ADMINISTRATIVE REPORT FROM BARBADOS HOTEL & TOURISM ASSOCIATION
I wish to offer our sincerest condolences, prayers and support to our Caribbean neighbours who are now challenged due to the impact of Hurricane Irma. We wish them God’s guidance as they undergo the rebuilding process. The BHTA has distributed information on bank accounts set up by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, as well as information on The Caribbean Tourism Recovery Fund facilitated by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) Relief Fund through GoFundMe. In addition, we have also circulated to members a list of items which the Government of Antigua and Barbuda requires urgently to assist the people of Barbuda. Members are encouraged to support the relief efforts through the use of one of these initiatives.
Let us give thanks to Almighty God for sparing us from the wrath of Hurricane Harvey and Irma. We must not however become complacent. Given the active nature of the current Hurricane season, it is critical that we are well prepared to safeguard our guests, our employees and ourselves.
During the passage of Hurricane Harvey, the BHTA Directors were kept in touch via a WhatsApp chat to feedback in real time what was occurring on the ground. This was facilitated by the Special Projects Officer being at the Tourism Emergency Operations Centre (TEOC) and the CEO collaborating with the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC). In an effort to ensure that members are apprised of critical issues from the TEOC and the National NEOC, and to be able to feed in critical information, we are proposing to set up a WhatsApp group chat for BHTA members for that specific purpose. If you wish to be part of this WhatsApp group, please e-mail one mobile number for your organization to email@example.com; copied to firstname.lastname@example.org. This WhatsApp group chat will be strictly for business, and members are therefore encouraged to be guided by this.
In an effort to keep members informed during the passage of Hurricane Harvey a number of emails were circulated. Unfortunately, due to a computer virus from a spam email the majority of these emails were not reaching members circulated. In an effort to ensure that should our email server be compromised in anyway, we have set up two Gmail accounts, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org to ensure members are kept informed.
CURRENT DESTINATION PERFORMANCE
Visitor arrivals to Barbados continue to be on a general upward trajectory. At the end of June this year there was an increase of 8% in stayover visitor arrivals which represented an additional 25,896 arrivals when compared to the same period for 2016. The USA market continues to lead in the market growth with an increase of 18% with Canada also showing reasonable growth in the vicinity of 13%.
While there has been commendable growth in these two major markets the growth in Barbados’ main source market, the United Kingdom (UK) has been flat with growth for the period January to June 2017 being less than 1% (0.9% to be exact). This undoubtedly would affect revenues as visitors from the UK stay longer and spend more daily than visitors from our other source markets. The challenges of Brexit and the prevailing economic factors facing the UK are likely impacting arrivals from this market. Information on the third quarter will be available next week.
It is critical therefore that we design the appropriate marketing actions to significantly improve visitor arrivals from the UK particularly at a time when one of our Caribbean destinations, Jamaica, through their Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, M.P. has informed that “Jamaica had been campaigning aggressively in the United Kingdom (UK) marketplace and would not relent until it has sole position of the number-one destination for British travellers to the Caribbean.” The UK is our major source market and we therefore must act effectively to ensure that no one is able to “eat our lunch”.
Cruise passenger arrivals recorded an increase of 76,130 passengers or 21.1% for the period January to June 2016. Concurrently, cruise ship calls were up by sixty-four (64) or 26%. This is certainly good news for our DTS members who rely on cruise ship business.
AIRLIFT WINTER 2017
During the upcoming winter season, there will be a slight increase in airline seats by approximately seven thousand seats when compared to the 2016 winter season.
In the USA – JetBlue Airways will operate a weekly Newark (EWR) service on Saturdays beginning 18th November until 28th April, 2018. They will also reintroduce a daily Fort Lauderdale (FLL) service effective 5th November, 2017.
The Boston flight will again operate on Saturdays and Sundays with MINT service on Saturday’s only, and New York JFK services will continue to operate twice daily during peak periods with the MINT flights on Saturdays.
