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Published on December 18, 2017

Good morning ladies and gentlemen and seasons greetings to all.  We are at the start of what looks to be a very busy cruise season and are fingers are crossed that the air arrivals over the Jan to April high season will equal or better last year.   Like every good Barbadian household most tourism businesses are putting the final touches to their spruce up for the season, reviewing menus and for those who have done upgrades and refurbishments, feverishly trying to bring the construction to a close.  Those taking advantage of cruise arrivals for cruise and stay packages as well as tours have already seen the throngs of persons descending on their businesses.

Starting again on a positive note, our marketing strategies as individual entities and as a destination are seemingly working and Barbados continues to be very aggressively protecting its market share in the UK and growing such in North America.  Well done to all. Product upgrades are bolstering our discussion as we contract new business and keep old partners seemingly satisfied with our progress.

The million dollar question is are we delivering on our promise the ground here on island?  Are we defending the product attributes that most distinguish us from others in our competitive set? At this point we are not. One year ago we spoke of two issues and those are still with us.  The airport wait times have seen some attempt to address but is still not acceptable and on the other front we have got very much worst as the South Coast sewerage situation has actually gotten worst.

We accept the apology of the BWA but we do not accept that this is the best that we can do over twelve months of dealing with these issues.  We need temporary measures to prevent any outflows in public areas.  Constant pumping, diversion of flow, more aggressiveness in cleaning the roads and areas affected by the overflows to protect foot and vehicular traffic from possible contaminants etc.  We know the BWA regrets the situation but we also need an understanding of the short, medium and long term solutions, not guesses or hopes or suppositions or trial and error.  We need to call on the best technical expertise to resolve this issue.  The reputation of the destination is at stake, the viability of our businesses are at stake and we have to fight hard to ensure that the health of all users is protected.  We can and must do better.

I would like to take a few moments to pay tribute to a member who has passed, Cathy Winter-Hall, the owner of Caribbean Dynamics.  Cathy has been in the industry over the 30 years I have known her. A Destination Management company owner, a very sharp tourism professional with a back ground as tour operator and very astute business person.  Cathy will be missed for her tireless seeking out of opportunities.  She was heavily involved as the on the ground facilitator of TUI Charter out of Europe in recent times, which was a very successful charter in some respects.  Cathy will be missed and we salute her contribution to the tourism sector.

Today our focus turns to the Importance of the local investor to the Barbados product.  Historically the Barbados brand has been built on the work done by local home grown brands.  Indeed a scan of the memberships shows that it is made up of 85% local brands versus international and foreign owned brands.  In our direct tourism services, the percentage of locally owned business is even higher.  We must take a moment to salute those owners and as we continue our 60th year of celebration.

These brands have competed in the global arena for 60 years and successfully so.  They have competed before the advent of digital marketing where your destiny was in someone else’s hands and are still around to tell the tale.

We will start with a summary of the incentives that government has put in place for the industry to continue to strive and grow.  Are they effective and working?  We will look at the perspective of two local investors who have invested in very different segments.  One in the hotel plant but with a unique blend of hotel rooms and fractional ownership on sale, the other a direct tourism services business of 50 years, with focus on services and products for the cruise sector.  Some of the critical areas to be explored are;

  • Is local investment important to the Government of Barbados and treated equally to the foreign direct investor?
  • Are local investors incentivized by the initiatives that have been put in place commonly known as concessions?
  • Are there incentives to invest for the non hotel sector?  Attractions, restaurants, car rental agencies?
  • What motivates local investors to continue even in the light of international rating agencies’ very depress ratings?
  • Is the inefficiency of the administrative system a disincentive to the local investor and to the foreign investor?
  • Are local companies really given an opportunity to invest in state-owned assets?
  • Is the process of divestment transparent and how so? Time Out, Blue Horizon, Hilton as examples

The panel discussion with Paul Doyle of Crane Resorts, Martin Ince of Foster and Ince and Stuart Layne of Barbados Tourism Investment Inc., will seek to explore these issues and ultimately highlight opportunities in the sector for investment, help to outline the incentives to do so and ultimately to improve the understanding of how these incentives work and how to improve access.

If we are to grow the Barbados economy we have to take charge of the things we can control and the local investor has shown a resilience and can make a significant contribution until we can address the issue causing the loss of the foreign direct investment.



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