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TOURISM MATTERS: Getting the most out of Food, Wine and Rum

Adrian Loveridge

TOURISM MATTERS: Getting the most out of Food, Wine and Rum

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This year will mark the hosting of the fifth annual Barbados Food Wine and Rum Festival and I firmly believe that this event has enormous further potential, especially as it takes place during November which is traditionally one of our quietest months.
While I understand the challenging logistics of spreading the invited celebrity events over a longer period, there are many additional initiatives that the private sector tourism partners can put into place, which could prolong the benefits.
First, I think the entire 30 days could be promoted as a gastronomic month with our restaurants, at all levels, offering more affordable eating options.
Perhaps the more innovative car rental companies could smart partner with a selection of the eateries to provide an islandwide lunch passport, even including our attractions at a reduced entrance fee.
November provides every component to ensure the concept has the highest possibility of success. From the United Kingdom, there is excess seat capacity on the legacy carriers Virgin and British Airways, plus scheduled charter seats from Manchester with Thomas Cook offering lead-in return fares from £322.  
Climate is also on our side from certain areas of the United States and Canada. Our myriad of available accommodation choices also provides an option to appeal to almost every level of traveller, before high season winter lodging prices kick in. And to spread the event over a prolonged period presents us as a destination with an even greater opportunity for extensive media coverage.
So what are the limits? Latin America’s biggest gastronomy festival, Mistura, which takes place next month in Lima, Peru, is expected to attract between 25 000 and 40 000 foreign visitors and that event is only two years older than ours.
Clearly, we have to do something. November 2013 recorded the lowest long stay visitor arrivals for that month during the last 12 consecutive years, with 2012 coming a close second. In fact the worse figures since the tragic events of 911. We need to drive an additional average of 170 visitors per day over the month to get back to the highs of the previous decade.
During the last few weeks I have been trying to better explain the principle of revenue control, which was introduced to me during my association with the Canadian airline, Wardair, nearly 40 years ago.
Nowadays when you board a plane, or check into a hotel, you instinctively are aware that even people occupying what look like identical seats or rooms are paying varying rates. In reality, it is no different in most businesses whether tourism or otherwise.
We talk about the merits of discounting prices, but are we really looking at it in a holistic way?
Supermarkets use loss-leaders to entice you into their premises. Clearly the hospitality sector is not isolated from this common practice. If managed or controlled, then it can play a critical role in ensuring fiscal viability and growing the enterprise.
Of course it is not desirable to have all your customers pay a low price and that’s where effective management is essential. Those first ten customers, as an example, can pay a large chunk of the standing costs.
Just as for an aircraft or hotel, the profit is not generated by the initial 50 per cent occupancy.