TONI THORNE: Tourism still our business
THIS UPCOMING TUESDAY is the live Central Bank of Barbados’ Economic Review of 2015.
I shall be hosting a social media element of this presentation with a group of young people. As a result, I was sent the news release for the event. In preparation, I logged on to the central bank’s website to critically assess the results for 2015. Luckily, my brain still remembered most of what I had been taught whilst pursuing my degree in economics and I hopefully won’t “mek muhself shame” on social media.
Our economy has grown by 0.5 per cent. A growth of 0.5 is relatively marginal. However, some may say some growth is better than no growth. It is certainly better than the negative four per cent growth at 2009 which we experienced at the height of our economic crisis.
Construction is down by about three per cent. This is not good for this sector as construction is a major economic and employment driver. Many have said the start-up of delayed high-profile projects, such as the upcoming Hyatt, could have mitigated this decline in activity. I am curious to know the various reasons for these delays.
Statistics show that the retail sector has seen little growth due to a lack of impetus from foreign exchange sectors.
The average unemployment rate for 2015 was 11.8 per cent compared to 12.3 per cent in 2014. Therefore, unemployment has fallen by 0.5 per cent. This mirrors the overall economic growth in Barbados. This is not very significant since this is a twelve-month average. However, as stated previously, some may state that some growth is better than no growth.
The statement “labour costs are increasing but not productivity” has been made. I am pressed to ask a controversial question. Does this mean that the average Barbadian is overpaid?
There was no significant increase in retail prices in 2015 which means no real level of inflation. This is a positive. I suppose that this is due in part to the decline in oil prices as a result of the increase in oil production in areas such as Saudi Arabia.
The real highlight and diamond in the crown of Tuesday’s presentation will most likely be the fact that tourism’s growth is the best since 2007. Tourism numbers like this have not been seen since pre-economic crisis levels. Taking into account that the Democratic Labour Party administration presided over an economic recession, this is no doubt the best year for tourism since they came into power. Permit me to include a bit of Bajan vernacular here when I say, “Raise yuh hand” Minister Sealy.
Tourism receipts have grown by about five per cent over the last 12 months.
Arrivals from the United States have increased by 25.3 per cent. Canadian arrivals have increased by 14.0 per cent. UK arrivals have increased by 13.4 per cent. What interested me is the increase in Trinidad and Tobago arrivals by 2.9 per cent. Is this as a result of more Trinidadians businesses being established in Barbados or the influx of Trinidadians to Barbados during Crop Over? Perhaps my first year UWI lecturer “Ras” can assist me here with this query.
It is clear that tourism is still our main economic driver. It continues to play a very important role in our economy. On Thursday at the Mount Gay Regatta, a friend asked what Barbados was doing as a tourism destination when compared to our regional counterparts. He just returned from St Martin and was comparing the many activities to do on island. I think given the performance that his question should have been what more can Barbados do as a tourism destination. We should look at the spending power of the tourists coming to Barbados. These arrivals need to be directly related to tourists spending more money in the economy.
I want to personally congratulate everyone who works in the tourism industry. Secondly, I would like to congratulate all Barbadians because tourism is as a result of “all ah we”. From the NCC workers who keep the beaches clean to the front desk receptionists who advise the tourists on which sightseeing activities they should engage in, to those upcoming National Host Programme ambassadors, “raise wunna hand!”
Toni Thorne is a young entrepreneur and World Economic Forum Global Shaper who loves global youth culture, a great debate and living in paradise. Email [email protected]