Off course

region measuring tourism impact all wrong, says regional expert

  A well-respected regional tourism expert is describing as dumb, some of the crucial strategies being adopted by Barbadian and Caribbean tourism policymakers.

In a forthright address to Barbadian hoteliers this morning, Principal Partner in the Bedford Baker Group Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace pulled no punches as he accused regional governments of not understanding what tourism was really about.

In his no holds barred keynote speech to the annual general meeting of the Intimate Hotels of Barbados (IHB) at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (LESC), Vanderpool-Wallace, a former Bahamian minister of tourism, accused Caribbean governments of measuring tourism in a way that made no sense.

“We all know that one of the dumbest things we do every single day is to measure tourism by head count. That’s a habit we’ve been in for a long, long period of time because that’s the way we compare ourselves to other people. It makes no sense whatsoever,” the former Secretary General of the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) said.

Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace

In furthering his argument, Vanderpool-Wallace made reference to the banking industry, stressing that no bank had ever put together a balance sheet showing the number of people who go through its doors – a suggestion that financial institutions only measured the amount of business they attract from the people who visit them, and regional tourism officials should do the same.

He added that no two stop-over visitors were the same, therefore each must be rated on economic contribution.

“Somebody comes to stay for two days . . . it’s not equivalent to somebody who comes and stays for two weeks . . . [but] we counting the same people. And so it doesn’t make any sense in terms of how we measure our business . . . and the mismeasurement of our business leads to part of the misunderstanding,” the tourism consultant contended.

Vanderpool-Wallace also identified the approach to calculating visitor spend as another area that needed to be changed.

“Where we take a look at visitor spending . . . where we get this information from? We get this information many times from going to the airports and doing exit surveys . . . sample surveys of people saying what they spend in the destination. They don’t know what they spend in the destination. They don’t know that some of the money that they paid before they came here, never reached,” he said, as he emphasized that tourism’s contribution to the national budget was much greater than was being acknowledged by the authorities because of the mismeasurement.

Therefore, the former minister suggested that policymakers should modify some of these strategies to ensure accurate visitor spend was captured.

The former CTO boss also dealt with the controversial issue of the high cost of regional travel, blaming fixed taxes on airline tickets, which he said were “one of the dumbest things” introduced to tourism.

He stressed that the close proximity of Caribbean countries to each other made them attractive to neighbouring travellers.

However, Vanderpool-Wallace said the fixed taxes increased the burden on visitors from neighbouring countries because they were paying a disproportionate percentage of airfares in taxes.

“Fixed departure taxes is one of the dumbest things that was ever created in the history of mankind. Why? Because what you are doing is growing the proportionate costs substantially of your best prospective customers from nearby. If the ticket is $100 and it’s a $100 in taxes, you have raised it by a substantial amount. If it’s a $1,000 ticket and a $100 in taxes, it is insignificant,” he explained, while recommending that Caribbean countries move from a fixed tax to a levy that is calculated as a percentage of the cost of the ticket.

With a hint of sarcasm, he added that it was a genius move to even impose such taxes from both ends of the destination – on both incoming and outgoing passengers.

Meanwhile, speaking to Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of today’s meeting, Chairman of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc Alvin Jemmott agreed that Barbados must do everything necessary to be a more competitive destination and to make it easier to attract visitors at the best possible cost.

15 Responses to Off course

  1. Sandra Madea
    Sandra Madea July 27, 2017 at 12:53 am


  2. James Austin Bynoe
    James Austin Bynoe July 27, 2017 at 1:41 am

    BHTA – please listen to this man

    • Eddy Murray
      Eddy Murray July 27, 2017 at 7:12 am

      We still having to depend on people from out side to tell us the truth about our tourist industry. When we always tell the monkey to show us the money that he is spend yearly.

