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TOURISM MATTERS: Need for relevant feedback

Adrian Loveridge

TOURISM MATTERS: Need for relevant feedback

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I frequently wonder exactly how scientific and thorough the research on which “we” base decisions is before going on to spend ten of millions of marketing dollars annually.
For instance, what proportion of our long-stay visitors are directly generated by travel agents and of that figure, how many purchase tour-operator holiday packages?
After establishing those statistics, do we analyze what percentage in monetary terms this contributes to our overall tourism earnings?
How many visitors book their flights through a consolidator or use accumulated frequent flyer miles to reach us?
What percentage stay in registered hotels, villas, condominiums and other types of licensed accommodation, and do we know how long the current average stay is?
Perhaps all these figures already exist but in my 24 years involved in Barbados tourism, I have never seen them.
It seems that this could be one of the most critical functions of the Barbados Statistical Service, who already have an attractive website that sadly does not appear to be updated on a regular basis.
Without this vital information, it is difficult to understand exactly how intelligent and cost-effective strategies could be formulated by the planners and policymakers.
If I am wrong, and this information is already in the public domain, then please share it with us in a format that is easily accessible.
Many businesses, I would guess, are attempting to evaluate the economics of the rapidly approaching end of the 2011/2012 winter season.
Trying to ascertain what, if anything, we can afford to spend this summer to help maintain occupancy and viability, while at the same time trying to retain as many staff as possible.
Few could have failed to notice the full-page ads in the local Press bearing the headline Tourism, who cares?
As I include myself in that category, I proffered my comments on the same day as the first ad was carried. Due to technical glitches, we were told in subsequent ads, early contributors were invited to resubmit their comments, which I did twice, but still did not receive an email confirming receipt.
There was already a very short response window, just 12 days, even if everything had been functioning properly.
While I fully endorse the objectives behind the concept, I believe it was a huge mistake not to involve our visitors at this stage. The ad could so easily have been replicated in a smaller version and given to accommodation providers for placement in every room.
Our visitors already have a very limited opportunity to make their views known to our tourism policymakers, and this could have provided such invaluable feedback.
Any guests who may have stumbled across the ad just might have drawn the conclusion that their opinions are not valued.
And if the recent pronouncement by the BTA chairman “that Barbados as a brand is not meeting all the expectations of its customers” is correct, then surely it’s even more important to listen very carefully to the areas where we are not performing to anticipated standards.