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Weathering the storm

With August almost ended we are just about to enter the hardest tourism period of the year. For as far back as I could remember the months of September and October have been some of the hardest to penetrate from a tourism point-of-view.

There are many factors which contribute to the difficulties associated with the time of year. The biggest of these happens to be hurricane activity within the Caribbean region.

There is absolutely nothing that Barbados can do about being within the hurricane belt, but I believe what is important is to continuously communicate our level or preparedness in the event that we experience one. This situation however is compounded by the fluctuations which can occur in predicting the path of a hurricane.

Even as recent as last night while watching the weather news from the US, it was clear that with all of the technology available to them, there is little that the Americans can do about the shifting which will take place once a system is in motion.

Some of the other things which have a direct impact on our September and October performance are related to the fact that September is that time of year when family travel seems to slow down because of children returning to the classroom. Of course, the current economic climate cannot be understated and a major inhibitor.

When the hurricane season, the end of the summer holidays and the economic climate are stitched together it all leads to an extremely difficult situation.

Certainly one is not expected to throw one’s hands in the air and give up. So what can we do? I have been pushing the idea of Staycation for a long time and I am convinced that we have to continue to influence our own people to experience our tourism product, and at the same time preserve our foreign exchange.

Another recommendation which I have consistently put out is the use of our relationship with our Family and Friends market. I don’t believe that we are working this market to its fullest potential. Influencing family reunions and retreats can bring so much business into the island it is amazing.

The alternate to being able to generate business is to invest in one of our most valuable assets; “staff” training is a very important part of our competitiveness. Often we seem not to have the time or ability to get the necessary training done during our busy periods and we tend to shy away from it when business is down.

My suggestion is that an investment of training is a worthwhile one and every effort should be made to get it done. In another few weeks the South Coast hotels will enter into their week of activities for housekeepers. This is the second year for this activity and it could not have come at a better time of the year.

Tourism is our business, let us play our part.

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