Forex levels and visitor numbers

My fellow Barbadians, if we never learn to walk and chew gum, we will always be taken for a ride by the political directorate of our fair land –– whether that directorate comes from one of the two established political parties or a new entrant to the landscape.

Unless we become critical consumers of information, we shall continue to miss the fundamental points and fete and nine day wonder politics will be used to manipulate the electorate.

This strategy has worked well for the current Democratic Labour Party regime and in this the final full year before an election is constitutionally due, there seems no letup in sight.

The Prime Minister recently used the forum of his fete to thank repeat visitors to the island, to admonish Barbadians for their response to the pothole crisis and other social concerns. A quote attributed to the Prime Minister had him thanking tourists for continuing to choose Barbados and for not pretending that their own countries did not have potholes and other social concerns.

I was alarmed as any other person that the leader of our island chose to be so callous in his response about the state of our road infrastructure. However, his comments about potholes were by far not the takeaway of his comments at his fete.

The Prime Minister offered some commentary on the visitor arrival figures for the island. In 2015, Barbados welcomed 592,000 long stay tourists to the island. In 2016, we welcomed 610,000. The Prime Minister encouraged tourism stakeholders present to aim to reach the 650,000 mark for 2017.

The numbers for long stay arrivals to Barbados confounded me, coming on the heels of the Governor of the Central Bank’s concern about low foreign exchange. In the last two years, Barbados has welcomed 1,202,000 tourists to its shores. Notwithstanding, our foreign reserve levels are so low that the business sector has indicated that they have challenges being issued with currency for transactions.

A few conclusions can be drawn from this state of affairs. From a purely tourism standpoint, we are obviously not realizing the maximum spend for the number of visitors we are welcoming. This has to do with the products we develop for tourists to purchase once they are on the island.

What attractions and experiences are we developing to ensure that tourists have activities they will want to spend on? Additionally, what arts, crafts and other items is our business sector producing to encourage tourists to buy?

If we only have a product based on tourists coming to Barbados and paying for a hotel room in which meals are included, we are not doing our most to ensure that we get maximum spend for the numbers of tourists visiting the island.

Moreover, if the only product that we offer tourists are things which we import to offer them, then Barbados becomes merely a place where foreign exchange is collected from tourists to be sent back overseas by merchants for goods bought. This does not leave Barbados in a beneficial position from the foreign exchange collected.

Another tourism-related conclusion could see us asking the question, how is a tourist defined and measured in Barbados?  In other words, of the more than one million people who visited us in the last two years, exactly who was counted and why?

I saw some data a few months ago and it seemed from just a cursory look that the tourist arrivals from the regional category were up substantially. In trying to find explanations for the trend, it appeared as though crew members from LIAT who enter the island to transfer planes were being counted among tourist arrivals.

Since a crew could enter and leave the island several times in one week, it was causing an upswing in the regional arrival numbers. What would be the benefit of counting a LIAT crew member in the overall tourism arrivals for Barbados?

Are there any other practices which could inflate our tourist arrival numbers? These are reasonable questions to ask in the context of the seeming disparity between tourist numbers and the bounty in our national coffers.

From an economic point of view, let us for argument sake say that over a million tourists came and spent the maximum amount of money one would expect. Could it be that the money is not making its way to the national coffers? This is again a seemingly legitimate question.

The Minister of Finance, in his last Budget report, introduced the concept of expanded duty free shopping for Barbadian locals. His reason was in part to try to capture foreign exchange not currently making its way into the economy.

This seems to be some acknowledgement by the Minister of Finance that there are gaps in the foreign exchange collection methods in Barbados. What he may have overlooked is that people keeping foreign exchange out of the economy may be doing so deliberately.

It is not uncommon to find people hoarding foreign exchange in climates where they have no confidence in the government. Further, if businesses are having difficulties accessing foreign exchange when they need it, it would not be surprising if they start to hold foreign exchange when it comes and even trade it among themselves outside of the established financial mechanism.

The information leading to all these queries was embedded in the same article where the Prime Minister told us that pot holes were a mere inconvenience of life. While I am happy that we have now been able to get some government action on the road network, I am saddened that more people did not pick up on the tourist numbers and the Governor’s statement about foreign exchange.

If we continue to consume only the peripheral political issues, our government will continue to give us peripheral responses.

The Minister of Transport and Works has been in the media commenting on his Ministry’s plan to patch the road network.  In the furore, the Minister of Finance is completely mum both on the amount of foreign exchange in the Central Bank and the connection with visitor numbers for the last two years.

(Marsha Hinds Layne is a full time mummy and part time lecturer in communications at the University of the West Indies. 

3 Responses to Forex levels and visitor numbers

  1. Tony Webster January 13, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    A clear-thinking, intelligent lady whose concerns for the future of this fair land are masterfully articulated. She is evidently not a person easily led to anywhere near the Gaderine cliffs. The type of Bajan sorely needed, to assume a position of national responsibility. Thank you, m’am….and I shall be scanning the horizon…for the approach…of friendly sails!

