A wake up call for the tourism industry

Tourism operators in Barbados and the rest of the region are being told to stop fighting tourism industry “disruptors” and start forming partnerships with them instead.

Singling out the increasingly popular Airbnb network, Uber and TripAdvisor as some of the modern day disruptors to the industry, airline consultant Tom Bacon said it was time the sharing economy be allowed to operate comfortably alongside traditional models.

Bacon was speaking at a marketing conference during Caribbean Week New York which ended on Friday.

“So I guess my advice is, you can go and put up a fight, but look at what the market needs and look at what the disruptor is actually offering the market that you can’t or you can’t do as well as they can, and see if there are [opportunities] where you can make money by supplying the disruptor with certain things he can’t do as well. So try to take advantage of the marketplace, make more money by partnering and collaborating with a disruptor,” advised Bacon.

Recalling some major changes in the airline industry in the 1990’s as a result of the explosion of low cost airlines, Bacon said the tourism industry on a whole is currently being disrupted in the areas of product offering, technology and processes.

“The bottom line is that we all need to change. The marketplace is very dynamic and ultimately what we all need to do is serve the customer better. So if that means that some of us can find a way of doing something better with our disruptive partners, then see if you can take advantage of that and work together as opposed to fighting,” he said.

Official in Barbados including government ministers, have been warning that the importance of the increasingly lucrative online marketplace Airbnb to the local economy could no longer be ignored.

This comes as tourism officials explore the possibility of legislation to regulate the online community marketplace here so they too could pay taxes and adhere to certain rules.

The Airbnb hosts here have since launched the Barbados Entrepreneurship & Tourism Association to advocate on their behalf and give an input into pending legislation and other development relating to the tourism industry.

During a media conference at Caribbean Week, president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Karolin Troubetzkoy said while that organization is all for supporting other businesses, it has been advocating for a “fair playing field”.

She said the CHTA is urging governments in the region to “address the issues of licensing, registering and taxation for Airbnb”.

Troubetzkoy also urged industry players to “wake up” and see that “it is not business as usual” with the advent of new and innovative models and ways of conducting business.

“The wake up call for the tourism industry at large is that it is not business as usual anymore. We just have to come to grips that they have come to the table and they will stay there. So the question is how do we all work together,” she said, while questioning whether some travellers would visit the Caribbean if the Airbnb type accommodation were not available.

“So really I think we just have to get our house in order. It is not business as usual. We are affected by many things on the internet – online. I think that hotels just have to also look very carefully how they can grow their marketshare and speak to the visitors,” she advised.

Regional destinations were also urged to pay close attention to the different types of travellers and ensure they have specific niche areas to cater each of them.

16 Responses to A wake up call for the tourism industry

  1. Alex Alleyne June 11, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    Cut some of the funds from Tourism and put in into manufacturing. We won’t have to wait or worry about who get off the plane from over and away.

    • Brenda Paris June 12, 2017 at 1:40 pm

      Excellent comment and in keeping with the market…and a visionary approach to the economy.

      • N Corbin June 15, 2017 at 10:35 am

        Although I think that we can do much more with manufacturing, we have a big issue with economies of scale, as unless we have massive plants producing products for a very cheap price, we will never be able to compete with China, Taiwan or America.

        At the end of the day we need tourism and should be doing whatever we can to improve our tourism product by trying to sell products that are different to those being sold in other islands and giving people different things to do while in Barbados. Hopefully this will increase their spend of foreign exchange in Barbados.

  2. Nathaniel Anderson June 11, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    If Airbnb is making such a serious headway in the regional tourism markets, maybe we will be less dependent on hotels especially large hotels. So maybe we can have a smaller and more realistic Hyatt, once all the surveys and studies have been completed.

  3. Neeraj Vensimal
    Neeraj Vensimal June 11, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    There’s so much opportunity once people get out of the “It’s us VS them/fixed pie mindset” and move over to the “Let’s co-operate & find creative ways to grow together” mindset

  4. Saga Boy June 11, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    Hotels under a certain size will not make money in Barbados given the current energy cost, Labour costs and general operational expenses. The hotel sector has been fortunate like the sugar industry to receive subsidies in order to operate. They are always keeping noise like little children and begging for more. Other small businesses especially manufacturing does not enjoy similar arrangements. I welcome the opportunity afforded to new player but we need to ensure that they maintain a decent and acceptable standard of operation that will make the average visitor want to return again and again.

  5. Donild Trimp June 11, 2017 at 10:50 pm

    Barbados hotel accommodation is overpriced plain and simple.

    Airbnb is the correct model for tourist who are not millionaires.

