Canada, $100 000 in Great Britain and $80 000 in South America.

Noticeably absent was the Caribbean, which has been our third largest source of long-stay visitors, but perhaps this was covered under a separate budget.

Time, of course, will tell if what could have been a six-fold spend in promotional monies has been cost-effective and produced a proportional increase in visitor arrivals.

If so, add this to the quoted 4 000 overseas visitors that the minister disclosed were travelling to Barbados especially for the Rihanna concert. Arrival figures for the latter part of July and early August should show a marked increase on last year.

Hopefully this has had a trickle-down benefit for all the ancillary services, hotel suppliers and supportive industries.

I must commend Mr Sealy for his candour and taking the time to explain what agencies under his stewardship are doing, but one comment really surprised me.

“I frankly think it is an abomination – the hotels that shut down during Crop Over, literally to refurbish.”

When I read this comment, I racked my brain to think of any major hotel that is currently closed for refurbishment and could not think of a single property.

As this is the second public sector policymaker to have recently condemned our accommodation providers’ closing during the softer summer months for renovations, perhaps it’s time to look at the viability and sustainability of our current hotel model.

However, unpleasant it is to be reinforced for any Government, we have lost over 30 hotels during the last 16 years. At least another ten are currently up for sale, including some of our largest properties.

Those struggling to stay in business are faced with almost weekly critical fiscal challenges. Battling constantly escalating operational costs while at the same time being under enormous pressure to drive room rates lower, if they hope to compete with the economical global reality.

Other sectors are experiencing similar pressures, of course, but tourism is supposed to be our business.

For smaller properties like ours, could we even contemplate re-opening to achieve, if we were lucky, a 25 per cent room occupancy during a week where Government has imposed two bank holidays with all the additional staff costs that implies?

It might be a little easier if we didn’t have to wait over a year for a VAT refund and this is one of the many areas that successive administrations have dismally failed to address.

I would make one impassioned appeal: before those in privileged public positions utter their inflammatory observations, just stop and think if there could be rational and compelling reasons behind making business decisions that just might help stave off insolvency.

 

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