Thursday, April 25, 2024

TOURISM MATTERS: Invest and improve sound advice


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If the newspaper reporting of an address made at the recent Barbados International Business Association Investment Conference by the Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados, Dr DeLisle Worrell, is accurate, in my humble opinion, it is absolutely spot on.
“As a mature tourism destination, Barbados needs to constantly refresh and diversify its tourism product to give first-time visitors a reason to prefer this island over the competition, to win their hearts so they will want to return, and to repay the loyalty of long term friends who come year after year,” he said.
Dr Worrell went on to say, while Barbados cannot make light of the of the “formidable challenges” it faces in the tourism sector, such as lack of financing for the refurbishment and upgrade of properties which cannot qualify for the borrowing they need for this work because of the prolonged recessio’.
To some, either in the industry or with a full understanding of it, these observations might seem at first a little obvious, but I think it’s really important that we frequently remind ourselves of the priorities.
 Sadly, what was missing was how we are going to address these issues nationally?
Clearly some hotels have already adopted the invest and improve philosophy that Dr Worrell has recommended. Ultimately if they are able to steer through the current fiscal downturn, they will emerge in a stronger position when recovery comes.
A few columns ago, I touched on what has become the world’s most visited travel review website, TripAdvisor.
Its most avid critics cite people who post fake hotel reviews as one of its biggest failings.
A British registered company, Kwikchex is now acting of behalf of more than 800 aggrieved hotels and restaurants and has stated “it plans to publish a list of thousands of reviewers it suspects of posting fraudulent and defamatory comments”.
It says, “websites such as TripAdvisor will be told to notify their reviewers of the list, once published, and they will be given two weeks to remove the comments of face legal action if they cannot substantiate their claims and that they were guests of the establishments concerned”.
 I am not legally trained, but to me it sounds like a potential litigation minefield, and I wonder if it would really reduce the number of actual malicious and untruthful postings.
TripAdvisors’ response so far has been that “it will protect reviewers by refusing to release their actual names unless it is ordered to do so by a court of law”.
Hotels and restaurants already have an existing right of response to any posting and TripAdvisor has dedicated a team entitled Content Integrity to establish the authenticity of any disputed review.
From someone that follows this website relatively closely, many hotels could improve their monitoring and response to guests making critical comments.   
Look at some of the highest rated hotels and this is overtly obvious.
There is though room for general improvement in ensuring that it remains, as in their own words the world’s most trusted source of travel advice.
As an example, a recently opened resort in one of our neighbouring islands, boasts an almost impossible 100 per cent “recommend to a friend” status. But then you conclude the vast majority of postings so far have been by investors in the property looking for a return by letting the accommodation they are not likely to use.


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