Missing tourism boat

With everything heating up for Crop-Over, there are mixed signals about this year’s performance from a tourism point-of-view. Some tourism partners are reporting slow and sluggish business, while others are performing at the same pace or better than last year.

Some of the things that seem to be affecting this year’s tourism performance for the Crop-Over season are airlift capacity, continuous external economic pressures and the London Olympics.

Airlift capacity and external economic pressures are perhaps easier for me to understand than the Olympics. I believe that airlift and the economic pressures have some ties to each other. Indeed, airlines have been cutting flights left, right and centre, ever since the world recession started.

Last year during the Crop-Over season, Jet Blue provided a “red-eye” flight out of New York to Barbados; this year we do not have that service. With the introduction of REDjet to the Caribbean market earlier this year, the expectation was that intra-regional travel would have improved, but that service was short lived.

Barbados continues to generate great interest among other Caribbean countries for the Crop-Over season. From my vantage point, not only am I seeing the improved interest from those travelling to the island to enjoy the festival, but it seems to me that there is an influx of professionals coming to participate at a number of different levels.

The Caribbean airlift situation is further compounded by the fact that the regional Under-19 Cricket competition is also taking place in Barbados during this time. Today alone, there are teams arriving from Trinidad and the Windward Islands. Whereas I am sure that, the arrival of these cricketing teams is very welcome, on the other side of the coin I am hearing that seats into the island are hard to come by for this weekend’s activities.

As it relates to the Olympics, I am struggling to understand why we are still having this discussion about the Olympics having an impact on our summer business this year. As early as January 5 this year, I wrote: “As it relates to the summer and especially the Olympics being held in the United Kingdom, I believe that works two ways.

1. I expect that there are going to be many of our potential visitors who will opt to go the London because of the games.

2. Equally, I believe there are numerous people who live in London that will want to escape the hassle and bustle of the Olympic Games, and leave London for that reason.

“Last night I attended the reception held at the official residence of the Prime Minister for our repeat guests, as this has now become a yearly feature on the tourism calendar. As I listened to the many conversations, a thought occurred to me: The reason we are having these receptions is mainly due driven by our highest repeat guests on the island at this time. Some of these guests have been to Barbados over 40 times and for me that places them in the category of our most loyal visitors. Then I asked myself the question: If we are so concerned about the fallout during the summer period, are we using our loyalty base effectively to help influence future travel?

“Hoteliers and destinations provide all types of incentives to get new customers and increase market share. What would be so wrong with providing the customers who love this island the most, with an incentive to send their friends and relatives here during the period when we need additional arrivals most?”

My question therefore is: What have we been doing to mitigate the shortfall, even after having early warning?

* Tourism is our business, let us play our part!

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