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According to media reports on the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, $87.7 million has been allocated to the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) for the fiscal year 2017/2018 and $8.6 million to the Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA).
At first, certainly in the case of the BMTI, these seem like very large amounts of money. But when you put it in absolute perspective, it really only equates to average spend per long stay visitor of around $154 and that takes absolutely no account for the net financial contribution of the cruise passenger and crew contribution.
For some reason, the Barbados Statistical Service no longer posts arrival figures and other critical tourism information on their website. So the industry is largely left to speculate about the hard facts and figures. Second-guessing is not helpful.
Two-thousand and sixteen is a classic case at hand; if you stroll through our various media sources, quoting prominent political figures, long stay arrivals for last year are stated at anything from 610 000 up to 631 520.
Also missing from the picture to show if these figures injected by Government are reasonable and sufficient in relation to the amount of taxes, net value added tax (VAT) earnings and foreign exchange generated.
The taxpayers’ contribution also does not take into account the enormous amount of money (tens of millions of dollars) ploughed into the promotion and marketing of both the individual product and destination by the private sector, this despite the outstanding and yet unpaid VAT refunds.
Often forgotten, too, is the massive support given by the Tourism Development Corporation (TDC) through corporate Barbados, as in the case of our re-DISCOVER initiative, making the critical difference whether the promotion is ongoing and remains viable at all. To the TDC’s further credit, their audited accounts are on the website for all to see at the end of each financial year.
The other question that has to be asked – and I think sufficiently explained – is exactly how the budget of the BTMI and BTPA is broken down and what it is spent on. What proportion is devoted to administration, salaries and operating expenses, for instance?
During the short time I served on the board of the former Barbados Tourism Authority, I recall seeing some audited accounts, but these should be a matter of public record, accessible on a website, so that every industry partner and the taxpayer can scrutinise them.
Of course, there are areas of specific non-disclosure like the exact amounts “given” in route support to named individual airlines, but I am sure there could be some blanket figure, clearly indentifying these sensitive and sometimes controversial payments.
What has any Government to fear with this information being more widely available if it helps strengthen the overall contribution to the national economy and helps makes the tourism sector stronger and more viable?
As we rapidly approach the end of the peak winter season, every person, whether in the private or public sector, worth his or her salt will be focusing on just how and what we can collectively do to maintain arrival numbers during the long eight summer months.
Perhaps there has never been a more important time than now, since Independence, when we need a flourishing tourism industry.