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Lessons to be learnt from Antigua


Adrian Loveridge

Lessons to be learnt from Antigua

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Hotelier, Rob Barrett, the  CEO and operator of three hotels on Antigua, St James Club, Galley Bay and Verandah Resort and Spa,  recently announced some very encouraging news.
“The first quarter of 2013, January through March, has been the best quarter in terms of financial results  I have experienced since coming to Antigua over 20 years ago, despite lingering and significant global economic challenges in both North America and the United Kingdom,” Barrett said.
He added: “I believe some of the recent strength is the result of positive changes happening on island which affect visitors’ perceptions from their welcome with improved customs and immigration processing to the more efficient taxi operations.  These together provide  an overall better arrival experience  for visitors.”
Barrett also pointed out “more positive government cooperation  as the tourism ministry seems more proactive in so many facets that bring heightened awareness to our island and people”.
According to the hotelier: “We support the ministry’s efforts to deliver a new, more user friendly website and to work more closely with the private sector” and “Antigua’s government a nd Ministry of Tourism seems more progressive and accessible”.
Are there any lessons that we  as a destination can learn from this?  It would appear so. Antigua recorded an increase of 2.3 per cent in long  stay visitors last year, compared  with our decline of 5.5 per cent.
A more than seven  per cent differential.
For 2013, Mr Barrett’s three hotels are “cautiously optimistic” that they will “see a five to seven per cent increase in summer business, if all  of us continue on this path”.
Let us hope that this success can spread to the former Almond St James hotel, now renamed The Club, also part of Elite Islands group that encompasses the three hotels  in Antigua.
From a guest perspective, certainly if comments made by those posting reviews on TripAdvisor, they appear to have got the product right, with one of ther hotels scoring a higher rating of customer satisfaction than the Sandals property on that island.
Several industry observers have suggested that I devote this week’s column to the new promotional initiative, branded Barbados Island Inclusive, which was partially unveiled in a media conference on April 20.  I would rather not comment in detail, because frankly, I am still a little puzzled, so at this stage, will simply ask some questions:
First, why have the media  meeting without divulging full details of the programme?
Large sectors of the industry  are left guessing whether participation is limited to Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association members, or open to all tax paying tourism operators.
The reported $11 million cost represents a staggering 11 per cent  of the total budget allocated to the Barbados Tourism Authority for  the current fiscal year.
It’s stated objective is to attract  15 000 additional visitors who are predicted to spend $30 million.
After the promotional expenses, that’s a projected return of just  US$90 per day per person, based  on an average stay of seven nights.
So what is the rationale of speculating such a large amount,  to attract less than 2.75 per cent of total long stay visitors recorded in 2012, who may outlay 1.5 per cent of the average yearly earnings from the entire tourism sector?
Also what is stopping regular  repeat visitors taking advantage of this offer and therefore further reducing anticipated revenue?
Hopefully, everything will  become clearer and more transparent, as time goes by.

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