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EDITORIAL: Winter tourist season critical for economy

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Winter tourist season critical for economy

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This week signals the start of Tourism Week and once again the winter season is reportedly shaping up to be a good one, according to some of the better known properties on the island.
A good winter season is critical to the fortunes of our economy and although there has been some fall-off in arrivals from our major markets, it is in our best interest to continue to aggressively market our destination in spite of the depressed state of our economy.
Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy, in his message to mark Tourism Week 2013, said tourism remained the main driver of the economy, with people employed in the transportation, attraction, accommodation and the amenities sub-sectors.
The theme this year is Achieving Success Through Service Excellence. Though we understand the need for this theme, we believe that by now this would have infused every aspect of the tourism industry and all other aspects of our economy.
Nonetheless, Minister Sealy observed that the cruise tourism niche has been performing very well and that arrivals had increased by 43 864 people between January and September this year and the number of vessels coming to Barbados by 14.
Though these are impressive achievements, the September Central Bank review of the economy stated that tourism value-added was estimated to have declined by 2.1 per cent, with long-stay arrivals down 6.2 per cent, partly offset by an approximate increase of two per cent in the average length of stay.
The review also noted there were declines in visitor numbers from all major source markets – the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and the Caribbean. However, cruise passenger arrivals were up 12.3 per cent to the end of September.
So while there is some increase in cruise visitors, there has been significant decline in the number of rooms with the closure of Almond Beach Village, which continues to have negative effect on arrivals from Britain.
There has also been no movement on the vexed question of the Air Passenger Duty (APD) imposed by the British government and which has affected air travel to Barbados and has reportedly caused some damage to inward investment and job creation in Britain.
The APD, which applies to all passengers flying from a British airport, is to be increased next April, so there is a strong likelihood there could be a further blow to arrivals from Britain, our major tourism market.
In this situation, it behoves all of us to do our best to make Barbados attractive to visitors to get them to increase their spending. It means therefore that we must increase and enhance our attractions, particularly our entertainment component.
We are therefore saddened to learn that St Lawrence Gap, our major tourist attraction, is in an almost run-down state. It is a sad reflection on all of us.