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TOURISM MATTERS: Hurting from effects of APD

Adrian Loveridge

TOURISM MATTERS: Hurting from effects of APD

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I wonder if any of the Caribbean national or regional tourism organizations have sat down and attempted to calculate the losses directly caused by the increase in the British air-passenger duty (APD).
Clearly the detrimental economic consequences have affected most tourism-dependent Caribbean countries, including Barbados.
It seems like only yesterday that we were heralding a record 12 flights a week into Grantley Adams International Airport, yet a few days ago British Airways (BA) announced that they are going to downsize the service from Gatwick to just seven, or one per day – a loss of over 4 800 seats per month or a mind-boggling 59 000 annually.
According to BA’s CEO Keith Williams, it’s not just Britain to blame. At the recent Caribbean Tourism Organisation CTO conference in St Maarten, he said “the hardship is not only the doing of the [British] government and that Caribbean governments have contributed to the fall-off in passengers to the region by introducing further taxes of their own”.
Virgin Atlantic will pick up some of the slack, including a 14 per cent increase in premium economy seats, but at a cost of at least £1 000 return, this will not substantially help our lower end tourism partners.
It’s still a devastating blow, especially as BA has just launched the largest advertising campaign estimated to cost £20 million (over BDS$61 million) since its “star-studded 21st century air travel” push in 2000.
Particularly interesting was BA’s use of social media to disseminate the message by launching its spectacular 90-second commercial on FaceBook and YouTube first and prior to more traditional mediums like paid television and newspaper “ads”.
You cannot escape the production cost of the “ad”, so once made, it’s only logical to expose it to the largest possible audience.
As a destination, we continue to talk about the increased use of social media, but frankly I have yet to see it happen in an organized and coordinated way.
Type in “Barbados” into the search portal of YouTube and of the first 50 listed videos, only two have been produced and posted by the national marketing body. One is the Portuguese version of the BTA website and the second promoting the upcoming Food & Wine And Rum festival.
Others may be lurking there, but if you do not tell potential visitors how and where to find them, the opportunity is lost.
Those first 50 Barbados listings also include videos made by tour operator Kuoni, featuring many of the hotels that are in their programme.
A traveller considering a destination for the first time would want to throughly research all accommodation options and choose the one that best meets their expectations.
Beautifully produced, they clearly portray the properties in an attractive way and create reasons why you would want to book.
It’s also a great way to engage your customers, whether existing or new.
Even with our tiny promotional budget we have managed to post a short film on YouTube, TripAdvisor and our own website, which since this July has recorded over 3 000  views.     
We can already directly correlate an increase in bookings as a result, with the added bonus that first-time guests watching these images are less likely to be met by any possible unrealistic expectations.