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TOURISM MATTERS: Too early to give ‘good news’


Adrian Loveridge

TOURISM MATTERS: Too early  to give ‘good news’

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Currently before Parliament are the Barbados Tourism Product Authority and Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, bills. Not surprisingly, considering the protracted time it has taken getting these long promised changes in legislation to this stage, many industry partners may have forgotten about them.
Given the infrequent holding of Parliament, the late starts, early finishes, extended lunch periods and volume of non-constitutional subjects discussed, whether it is now realistic to have the required readings of these bills in both houses and passed into law by the stated April 2, 2014 date seems ambitious.
The Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA), as we have known it will cease to exist and be replaced by the two new entities. What does this mean in reality? Will some current employees be severed and if so how many? Government’s stated moratorium, “no new hiring”, will surely limit staffing the new statutory corporations. So what is the plan?
Reading through the documentation contained on Parliament’s website, it would also appear that all the substantial debt of the present BTA will be transferred to one or both new companies.
How will this affect budgets and spending? Are there now to be two boards with two chairmen, two deputy chairmen, two presidents/chief executive officers, two luxury SUV vehicles, multiple first-class travel allowances, two administration offices and so on, and what will become of the current “consultants” employed by the BTA after the transition?
Will either or both organisations be mandated to operate on performance-based criteria and obliged to publish their annual audited accounts on a timely basis. So many unanswered questions! Again, we have heard quoted in the media that this winter has so far been an “exceptional” one. Hopefully these latest predictions will transpire as the majority of others made over the last year have proven to be wishful thinking.
February is traditionally one of the most important months of the year, especially in terms of occupancy, length of stay and higher room rate revenue.
In February 2013 we recorded our second lowest number of long stay visitor arrivals during the last decade. A total of 48 870 people which represented a decline of 9.6 per cent, when compared with the same month in 2012. Therefore, any increase in February 2014 of anything less than 5 186 long stay visitors will represent another dismal performance.
When you factor the lower numbers in December 2013 and slightly higher ones in January 2014, there is still an overall accumulated deficit of almost 4 800 people to make up for in the first two months of this peak season.
We have the advantage of a late third week April Easter this year, but even with this there is another massive 6 605 additional stay-over visitors needed in the last two months of the winter, on top of the near 4 800 mentioned above to achieve last year’s figures.
With the closure of Sandals Barbados on April 1 and up to 280 rooms out of use, compounded by reduced airlift, it becomes close to unattainable in recouping that possible 11 000 visitor shortfall. So I really caution our policymakers against releasing any “good news” prematurely, before there is any clear evidence of recovery.
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