EDITORIAL: Safeguarding Barbados’ tourism industry
TOURISM planners and all stakeholders in the industry must redouble their efforts to ensure that the bread and butter activity for a number of Caribbean countries maintains its revival in 2017.
The signal has already gone out from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) that while there will be some growth in visitor arrivals to the Caribbean in 2017, it won’t be like the last two years, so whatever is required must be put in place to safeguard growth and to sustain the services-based economies in our region, Barbados included.
It is only in recent times that these economies have started to see a resumption in growth based mainly on the recovery of their tourism industries. Prior to that they were having a torrid time with lower arrivals and reduced spending by the long-stay visitors to these shores. When it comes to hotels, they too are still having challenges even as arrivals increase.
The story on the road forward, and particularly for 2017, was told recently by Hugh Riley, Secretary General of the CTO, at a news conference. He told the media that in the months ahead, they at the CTO expect that visitor arrivals to the Caribbean will grow at a slower rate, between 2.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent. So all things being equal we are expecting growth in 2017, but it will not be robust. Add to this the outlook for the hotel sector – that market segment will be challenged as well, given that all indicators were down. Like the commodity dominated islands and territories which themselves are having their own issues, the tourism dominated ones will be hoping that this won’t be another declining period for them. Tourism is one of those industries that demand a continuing improvement in the product and the need to pay attention to service delivery. This country has been told repeatedly that Tourism is a mature industry and with this in mind it calls for constant product improvement.
It is quite noticeable that every year in Barbados a number of hoteliers spruce up their plant and engage in staff training, which would broaden the appeal of their properties to visitors. Each year as well Government allocates approximately $100 million to the marketing of the island. However, we have to be mindful of the external factors that could have some bearing on how the industry performs across the region, and the emergence of new and more competitive destinations. One of the external factors is the opening up of Cuba and how soon that country will be attracting visitors from the United States. From the perspective of Barbados, the USA after the UK is a very important tourist market for this country.
In addition, Mr. Riley spoke about the Brexit factor and how that may impact UK visitors to these islands, as well as the new Donald Trump administration in the United States, which assumed office last month. Mr. Riley assured that the CTO is monitoring these external factors.
Tourism in Barbados and in the Caribbean will demand all of the attention – marketing, product development (as mentioned earlier), attracting new investments and Government assisting with lowering taxes on the industry. We have to safeguard our industry.