TOURISM MATTERS: Explore use of local products
I wonder if it’s not time to pause, get all the partners that make tourism work together and analyze, perhaps for the first time, exactly what our visitors want and reasonably expect.
What prompted these thoughts was trying to order yogurts for our breakfast buffet recently from a local supplier. The only one of three flavours available at the time was strawberry cheesecake.
Of course the company may only be thinking about a domestic market, but if the near 600 000 long-stay visitors annually play any part in its marketing and manufacturing plan, then something is fundamentally wrong.
Despite all the talk, Barbados has very limited agricultural production but the same cannot be said about some of our neighbouring islands.
If a survey was taken from even a small sample of our average visitors, I have no doubt they would expect to be tempted by flavours like mango, passion fruit, soursop, papaya, carambola, golden apple, ortanique, sorrel, and dare I mention Barbadian cherry.
For sure, the majority of holidaymakers do not travel thousands of miles to sample products that are found on everyday supermarket shelves at home.
Maybe we do not have the agriculture volume to meet possible demand but territories a short distance away certainly do.
Anyone visiting Dominica, for instance, at certain times, when seemingly millions of mangos are simply falling off the trees. Are “we” really incapable of transforming these into puree for use in various products?
On occasions we are forced to purchase canned mangos and guess where they are produced – Thailand! A distance of 8 815 nautical miles. Think about the “carbon footprint” of that for a minute.
Yet other countries appear to see enormous opportunities in offering local products. Take one of the world’s largest rum producers, Bacardi, as an example: annual sales of more than US$6 billion, 200 million bottles sold in nearly 100 countries.
In 2010 they launched a new flavour, promoted globally, called Torched Cherry – and surprise, surprise, one of the main ingredients is the Barbados cherry.
Another case in point: fruit juices. You really need to study the packaging to see exactly how much actual fruit is in the container.
Often 15 per cent or less.
A notable exception are orange and grapefruit which is produced within the region by the subsidiary of a local firm.
So to ensure our guests are served the highest quality product possible, comparable with what they take for granted at home, we are forced to bring in “real” juices from South Africa, with all the ludicrous import duties that attracts.
Some hotels and other tourism entities take the easy option by using “fruit beverage” crystals and to my absolute amazement, have personally even been served these at the Governor General’s residence and Ilaro Court.
I am sure that this does not enhance our reputation, especially when we are so often portrayed as a quality upmarket destination.
Those engaged in manufacturing will probably offer all sorts of reasons why “we” cannot make these things happen or suggest there is not a sufficient market volume, but let us at least explore the potential.