TOURISM MATTERS: Positive spin on a reduced pound sterling
A quoted eight per cent increase in long stay visitors from the United Kingdom over the same period last year is very encouraging news. As often highlighted, it’s not just about the numbers, but the fact that the average British visitor stays longer and spends more, which is an equally important factor.
But with good news, it is often accompanied by bad and in this case the fall of the value of the pound sterling against the United States dollar, resulting in Barbados again being perceived as a higher cost destination.
What could be the saving grace is the four-year low price of oil and the effects that may have when it filters through to energy prices, including electricity, water, distribution and airfares.
Quite how long Government will take to positively respond to the dramatic fall will send a very important message to the industry.
For any obviously cash-strapped administration it’s a two-edged sword. Lower fuel prices means less value added tax collection, but if we are able to maintain a prolonged recovery in arrival numbers, then this should be largely mitigated.
The 24 restaurants currently participating in the re-DISCOVER dine-around programme will soon have to make the decision whether to continue the initiative through the winter.
There is no doubt in my mind that our visitors and locals alike are increasingly looking for value for money. No one can also reasonably question that it has galvanised more people to eat out.
The promotion can also play a substantial role in ensuring better table utilisation by encouraging early evening bookings and being able to resell that table two or three times during the course of the night.
It also helps reinforce our strength as a destination by offering so many affordable dining options. While other islands can offer a number of gastronomic experiences, not a single other one in the region has a comparable campaign. It sets us apart and provides a unique marketing advantage.
The next step is to add value to the initiative by smart-partnering with other goods and services by offering substantial discounts on purchases that appeal to both the local and visitor market.
We tend to overlook our local success stories. For instance, one of our sponsors operates 66 retail stores across at least eight other Caribbean islands. There is clearly room for synergy here and they can play a vital role in helping us getting greater awareness across the region.
Another sponsor is the “largest independent marketing company of petroleum products in the Caribbean basin” with its group headquarters based here.
If we are going to rebuild the Caribbean visitor market in the foreseeable future we have to jointly find creative ways to capitalise on these relationships, so it becomes a win-win situation for all involved.
Now that the two new tourism boards are in place, there are great expectations and let us hope this is the start to a sustained recovery of the industry.