TOURISM MATTERS: Time to refocus tourism
AS WE ENTER the long eight-month summer period, I would imagine that our tourism planners have increased their focus on how to maintain both visitor arrival numbers, duration of stay and equally important, the average spend.
As the chairman of the main trade association recently pointed out, our British visitors are increasingly looking for value-for-money, after the fall in the value of sterling when compared to the United States dollar with many seriously considering alternative destinations outside of the Caribbean where their pounds can purchase a holiday without a fall in standards and expectations.
I believe there is a lot more we can do to bridge the currency disparity by looking at creative ways to soften the higher component costs that make up the total vacation.
In the case of the United Kingdom, I have advocated over the years, sadly so far without success, that we can intervene to a greater extent by partnering with entities like trains, airport parking and overnight accommodation. The negotiated savings would be passed on to the customer, helping to bring the cost of the overall experience down to become more affordable.
Our manufacturers and distributors also can step up to source and supply products that relate in price to what our visitors pay in their home countries. Of course, we are a small island which results in importing far too much with all the associated add-ons and costs, but it’s often incomprehensible trying to justify the margins.
As an example, someone has to explain to me why an identical size and brand of yogurt costs around one British pound in a British Tesco’s, yet is on sale here between $12 and $14. In July, Barbados will host the first Carib Food and Hospitality Show and already several overseas suppliers have registered to exhibit with the objective of growing their market here and throughout the region.
Hopefully, there will be a substantial, locally-based presence too and while a handful of companies are proactive, the majority often seem to be rather complacent and appear to be happier assuming an order-taking role rather than actively going out there looking for increased business. We are truly blessed with our diverse choice of restaurants and eating places and this is one of our main marketing tools.
While our larger suppliers will not baulk at the charges associated with exhibiting at this event, our smaller manufacturers should not be disadvantaged by cost. So, hopefully, organisations like the Small Business Association, Barbados Agricultural Development Marketing Corporation, Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Tourism Development Corporation, will work together to offer shared stand space to enable even the tiny businesses to highlight their products.
Also bearing in mind the foreign exchange it brings to the destination, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation could partner with Caribbean Export Development Agency and jointly sponsor small business stands for each participating regional territory, where the exhibiting expenses could be spread across several partners.
Maybe it also an event that the Barbados Tourism Product Authority should become involved in as it’s a wonderful opportunity to highlight items made and sold here.
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