Will S&P be another spoke in the wheel?
First came Moody’s; now we are hearing that Standard & Poor’s could be next in line to issue a Barbados downgrade. Is there no end to the current trend in negative news? Ask we.
Little wonder that our key tourism players and investors seem so jittery these days.
As the immediate past president of the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association (BHTA), Patricia Affonso-Dass, pointed out just yesterday, the last two years have been challenging at best for the country’s bread and butter sector, that continues to register declines in arrivals. Latest figures provided by the BHTA suggest a 0.5 per cent decline in long-stay arrivals up to April and a 0.1 per cent decline up to May, compared to the corresponding period in 2013 –– as well as a drop in visitor spend.
On top of that there has been worry over the closure of several local hotels since 2012 –– the most notable being the Almond Beach hotel chain –– and ongoing challenges with some of our major source markets.
Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean also face fierce competition from other warm weather destinations, both in terms of product quality and pricing.
On the positive side, cruise arrivals are said to be up; so too airlift; and there is reported noticeable growth in the villa market as hoteliers look to Government to meet its promise of increased concessions.
But just when the industry was hoping to breathe a sigh of relief, up stepped Moody’s with its triple notch downgrade, putting another spoke in our vital tourism wheel.
To say this is unwelcomed news for the sector is an understatement.
All it has done is to add to the current economic uncertainty, which has mostly been left unanswered by local authorities.
As she demitted office yesterday as president of the BHTA after two years, Affonso-Dass used the occasion to issue a not so unfamiliar call for a “clear, well articulated plan by the country’s leadership”.
Her fear is that the current void remains unchecked, it will only serve to “give legs to the issue and predicate the outcome”.
Now, more than ever, she stressed, there was need for clear, decisive leadership in all sectors and a strong collaborative approach. She pointed out that there had been many good recent examples of the tremendous positive results that could ensue from a strong public/private sector partnership, a willingness to work together and recognition of each other’s strengths.
“We must not be afraid to face the realities, as difficult or scary as they may appear to be. Those charged with the responsibility of leadership should make it a priority to provide the public with the facts regularly, in as transparent a manner as possible, and maintain an open dialogue that is free from political agendas and bias, so that all feel comfortable to take part,” the tourism official said.
“My firm belief is that getting out of the crisis that we are in will take nothing less than an aggressive collective effort to which all contribute, in which all recognize how much we have to lose, are all willing to give more than is generally expected. Now, more than ever, there is a need for a strong, united Social Partnership.”
Well said, Mrs Affonso-Dass! Now we wait and see if anyone will take heed.