  3. Alison Hoyte-small
    Alison Hoyte-small July 27, 2017 at 4:16 am

    Anyone remembers being able to ‘dash off’ to St. Lucia, St. Maarten, Trinida or St. Vincent for a weekend get away or simple family holiday? Was sooo affordable. Now it’s easier and ‘dash away’ to destinations 5 hours away at affordable rates as opposed to those 30mins – 1hr away.

  4. Rawle Spooner
    Rawle Spooner July 27, 2017 at 6:06 am

    Damm like his speech it’s right on point and hope tourism minister Richard Sealy other government ministers and the clowns at BTHA listen and learn,but in typical b/s style expect his true facts gine go in one ear and come out de other because thie above mention bunch just too backwards to get his points.

  5. chris hill July 27, 2017 at 6:35 am

    for the longest time regional travel has been disproportionate to the price vs distance ratio. this pricing has been promoted and protected by the shareholders of LIAT. we have had many carriers offering great prices for regional travel just to be shut down by the shareholding nations like our own Barbados. What happened to the inter island ferry that David Thompson screamed about in 2008.

    • John Everatt July 27, 2017 at 10:39 am

      Yes – what happened to that inter island ferry? I believe it was a Belgian company that wanted to bring in 2 fast ferries. The government just had to supply a place for it to dock and customs & immigration services. I guess it went the way of Red Jet as it would have been competition for LIAT.

  6. Dawn-Marie Rawlins
    Dawn-Marie Rawlins July 27, 2017 at 7:01 am

    I hope Min Sealy was listening and understanding this. For years we have been saying that his morning words and de tourists evening actions don’t add up at all. Yet every time he talk he calling these high tourist arrival numbers, and all we keep asking is yes but are they spending????

  7. Dennis Connell
    Dennis Connell July 27, 2017 at 7:17 am

    Look..i only went tuh secondary school…nuh college..nuh university…i aint nuh consultant or nuttun so..all uh got is a few GCE,s…but i cudda tell them asses all he just tell them…but them would never want tuh hear me..yuh know why..i aint went nuh way..meaning an institution of higher learning…but look around and see who got the place FRIGGED UP

  8. Springheadgirl July 27, 2017 at 7:37 am

    Stupse…..we need to stop spinning top in mud…somebody comes to “enlighten” the “ignorant and blind”.. everybody shouts “yeah, yeah”…then what?? nothing but big talk…

    Nobody implements anything meaningful around here…when was the last time any leader in any ministry made any revolutionary change to the benefit of the majority?

    Stupse…..another case of “long talk”

  9. TB July 27, 2017 at 10:11 am

    Hopefully, they just realise that including the airline cabin crew in the tourist arrival numbers is dumb.

  10. Ossie Moore July 27, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Well said and straight to the point ! ! ! Bajans are not accustomed to professionals telling them the truth , but then again I can hear the bajans response . . . . . . . . . ” doan listen to wha he seying cause he aint know whuh e talkin bout cause we politicans hay in buhbaydus seh dat we hay en bubaydus does get all de visitors.

    But like Mr. Dennis Conell said . I’m no Politician , no consultant and no businessman , neither do I have 5 G C E’s at O level and 3 at A level , but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to show that the B’dos Government is really a** backward when it comes to dealing ( lying to bajans ) with Tourism.

    Like my grandmother used to say . . EDUCATION IS NOT COMMON SENSE.

  11. Milli Watt July 27, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    nothing will change………island living

  12. hcalndre July 27, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    There`s a caller they all him “Tax man” that always punching holes in the numbers and figures that the tourism minister and others inflates. Barbados only gets a booming season when the winter is brutal in N. America and Europe.

  13. Tourism partner July 30, 2017 at 10:09 am

    I think we all know. Income from tourism = number of arrivals x number of days spent x avg daily spend per arrival OF FUNDS THAT REACH OUR SHORES ONLY. This income is signifaicantly impacted depending on the demographic of the arrival specifically the wealth and spending power which is derived from the wealth of the nation from which they originate. We must diversify our product but I ask the experts in the tourism Ministry where should a wonderful small country like Barbados be focusing it resources ? It is indeed not rocket science.


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