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.