TOURISM MATTERS: Supply versus demand
I have spent much of the last week identifying restaurants that are not in the re-DISCOVER lunch initiative to give them an equal opportunity to participate during 2017.
What surprised me was the number of establishments that do not use what amounts to free social media opportunities to maximise basic details and inform potential clientele, about opening times, closure days, email contact details and creatively use imagery to highlight eating options.
Of course, there are notable exceptions which conversely use this form of advertising to get their product out there and tempt potential diners.
And why would you not, when a large part of social media is free for the taking and exploiting? The recently concluded Restaurant Week Barbados reinforced the importance of quality high resolution images. Of course, our visitors no longer rely on printed material, which is often not available until they arrive to do their research and homework. The greater part of planning and preparation is now searched online prior to travel, ensuring the best use of their time.
As a destination, it is also critically important that Barbados further captialises on its amazing number of varied eating places at all levels and price points. Perhaps this is also another area where restaurants can be better supplied with local produce to reduce dependency on imported items.
Do, for instance, our more proactive and organised farmers and growers have a database of all licensed restaurants, where they can transmit a simple daily email flyer showing “what we can offer you this week” with prices and quantities available? This approach also may help even out the common problem of gluts and shortages.
For the individual restaurants, sourcing required items is usually a major bone of contention, certainly in our personal experience. So often you order in the morning and when the delivery is made later that day, frequently items are “out of stock” and you are left with just hours to spare to decide which alternatives could possibly be used that evening.
A common response from some of our suppliers and distributors has been in the past payment settlement challenges, but in this day of sophisticated electronics, surely the cost of a wireless debit/credit card merchandiser onboard each delivery vehicle, where the items could be paid on delivery, would overcome this concern and justify the small outlay cost.
It has greatly concerned me for a long time that as a largely tourism dependent nation, we are so reliant on imported foods. Our visitors largely want to eat local foodstuffs. After all, they can virtually purchase all the items we choose to import, at a fraction of the price available here, from where they live.
If you look at just one of our major markets, each American consumes an average of 1 996 pounds, or nearly a ton of food per year, which is around 5.47 pounds per day, according to data produced the United States (US) Department of Agriculture.
This annual amount includes 630 pounds of milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream and 185 pounds of chicken, turkey, pork and beef, seemingly with no mention of fish.
There is no reason to believe that our American visitors eat any less on holiday. In fact, if they are staying at an all-inclusive property, it could well be more.
So with an average US visitor stay of seven days that amounts to almost 40 pounds of food per person. Multiply this by the annual number of US visitors and maybe you get a hint of our food importation bill and drain on foreign currency earnings.
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