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Dry spell

by Shawn Cumberbatch

It was a cold winter and the summer was not too hot either.

That’s the bad news for Barbados’ vital tourism sector, as latest statistics confirm concerns raised by the leadership of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association.

At her organisation’s most recent quarterly meeting held last month, BHTA President, Patricia Affonso-Dass voiced concern that tourism arrivals would be worse than originally anticipated.

Barbados has now confirmed that between January and August this year the island’s long stay arrivals were 377,853, an overall decline of 4.8 per cent.

This was made up of a marginal 0.1 per cent increase in the traditionally strong winter tourist season between December and April, and a more worrying 10.3 per cent drop in what is an accustomed slow summer period.

It meant nearly 20,000 fewer visitors chose Barbados for a vacation in the first eight months of 2012.

“Stay-over visitor arrivals for August 2012 numbered 43,191 representing a decrease of 6,770 or 13.6 per cent when compared to August 2011. There were decreases in all markets except Trinidad and Tobago, which recorded an increase of 212 or four per cent,” the statistical bulletin released by tourism officials stated.

“Cruise passenger arrivals for August 2012 were 16,343, a decrease of 5,991 or 26.8 per cent compared to August 2011.

“Stay-over visitor arrivals for the period January to August 2012 were 377,853. This represented a decrease of 19,220 or 4.8 per cent. There were increases in the Canada, “Other Europe” and Trinidad & Tobago markets of 444 or 0.9 per cent, 599 or 3.31 per cent and 3,649 or 14.8 per cent respectively.

“Decreases of 6,928 or 6.8 per cent, 13,051 or 10.0 per cent, 3,330 or 7.3 per cent and 554 or 2.9 per cent were recorded in the US, UK, Germany, other CARICOM and other countries markets respectively. Cruise passenger arrivals were 417,594 which represented a decrease of 8,757 or 2.1 per cent when compared to the corresponding period in 2011,” the document added.

Tourism industry sources suggested the declining numbers would also be a bad sign for Barbados’ foreign exchange earnings.

They pointed out that this was likely since on the last occasion the “stay over numbers” increased earnings were down, something that was likely to persist in the current climate.

At the quarterly meeting the BHTA head had said:

“Over the past year, we have seen continued closures in hotels and other tourism businesses… We have been talking about public sector reform in Barbados for years now, but we still have countless, needless frustrations to the sector that could be removed if the will was simply there to do it.”

Just last week a Barbados delegation headed by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler told the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, rating agencies Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s and others that the island’s economic recovery depended on major rebounds in the tourism and international business sectors, the island’s two main foreign exchange earners.

In the current circumstances Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is expected to get another earful when next he meets with the leadership of the tourism sector. He held discussions with the BHTA last month and committed to meeting with them every six weeks.

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