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Bad weather boosts tourism

Ricky Jordan

Bad weather  boosts tourism

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NORTH AMERICA’S big freeze and Rihanna are among the chief reasons seen by a veteran hotelier for the flood of visitors currently in Barbados. Alvin Jemmott, general manager of Divi Southwinds, said while he had not analysed the current bumper tourist season in a scientific way, there were a few clear contributory factors.
“One, it is extremely cold in all of our major source markets. We’re having the worst winter in Canada, southeastern United States and the United Kingdom,” he told the SUNDAY?SUN.
“In the case of the UK, I think (Britons) may very well have accepted the fact that the airline passenger duty is in place. Once taxes go into place it takes a little while and then they become normal. People from the UK might have adjusted to that,” he said.
Jemmott added that recently there had also been bad weather here in the Caribbean, namely in St Lucia, Dominica and St Vincent where high rainfall caused flooding and loss of life in late December.
He said while several travellers would already have booked those destinations, some might have been diverted to Barbados as a result of disruption in the tourism plant in those territories.
He added, too, that Barbados continued to benefit by having music superstar Rihanna being synonymous with this country.
“I cannot discount the use of Rihanna as our tourism face,” he said of her marketing alliance with the Barbados Tourism Authority.
“The girl just continues to top the charts and travellers identify with that,” he added.
Regarding projections beyond the winter season, Jemmott, whose hotel is currently running at 90 per cent occupancy, said arrivals later in the year would depend on what was happening in the source markets themselves.
“Right now I’m seeing a lot of confidence in the United States economy but they are heading into midterm elections, so what happens on the political front will determine the consumer confidence. I don’t think that the UK is out of its economic woes but I know that when it is this bitterly cold and this wet that the frustration kicks in and people want to get out,” he said.
Jemmott, who has been in the industry for nearly three decades, added that if his marketing colleagues were consumed with what was happening now in the local economy, then their heads were in the wrong place.
“Three weeks ago, I got on an aeroplane to Philadelphia in the middle of the cold because I wanted to get my message out for the spring and the summer. I am a Barbadian, I live here and we know the Government’s situation. When any Government is faced with economic woes, it is very difficult to ask it to spend more. Every time you ask Government to spend more, you are inadvertently asking it to tax us more because Government’s only source of revenue is taxes,” Jemmott said in response to the view that Government might not be spending enough on marketing.
Over the Christmas period, hotels ranging from the Crane Resort in the southeast to Sandpiper Inn on the West Coast were also upbeat about the winter season, as their bookings topped the 80 per cent mark; while the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) felt no great comfort should be taken in this.
“Do not let us be fooled that a good winter can sustain this economy for an entire year,” BHTA former president Patricia Affonso-Dass told the association’s final quarterly meeting.
Meanwhile, Sandy Lane’s general manager, Randall Wilkie, is seeing nothing special about the high numbers at this time.
“Every year we’re busy. Sandy Lane is in the high 80s [in terms of occupancy] and we will be in the high 80s throughout February. It’s always in the 80s in February as long as I’ve been involved in tourism, which is for 36 years. February has always been the busiest month of the year traditionally,” he told the SUNDAY?SUN.