Are we sending the right message?
While our small hotel is currently on the market, with the objective of reopening for the upcoming winter season, I have been looking back 25 years to when we purchased a then derelict Arawak Inn, and trying to evaluate exactly how much the investment climate has changed.
Does it need to be revised, to help take our tourism industry out of the current malaise?
Attempting to look through the eyes of a new investor, it is clear to see that many of the institutions which have been empowered to entice such interest are dismally failing at their stated mandate.
At least to a level that modern day investors reasonably expect.
Sadly, it’s almost pitiful.
Initially, without knowing all the possible agencies involved, the natural first source of decision making facts, would be the national Ministry of Tourism (MOT) website, where the very latest statistics could be sourced.
We can all understand, at this time, that Government is under extreme fiscal pressure. But does this excuse their existing employees or managers, who have yet to suffer any detrimental effects of what is referred to as the “global recession”, not updating existing posted data in a timely manner?
Why, for instance, should the last visitor arrival figures show August 2012?
Much other “information” is clearly out of date, and with an industry clearly dynamic, often dependent on its very success, by being able to access critical and current market information, are “we” sending the right message?
Quite rightly, the subject of an ageing and tired hotel plant has been repeatedly mentioned by our policymakers, but does the responsibility solely rest with the private sector to ensure that every aspect of our tourism product is projected in the best possible way?
Frankly, if you want to view something old and uninspired, then look at the MOT site. It does not even have a Facebook component to generate interest and feedback. When comparing some of the other MOT sites around the world, including countries which are far less tourism dependent than Barbados, they are streets ahead of us in presentation and content.
These include, Panama, Oman, Lebanon, Belize, Malaysia, Uganda, Trinidad and Tobago, Cameroon and even the Azerbaijan Republic.
Also missing are high quality visual images, which play a fundamentally critical role in destination and investment choice, especially in an ever increasingly electronic world.
They make the difference, and I cannot think of a single advertising executive, still in business, who would argue that point.
So, with all the resources, both financial and physical, which includes two Ministers of Government in this sector, why after so many years, can those responsible not develop a state-of-the art investor-friendly information portal?
If after several decades in the tourism business, “we” have not yet fostered the expertise from within, then why not put it out to the very many talented young people who can view and craft the project through a completely fresh viewpoint.
Even offering a competition prize of $50 000 or $100 000, while seemingly appearing large amounts of money, in reality, is almost insignificant in the scheme of things, with an industry generating over $2 billion annually.