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TOURISM MATTERS: Temporary closures necessary

Adrian Loveridge

TOURISM MATTERS: Temporary closures necessary

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I PREFER?TO?STAY as far removed from personalities as possible because all too often it seems the target is the messenger rather than the message.
However, comments recently carried in one of the newspapers surprised me so much, especially when you consider the source, I felt obligated to respond.
He said that the time for winter-based businesses are over, and in order to be successful in the tourism industry, businesses cannot afford to close their doors at any time of the year.
Coming from a casual industry observer, I would normally simply ignore it along with the steady stream of misinformation that seems to find its way into the media almost on a daily basis. I don’t necessarily totally blame the individual writers for what are often poorly researched observations and conclusions.
It is frequently the fault of many of us in the industry who do not explain the everyday realities and working of tourism well enough. But in this case the comments were made by a seasoned tourism professional having attended a hotel school and held a number of senior positions within the hotel sector, including director of operations.
In an ideal world, every hotel on Barbados would be open 365 days of the year and operate to the maximum room capacity of each property.
Sadly, our registered hotels barely attain an average annual occupy of 50 per cent, so even if they achieve 80, 90 or an almost impossible 100 per cent during the critical four winter months, common sense dictates that some barely tick over during the remaining eight long shoulder season months.
For as long as I can remember during my 42 years of either bringing overseas groups to Barbados or operating a hotel here, many properties have traditionally chosen to close for periods within the summer for a number of reasons.
It would be absolute folly to think that you could remain open and accommodate guests while undertaking some type of major refurbishing, for instance.
The harsh salt-drenched atmosphere takes an incredible toll on ocean-front properties, bringing with it all the cost-related expenditure. As a simple example, we needed to regrout and entirely resurface our swimming pool decking last year. To remove the old surround took a week alone.
Then repairs were made, followed by a further curing period of four weeks before the new covering could be applied.   In ideal dry weather conditions that could have been achieved in less than another week, but we all know record rainfall levels were reached in 2010. Overall, this single project took eight weeks to complete.
This was only one necessary renovation item and it would be easy to quote another dozen areas of the hotel where major essential work cannot be undertaken while guests are in residence.
In the same article another deeply disturbing pronouncement was made: “We have to get out of this notion that the Government is here to prop up every business.”
I absolutely and totally agree, but isn’t it a terrible shame that Government did not apply this doctrine to Hotels and Resorts Ltd over the last decade?
Perhaps then, the quoted $247 million of losses and subsidies could have been better spent to enhance our entire tourism industry.