Monday, April 22, 2024

TOURISM MATTERS: Gearing up for the summer


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AS WE RE-ENTER the softer summer season, the emphasis by many tourism partners is how to use this prolonged traditionally quieter period to enhance, upgrade and generally improve their individual plant or product.

Having owned and operated a small hotel for almost three decades, we had a policy of re-investing a substantial portion of the previous years’ turnover and/or profit annually, so that returning guests could see that we were always trying to embellish the property.

It became almost like a game and we offered our guests a clipboard so that on their second day of their stay they could tour the grounds and report back to us the improvements they noticed since the previous visit.

Regular readers will by now realise that I always think it is better to achieve goals using smart partnerships, so we are bringing back, as a non-for-profit initiative that was initially rolled out about ten years ago. Through our wonderful web communications company we have registered the domain name and launched a live Facebook page.

The objective is to try and persuade local suppliers and manufacturers to offer a special discount to all tourism partners during the month of September only.

For those companies agreeing, it will, of course, result in depleted margins, but hopefully the volume and brand awareness will at least partially compensate for this.

If most accommodation providers, restaurants and ancillary tourism services all undertake some upgrading, this has to result in a nationwide improvement, which I am sure will not go unnoticed by our repeat clientele.

While most people can understand our geography has an impact on pricing, if you really study freight charges it is difficult for laymen to comprehend exactly why in so many cases we pay often double what a similar or even identical product costs in our source tourism markets.

Yes, some may say, but designated qualifying tourism providers can import many items, supposedly “duty free” and this may be true for the larger players.

But to the majority of our smaller tourism businesses it’s a bureaucratic nightmare and often simply not worth attempting to scale the hoops and hurdles placed in the way.

As our own example, I can still graphically recall attempting to import some specialty paint, after first obtaining verbal permission from local authorities through one of Britain’s largest manufacturer’s’, Imperial Chemicals Industries (ICI) and intended for lighthouses.

Seventeen days after placing the order, it arrived at Bridgetown Port. It would then eventually take almost three years before that “permission” became a reality and we were allowed to collect the paint. But only after paying three times the cost of the paint and shipping in duties and taxes. At that time, we went to the “secure” Customs area to collect the goods, only to find one third of it had been stolen.

Resigned to the fact, we then attempted to obtain a refund of duties on the reduced quantity, only to be told this could well take up to two years. This is part of the cost of doing business on Barbados.

Most of us can understand why our “local” manufacturers have to be protected, but ICI had already indicated that they were happy to licence a Barbados-based company to make this particular product here.  Eventually, this became a reality for other brands, but it took almost 20 years to make it happen.


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