  2. jus January 13, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    My dear Marsha, while you are on the right foot, I think that as a part time lecturer and nearly fully time mummy, you are a little awry on reality of the modern world and in particular the financial section.
    Lets start at the best place,The Beginning.
    The World and in particular the Caribbean part of it, is not a nice place.
    Here in the Caribbean, to get the real picture, the reality, you must not regard yourself as of any consequence, you will be allowed a part in the play, the production, the sham, but it will not be a part of any position or a part that will allow you to actually become of the Elite Class,mostly the part will be a financially contributable part..
    You will be allowed the freedom to say whatever you wish, as long as what you say really means nothing.

    The tourists , see reams of happy smiling faces , why not indeed.
    Tourists pockets are full, at least that is the presumption of the smilers.

    Fact is a very big percent of the tourists are All Inclusive guests, they have SPENT BEFORE they arrive in Barbados.
    They stay at an establishment where ALL is provided for them, they need to spend virtually ZERO.
    Because they have paid IN ADVANCE for it all, but in a hard currency that is NEVER remitted to Barbados by the company that owns and run a Worldwide group of such places.

    This group buys a huge percent of what it would need within the AI, at World Prices,NOT in Barbados,but elsewhere, and having,if we look at Barbados, the ability to ship into Barbados, virtually all products needed to run the All Inclusive, absolutely free of any taxes that should normally go to funding the host countries financial section.
    What they remit to Barbados, is exactly what needs to be spent on the running costs of the place, for locally incurred costs, even then, AI staff can be hired otherwise than in Barbados, on contract and paid elsewhere,the same staff would have their keep ,supplied , or from their pay, wherever they are paid a deduction for whatever the AI supply them with.

    Of course if you run your mind over it you can easily see the huge depth and width of the organised thievery, that allows them to use Barbados FREE, and get away with robbery.

    Aided and abetted by WHO??
    Need we ask?

    NOW SECONDLY. you must dispense with the idea of Barbados as a Democratic Free nation.
    IF you are realistic, you will see we are no more than a nation of persons of very little freedom, 270,000 revenue producers for the Elite Political class that holds our small freedoms in the palms of their hands.
    Note the PM,s attitudes and words to us.
    Do they ever give the impression that WE are of any consequence or value?
    Even that we are of any power and position, to reject or disagree
    Our dear Country is used as no more than their private bank, and we used as whatever suits our controllers.

    They give us the ILLUSION of choice ,maybe even a hint of Democracy, to keep us placid , peaceful, rather like a farmer keeps his cows so these cows,US, may produce the most profit for him.
    What are you real choices and freedoms?
    Well there is DLP or BLP.
    Thats your choice??
    Your freedom is you can pick either, and when you do where does it get you. What changes for the better or even changes at all?
    Well it could be , we all arrive right at where we are at this very moment, with a realisation of the wreckage of what was once a Wonderful Country that cared for us as we cared for it..

    Every thing in the way our country is run, is set up to fleece us of every available cent, to provide this Elite political Group with all they can imagine or dream of and for them TOTALLY free of charge.
    How many trips did this PM make with a whole retinue of advisers to places like SAMOA?
    What was the cost in hard currency, as you can be sure they travelled Ultra Luxury class and each with a hefty per diem allowance, altho the whole thing will have been paid for totally by us and there is really no need for the allowance.
    Of course they will justify the trips and can we argue?
    Can cows argue with the farmer??
    I use the words Elite Political Group and include in this their yard fowls,the people used to control us.

    Lets take the establishment of Caricom.
    A protection for us.
    I dont think so.
    Caricom is a ring fence to KEEP, the vast majority of all money we spend on living, in the hands of Elite Classes.
    The Elite Classes from each Caricom region, elect to have tarif barriers, on the face of it to protect locally made goods and local jobs.
    In fact it is, using this pretence of protection for us and our well being, just a ruse , to allow them to exact massive taxes and profits, from us, for their use.
    Caricom supports the production of Caricom goods,usually as we see, inferior goods, which in most cases , would be ,and should be, as FREE people, available to us , at HALF of what we pay now,.
    But because of Caricom protectionist ring fence, which fleeces US, to ENHANCE the lives of the ELITE CLASS.
    We pay double..
    I quote you an example,Rice World price , top grade 100 percent clean and unbroken, around 350US$ a tonne,
    Caricom rice, around 18 to 27 percent broken, sold to us in Barbados at 650US$ a tonne and maybe more.

    Study all the very well paid MEANINGLESS positions created by CARICOM, for members of the ELITE CLASS.
    More seats on the Gravy train

    We owe it to ourselves NOT TO get enmeshed in the procedure, not see the WOOD for the TREES.

    Stand OUTSIDE and look IN, and REALIZE the REALITY.

    YOU ,we, were never intended to BENEFIT , our ONLY role is to produce and support the LUXURY of those who CONTROL us.

    What you see on a daily basis ,and regard as ,the RUNNING of our COUNTRY, is a facade , a show ,intended to keep US occupied ,whilst those that can ,live off our backs.

  3. RobotFX March 8, 2017 at 12:31 am

    Thank you. This is useful information indeed. I will follow your blog for future posts. Do you know about hedging? Maybe you can share something for the forex traders.


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