  6. Lee Farnum-Badley June 12, 2017 at 8:20 am

    Hotel accommodation is not overpriced – it’s the DOLLAR that is overvalued for vacationers from our traditional markets. Both repeat visitors that once used hotels as well as first-timers are exploring alternatives. While they are here in Barbados many are even approaching renters directly and bypassing the listing agencies’ (Airbnb, HomeAway etc.) with their exhorbitant booking charges. If devaluation is not an option, and Minister Sealy’s numbers projections are right, this informal industry is what will help Barbados linger on a little longer as a destination but there will be a declining demand for hotels. Government or BHTA might consider taking over the role of listing agencies with a proper web-site of its own to advertise all local lodgings – and let the annual subscriptions or commissions bring in the revenue. The international listing agencies are the ones making huge returns on their investment from Barbadian hosts and laughing all the way to the bank!

  7. Marc June 12, 2017 at 10:11 am

    In as much, as there are visitors who would prefer to stay at Sandals, there are those who would prefer an Airbnb style accommodation. There are many options in between and all of those will have a following also. The higher the number of visitors, spending money in restaurants and local businesses, the better… that should be the effort worked on, regardless of where they stay.

  8. jrsmith June 12, 2017 at 10:59 am

    All this talk is just crap, the real issue , its not going to make any different to the local black masses who are paid low wages any way, because the profits is still on its way out to the tax havens and nothing is reinvested in Barbados………………………………
    My take unless these new companies coming, is going to pay they full share of taxes employing lots of bajans at reasonable wages , the government who bajans cant trust and our local people should get together for a change and push back, offer the customer better price packages , better services …. for the good old bajan dollar…… …………………………………………
    Look at the gap, decades ago the gap survived on local bajan wages, and people from the region as the seasons change , but then bajans are treated as like the tourist but cannot pick up the pieces on bajan wages any longer………. a pound is a pound , a
    US dollar is US dollar , a bajan dollar is a bajan dollar, we are bajans……… We have no faith in our selves we can do a lot better , we use to punch above or weight we have become losers as like our politicians………………………………

  9. alex June 12, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    Being a Bajan/Canadian and property owner in Barbados, I do rent my property through AirbnB. This offers an affordable vacation for people wanting to visit beautiful Barbados. The first thing I hear from people wanting to visit Barbados is that it is so expensive. Airbnb and such companies offer visitors an affordable vacation..especially those who want to spend more then one week. People stay longer, save money and spend more money towards restaurants, shopping, taxi etc…contributing to the Barbados economy.
    While on the subject of tourism..I do however believe that there is not enough overseas advertising to promote BIM. Barbados cannot rely on word of mouth alone.

  10. T Mara June 12, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    LOL JOKES!!!!! I’ll have to see it to believe it.. I’ve been working at a place in d Gap for over 6 years… no contact for over 40 of us…. no double pay on holidays that should be , no time an a half on bank holidays and no over time pay when over 40 hrs a week ..but management got new cars – This is bare talk – they will never enforce it or come and check on we poor people – I have 3 jobs to survive with a child

  11. David June 12, 2017 at 8:09 pm

    Pray tell me how on earth will government tell me who I can invite to my home/house/ bed or have breakfast with? Or even tax me for inviting a visitor that they have been spending millions of dollars to bring here? Gov’ts should be saying thanks to Air BnB! Ever see or hear such madness as is being proposed… all in the interest of protecting and maintaining capitalistic rip-off hoteliers?

    You say you are an open economy? ‘Small and open’ as they say means vulnerable? Well Air BnB is a valuable ‘open’ concept that comes along to offer help to small open economies (homes) since it allows the mass of small home-owners to open their homes to a different class of traveller that is in no way a threat to the traditional luxury niche. Traditionalists had better wake up and smell the roses.

    I say Mr. Hotelier, you have yours? Be thankful and enjoy! Mind your hotel and its ‘classes’ niche; it has been your ‘bone’ all along and no home owner ever worried about who stays with you or how much you filled your gut; therefore, please stop worrying about the ‘shadow’ of a pittance small householders may get in the future from what is really THEIRS! Greedy, you might just lose your big bone! …Fuh trut.

  12. Belfast June 12, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    When are the big players in the Tourism Industry going to start lobbying for a cleaner Barbados and a reduction in our scrambler-motorcycle-wannabe racing car noise infected country.
    Wine-ing and dining frequent visitors, does not render them deaf blind, or unable to smell.

  13. Helicopter(8P) June 13, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    I quite agree! with those clientele on location and in place, large hotels offer night entertainment and evenings of elegance. From live jazz music, soca nights and performances of artists there’s potential cover charges. Making it work as an integrated system is what it’s all about!

  14. A. Rudder June 15, 2017 at 12:47 am

    Right ON Belfast !


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *