SOME YEARS AGO, we pioneered a concept that was dubbed Tourism Enhancement Month. The simple idea was to persuade our paint manufacturers and suppliers, hardware, equipment rental and landscape companies to extend an extra discount to what was then our 100-plus small hotels during what is traditionally one of the quietest months – September.
The objective was to encourage each accommodation provider to upgrade, enhance and generally improve their product offering. As a guest during the early 1990s at what was the original Casuarina Hotel in St Lawrence Gap, I think even the owners would have admitted that it was not particularly made up of architecturally attractive buildings.
So what did the general manager do? Bonnie created what were some of the most beautiful gardens to mask the structures. Many guests used to marvel at the vegetation, taking photographs to show their friends, relatives and work colleagues back home.
Certainly from our own personal experience, owning and hands-on managing a small hotel for 27 years, what our regular guests looked for, and to a certain extent expect, was to return year after year to see some form of improvement.
Expectations have dramatically changed over the last 20 years. Beautiful bathrooms with rain forest showers, comfortable king-sized beds with high quality cotton sheets, fluffy towels and bathrobes.
Most of our visitors have all these at home, so why should they want less on a paid holiday? It is also not always down to spending vast amounts of money. Fresh flowers on the pillows, restaurant tables and in public washrooms, is just one simple example.
So back to the Tourism Enhancement Month this year! Some suppliers are on board already. They can see the overall value, and while accepting lower profit margins by discounting, volume would increase to offset participation. Hopfully more will join and our cherished visitors will see an improved tourism product by next winter season.
The larger hotels of course have the economy of scale and are often able to bypass conventional local buying sources. In rare circumstances, some can avoid taxes and duties altogether, while the majority of us are forced to pay. Small accommodation providers do not have the luxury of this option and this is equally true with many other sorts of lodging choices or stand alone restaurants.
They also may be a project that the recently formed Barbados Tourism Product Authority wishes to become involved in, not necessarily from a supportive financial role, but in other ways.
Of course, ultimately it is the individual property owners who will largely benefit economically, but just imagine the difference that could be made if everybody played their part in ensuring we strive for delivering a close to pristine destination.