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TOURISM MATTERS: Refocus efforts on British market

Adrian Loveridge

TOURISM MATTERS: Refocus efforts on British market

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Analyzing the first nine months of 2013 in terms of long-stay visitor arrivals confirms that while all major markets experienced substantial declines, the most resilient and therefore least impacted was the United Kingdom with a 2.9 per cent fall, when compared with the same period in 2012.
When so many discussions have taken place regarding the negative effects of the dreaded APD (air passenger duty), some may find this surprising. But on the other hand, to maintain balance and fairness, is credit due to the BTA staff in Britain and the private sector tourism sector on Barbados for stepping up to the plate, despite all the fiscal challenges, to minimize the overall decline in arrivals?
It is often vaunted that the typical British visitor stays longer and spends more money, and perhaps, these attributes are where we should be spending more of the precious available marketing funds to cultivate at this time.
Politically, we know that the volume of numbers is often all-important, but should “we” currently be focusing on the bottom line, in terms of the overall value contribution our visitors are making?
With the recent appointment of a new British High Commissioner to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, is it time to hopefully sit down with her (Mrs Victoria Glynis Dean) and explore ways that we can influence and entice additional UK residents to our shores. Not just from a holidaymaker’s point of view, but increased trade delegations, sporting and common interest groups and the like.
While the very last thing we want to add to is the further reduction in airlift capacity to and from Gatwick and Manchester with existing carriers Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, I still believe there is further scope for limited target charters from airports like Belfast, where a zero rate of APD applies to long-haul routes. Also, cruise and stay programmes where extra numbers can be generated from areas like Glasgow, Edinburgh and London’s third airport Stansted.
Having also recently returned from a short break in the Florida Keys after eight days in England, I believe we have to make a much better job of emphasizing our value-for-money. Very few, if any resorts in Barbados, that I am aware of, impose a mandatory 18 per cent service charge, a resort charge of US$20 per day, in addition to the customary sales tax (VAT) of between 7.5 and 12.5 per cent. Yet the Brits are flocking in their increased numbers to the United States and especially to Florida.
Certainly, in my personal experience, the prices of our tourism offering in Barbados compare very favourably with that American state and without doubt the culinary experiences offered here are largely of a much higher and more delectable standard.
Yes, APD also applies for flights to Florida from the UK, but the differential is only £22 (BDS$69) on return economy fares, which spread over a two-week holiday, which would hardly determine final destination choice.
Some months ago, the issuance of an APD discount voucher to this market was announced, but judging by recent airline seat sales offering flights during the peak winter months of January, February and March of 2014, I somehow think our limited financial resources can be better spent.