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It’s going to be such a Brilliant Barbados in tourism this year that Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) officials were apparently temporarily blinded by the light of all that sunshine.
The new BTMI held its first industry review last week, at which they introduced their new
off-season promotional campaign, which they have called Brilliant Barbados, but anomalies in the presentation of the numbers marred the event.
New chief executive officer William “Billy” Griffith, giving his first review of the industry since taking up office four months ago, stated last Tuesday at the Island Inn Hotel that “our long stay arrivals are up 2.2 per cent over 2013.”
The BTMI, in a press release issued after the event, put the total long stay arrivals for 2014 at 519 638 visitors, compared to the previous year. So if you subtract two per cent you would get the total number of long stayers for 2013. That works out to 508 520.
However, the Central Bank of Barbados put the long stay arrivals figure for 2014 at 491 687, which it said represented a projected increase of 1.2 per cent over 2013, for which it gave a figure of 485 664. A two per cent increase would have put the Central Bank’s figure at 495 377, which is still some 24 000 lower than the BTMI’s 519 000.
Which one is correct? Are we allowed to take our pick? Meanwhile, Griffith noted that while the country welcomed more cruise ships than the year before, “cruise passenger arrivals dipped by two per cent...to 557 898 arrivals” in 2014.
This seems to be in line with what the Central Bank reported in January, when it showed 2013’s cruise ship arrivals at 570 253. So a two per cent drop on that number would give you 558 867, which is within a thousand of the number reported by the BTMI.
Like the long stay sector, Griffith said, cruise was on the rebound: “Projections for 2015 paint a vivid picture of growth and new business for cruise tourism. Overall arrivals are projected to increase by over five to six per cent to produce close to 750 000 arrivals.”
This was reinforced in the BTMI’s press release, which said the cruise side of tourism was “expected to be buoyant with a five to six per cent increase expected to push cruise arrivals over
the 750 000 market by the end of 2015”.
Did the BTMI just say three quarters of a million cruise ship passengers in 2015? A five per cent increase of 558 000 cruise passenger arrivals would be around 586 000.
However, 750 000 cruise ship passenger arrivals would represent a 34 per cent increase in cruise ship arrivals.
When I brought this to the attention of the BTMI, a statement was issued, which said: “The figures quoted for cruise arrivals for 2014 were quoted from the official numbers provided by the Barbados Statistical Service. The projections for 2015 were provided based on the Barbados Port Inc.’s figures as the only agency providing cruise projections.
The figures provided by the port included home porting, which the BSS does not generally count in their estimates of cruise passengers.
“The projection of five per cent to six per cent continues to be valid based on the port’s list of confirmed booked cruise calls. However, for consistency, this projection should have been applied to the BSS numbers. The projection for growth in cruise passengers is therefore 585 793 cruise passenger arrivals.”
Notice that the BTMI did not renege on the 750 000 number, but defended it. Seven hundred and fifty thousand minus 585 793 equals around 164 000. This must be the number expected from home porting.
Before home porting became a part of the tourism lingo, the people left out of the BSS’ calculations of cruise passenger arrivals were comprised of a small number which arrived at the Bridgetown Port and went straight to the airport the same day to catch a flight. They were therefore not even day trippers like the regular cruise passengers.
It also included the crews on board the vessels, who make up something like a quarter of the number of people on a cruise ship. They are not supposed to be ever counted in any arrivals’ tally, I was told some years ago. Otherwise, if a ship had a thousand crew and came here ten times during a season you would be adding 10 000 people to yourarrivals number.
I would like to know if these categories of arrivals are still being separated out of the cruise ship arrivals, be they regular cruise passengers or home porters. And whatever their status in terms of the statistics, why it was not made clear by the BTMI at the press conference.
This was a surprising, unforced error on the part of the new BTMI and one which they will repeat to their detriment, if they choose to do so.