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Layoffs looming

touistsonthebeachby Emmanuel Joseph

The party that forms the next Government of Barbados after Thursday’s elections, is likely to soon face its first major reality check — “serious” layoffs in the hotel industry.

A frustrated Executive Vice-President of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, Sue Springer, told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that the sector may have to brace for “problems”, if the current state of the industry did not improve this summer.

Springer warned that the first quarter of this year was already looking bleak.

“We were down eight per cent in January over last year. There were declines in all three of our key markets of the US, the UK and Canada. Looking ahead, we in the hotel industry are predicting a five per cent decline for the first quarter, up to March,” the BHTA executive reported.

“If we are down five per cent in the first quarter, which is the period (Winter) when we make our money, we have a problem,” she declared.

Springer told this newspaper that the repercussions of that situation would mean earlier and longer layoffs for the summer season.

“During this time, we would normally put people on short time or lay them off, but if the summer doesn’t improve, the layoffs may come earlier and the short time (work week) would have to be longer,” explained the hotel and tourism industry administrator.

Noting that the rest of the Caribbean, which is faced with the same economic challenges as Barbados, recorded significant tourism growth last year, but not this country, she added:

“We can’t continue saying it’s the global recession. The problem is, we are not in the market. Our marketing has no funding. We have no national marketing package to drive our product.”

She said that due to a lack of funding from the Barbados Tourism Authority, there was no national marketing “that has teeth”.

“We’ve got to get back in people’s faces. We need to deal with the cost structure in the hotel industry. The high cost of utilities and insurance. We need incentives out there,” added Springer.

She was also strong on the use of social media, urging that all stakeholders spent time and energy on promoting Barbados and the Barbados brand to the world.

“We always have events happening in Barbados. We can do a lot more public relations that doesn’t cost a lot of money,” the BHTA senior official advised.

She said she believed a lot of employment could be created within the sector, along with additional capacity, if the tourism-related projects on hold were activated.†Springer also said the industry wanted to see Almond Beach back in operation, where 500 jobs had been lost through its closure.

“We have a whole set of hotels that are closed. Sam Lords Castle, Silver Sands, Sandy Beach, Peach and Quiet, Kings Beach — nothing has happened there yet,” Springer observed.

She was of the opinion that the service also needed improving and the tourism product required “freshening up”.†The BHTA executive vice president bemoaned the notion that even though the costs of “everything” had increased, the competitive nature of the business made it difficult to raise room rates.

“It is difficult to increase room rates, but if this situation continues, we may have no choice but to do so,” argued Springer.

She reiterated that if tourism was to grow government and the private sectors would have to work together to overcome the “stumbling blocks” in the industry.

6 Responses to Layoffs looming

  1. Name February 20, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Despite hotels/room-occupation being down, those that DO come to our shores
    (the moneyed ones who are surviving the global recession)
    are spending OK in the local shops, trust me.
    This shop owner has not been disappointed in our takings,
    – not last season, and not this season so far!

  2. We are a Litterbug Nation? February 20, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Our tourism product requires “freshening up” ??

    Tell me about it!
    The island is STINK WITH LITTER!
    – not garbage…LITTER!

    But because Bajans doan see Ugly
    no-one does anything about it
    because it’s simply not a problem to locals!

    VISITORS SEE IT, though!
    and it looks like we’re backward and under-educated.
    That is the impression it leaves: these people don’t care enough about their very own island!

  3. Angela Phillips February 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    “Noting that the rest of the Caribbean, which is faced with the same economic challenges as Barbados, recorded significant tourism growth last year, but not this country, she added”:
    Find out what is driving the growth in these other Caribbean countries. Is it the product quality? Possibly.

    Sue Springer mentioned service improvement. I can without any doubt say that as compared to a lot of the other countries I have visited for business and leisure; that honestly Barbados ranks at or near the bottom and this really should not be the case. We in my home in North America are always trying to figure out what is the problem with the service in Barbados and we do compare it to everywhere else. It is more than just being on “island time”. I am measuring to other Caribbean islands, Mexico, North America and Africa.

    I have attributed this to the lack of proper staff training to which I say (then copy Sandy Lane and the other top properties). They boast repeated guests and high occupancy rates even at top prices. There is a reason. Guests can spend half of what they do at these properties elsewhere but will not forgo great service.
    At the end of the day, great and consistent service matters most significantly whether at a three or five star property.

    Also a lot of the staff seem not to want to be of service to guests, yet work in an industry that demands great service. Maybe they are underpaid, maybe they really do not like their jobs, maybe they have a lot of bad days but the guest does not care. The staff attitude reflects poorly on property management (some of whom need proper training themselves); and on the overall image of the country. Why come to this when they can go elsewhere and get better service with a lot of the same amenities and weather? Some hotel and restaurant employees act as though they are doing guests a favor by being polite and courteous. Some try to gauge by some sort of reasoning whether you will be a “big tipper” or not and service you accordingly.
    Maybe the SBA and BTA can work with property owners/managers who demonstrate need, to implement staff training programs and provide ongoing support across different areas of management. Ongoing training is necessary to stay “fresh” in an industry that is constantly changing. A pay upgrade cannot hurt either. Owners cannot expect great attitude for small pay. Incentives can go a long way.
    There is work to be done but the results will make it worthwhile.

  4. Adrian Loveridge February 23, 2013 at 6:05 am

    The DLP has been re-elected. The people have spoken, but was has changed to address the very many problems with our tourism industry?
    What will now be put in place to deal with just some of the concerns highlighted by Sue Springer, before more lay-offs and further closures taken place?
    I think it is a legitimate question.

  5. Pingback: A New Normal Expected By Tourism Players | Barbados Underground

  6. Kay-rani rosita March 4, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    “The DLP has been re-elected. The people have spoken, but was has changed to address the very many problems with our tourism industry?”
    You asked such a question only two days after the election what did you expect to change after ONLY two days.


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