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‘Upgrade cruise, rum sectors’


SHAWN CUMBERBATCH, [email protected]

‘Upgrade cruise, rum sectors’

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Barbados needs to do much more to cash in on its already famous cruise tourism and rum brands.

Such an effort should ensure that small businesses get a bigger share of the benefits these industries offer.

That’s what global value chain experts at Duke University, a private research university in Durham, North Carolina, have recommended in two new “technical reports” produced for the Organisation of American States.

While tourism officials have celebrated Barbados’ increase in the number of cruise passengers, researchers Jack Daly, Karina Fernandez-Stark and Vivian Couto said the problem was that cruisers were spending less money here.

“The total number of onshore visits from cruise customers increased 33 per cent in the period from the 2005/06 cruise season to 2014/15, from 405 300 to 554 400. However, the average expenditure per passenger fell 30 per cent during that same period, from US$111.82 to US$78.03,” they said in the report Barbados In The Cruise Tourism Global Value Chain.

The report added: “Surveys conducted in the 2014/15 cruise season suggested 46 per cent of visitors ultimately purchased organised tours. That percentage put Barbados behind 29 of 35 destinations in the Caribbean. The country also ranked last in percentage of tours purchased from onshore tour operators.”

They recommended that Barbados enhance linkages with small and medium enterprises to allow the country to “refresh its onshore experiences”; implement “physical improvements or improved product offerings in retail spaces”; and work to increase the number of both home-port passengers here for an extended period and those who return to Barbados after cruises.

In the related report, Barbados In The Rum Global Value Chain, Danny Hamrick, Fernandez-Stark, and Couto warned that “a declining sugar industry and entry of new rum-producing countries” were the biggest threats to the competitiveness of Barbados’ rum industry.

“Four rum producers are active in Barbados. In 2015, rum exports from these four firms totalled US$39 million. However, they are increasingly sourcing inputs from other Caribbean nations as the domestic sugar industry cannot meet the demands of rum producers,” the researchers said.

“The emerging sugar crisis in the Caribbean threatens future molasses supplies from the region and the competitiveness of the rum industry in Barbados.”

The Duke University team advised Barbados to make a number of “upgrades” to allow its rum industry to thrive.

“Barbados should focus on improving its production of sugar cane and molasses through the creation of competitive processing capabilities and the planting of varieties of sugar cane that give the sucrose content needed for the rum industry,” they recommended.

“As consumers in developing and developed markets shift preferences to premium rum, Barbados has a strategic opportunity to increase participation by investing in the development and promotion of high-end rums.”

They also said the establishment of “a national identity for rum as well as a national brand . . . will help to differentiate Barbados’s rum from others”, and suggested “forging stronger linkages” between rum and tourism to “increase sales to foreign visitors and build brand awareness”. (SC)

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