EDITORIAL: Don’t rest on laurels with high arrivals
THAT BARBADOS WILL welcome in excess of 600 000 land-based visitors this year must be reason to celebrate. Tourism is, after all, a significant foreign exchange earner, a major employer and big contributor to the various direct and indirect taxes.
The news of this spike in visitor arrivals is particularly comforting given the flat performances recorded for a number of years following the world financial meltdown of 2008, resulting in a far from rosy picture.
What this resurgence has suggested is that those leading the industry, both at the public and private sector levels, have been doing an outstanding job in the marketplace to get people here. The fears of negative fallout from Brexit or Americans staying home in an election year thankfully have not materialised.
The big regional players – Cuba and Dominican Republic, with Jamaica at another level – have all been recording strong growth. Yet, Barbados has been able to hold its own, despite the fear of negative fallout from the opening up of Cuba and the novelty associated with the low-cost Dominican Republic.
Barbados offers a uniqueness that goes beyond the sea, sand and sun to include a mix of festivals, sporting events, culinary and heritage offerings that attract a more mature demographic. It is a destination that can proudly boast of attracting many repeat visitors, a significant factor in the travel market, where people are increasingly looking for new places to explore.
There are some obvious concerns. Foremost must be the need to record growth in revenue on the same scale as that in numbers of visitors. We must also ensure that all our attractions and plant are upgraded and target more millennials.
Today’s visitor is more discerning and is looking for the best value for money along with those intangible experiences. We must be conscious of these expectations by offering excellent service, from the welcome extended at the arrival halls at both the air or sea ports to what is offered by all the other service providers.
One of the key desires of the traveller is a safe destination, whether to relax in or explore. We cannot be too vigilant in ensuring that neither foreign terrorists nor local criminals undermine this vital plank of the island’s economy.
But there are some smaller issues that are also of concern and must be quickly rectified. The repulsive garbage pile-ups and the unpredictable water service must be dealt with for the benefit of both the visitor and Barbadian alike.
It is said that word-of-mouth promotion is more important than some of the other tried and tested methods of advertising a destination. Today with the power of social media this country must always strive for the very best personal endorsements.
Given the potential benefits, Barbados’ objective must be to surpass this year’s arrival numbers again in 2017.