EDITORIAL: High hopes for bountiful winter season
At a time when the country has been constantly receiving an avalanche of negative news, it is refreshing to hear that there is something positive ahead, especially with one of the principal drivers of the economy. Based on comments from some of our leading hoteliers, prospects are looking good for the forthcoming winter season.
That the period October to December is already showing signs of growth over the last two years is welcoming not just for industry players, but the entire country. The earning of vital foreign exchange and the creation of much-needed jobs all rest on the success of this critical period.
Of course, given the very tenuous nature of tourism, there could be an overnight change from positive to negative. While some things are within our control as we look to benefit from an upsurge in arrivals, we are at the mercy of other developments.
So we must watch and hope that the current Ebola outbreak affecting some West African nations is not only contained, but that those countries are rid soon of the disease. The hysteria, fear and uncertainty can create problems, even though we are far away from the centre of concern. It is clear that many people in our main source markets are on edge given the fear of travelling if the disease is not contained.
The outbreak of chikungunya and its impact on so many people across the island further highlight the fact that we cannot leave anything to chance. We would not want this mosquito-borne disease to also be a problem for visitors to our shores. This entire situation tells us that we must intensify our level of preparedness to deal with natural and man-made issues in any way we can to help safeguard the tourism industry.
While bookings are looking strong, part of the welcome must be to guarantee the safety and security of those coming to our shores and deliver supreme service. This means that the way we deal with garbage disposal and collection must be stepped up, that the growing vagrant problem around Bridgetown be dealt with, there be less harassment of, and crime against, visitors and, most importantly, that there is top-rate service.
Hopefully, the addition of new airline seats out of North America along with those out of Europe, particularly Britain, along with the full operation of Sandals Barbados, should all redound to the industry’s benefit. What will be critical is for us to maximise the benefits from any increase in arrivals, both by air and sea.
Barbados must strive to maintain its unique difference as a destination not only by attracting repeat visitors, but also by having them encourage others to experience what we have to offer.
This can lead to a boost in arrivals for the traditionally sluggish summer season. The country needs to experience substantial growth during that period.