American Airlines is expected to continue similar services out of Miami with two (2) daily flights.
In the UK market, British Airways will again operate a minimum of 10 weekly non-stop services between Barbados and London Gatwick starting 29th October, 2017 until 24th March, 2018. BA will increase flights to 12 per week from November 28th 2017 to March 24th 2018.
Virgin Atlantic Airways will introduce a new London Heathrow Airport (LHR) service on Tuesdays and Saturdays starting on 12th December, 2017 until 24th February, 2018.
Thomas Cook Airlines will commence a new weekly Saturday service from London Gatwick (LGW) effective 16th December 2017 until 17th March, 2018.
Air Canada will continue to operate its low-cost airline Air Canada Rouge for the winter 2017/18 season, with a Boeing B767-300 with capacity for 280 passengers, in a dual-class configuration from Toronto. This schedule is similar to last season.
The Westjet Airlines schedule from Toronto remains unchanged compared to last season.
In the region, Air Antilles will continue their three (3) times weekly service between Barbados and Fort-de-France, Martinique, which began in February, this year. These flights will operate with ATR42 aircraft with a capacity of forty-six (46) seats, while Caribbean Airlines, and LIAT are expected to operate similar schedules and capacity as last year.
Unfortunately, Delta Airlines and Avianca Airlines have both suspended operations into Barbados.
DATA AND ANALYSIS
If as an Association we are to be able to acutely aware of market performances then our members must provide information requested in a timely manner. Our internal data collection suffers from inadequate responses from members in providing the necessary information being requested by the BHTA secretariat.
We have a situation where the BHTA pays a free service to accommodation members requesting them to provide information to STR. At present, approximately fifty percent (50%) of our members are contributing information. While our anticipation based on the properties reporting and the spread between the south coast and west coast properties for there to be significant deviation from the averages we have compiled it is still critically important that we have more accurate data collection.
We are developing a new formula which will allow us to get a better view of our performance, particularly forward bookings and pace reports. Looking at historical information is important, but it’s the past. In order to plan for the future, we must also measure the pace of our bookings, so that we can identify possible challenges on the horizon and to allow us to take the necessary corrective actions to arrest problems before they become untenable.
ADVOCACY AND MEMBERSHIP ISSUES
We continue to lobby and advocate on behalf of our members during these very challenging times. The major matters to report on coming out of meetings with our partners and matters for which we continue to lobby are as follows:
- It is now almost twelve (12) months since the forty-nine (49) additional items were requested to be added to the list of duty free Food and Beverage items. We have been assured that all the relevant ministries have reviewed but as of this writing we have not had official notification. This process is completely untenable one. To bring this matter to a close we are proposing, as was suggested by the Minister of Finance, to request that the remaining items to complete the full list be submitted and a meeting requested with all the appropriate parties to bring this matter to conclusion.
- During discussions with the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) we received confirmation that the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) does not apply to Hotels and Restaurants which receive exemptions of taxes and duties when they are purchasing locally manufactured products. BRA is in the process of revising the NSRL Guidelines so that this exemption is realized.
- We have written to the Ministry of Finance to suggest that the reduction to 7.5 % VAT for Direct Tourism Services (DTS) which was to be clarified by a one-word change to the legislation, still outstanding, can perhaps be dealt with administratively. We encourage members to put in their applications to BRA and let us assist with the processing as we have been able to do for some members.
- Stand-alone restaurants can currently access concessions under the TDA for refurbishment but not under the TDAA for Food and Beverage. We are continuing the process of advocating for stand-alone restaurants to access duty free status on Food and beverage items as currently only restaurants attached to hotels can obtain Duty Free concessions through the TDAA where they meet the criteria set. The BHTA has posited that stand-alone restaurants should be allowed to receive the same type of exemption of duties and taxes for Food and Beverage as restaurants attached to hotels provided that they meet specific criteria as presently exists. Meetings with the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, the Hon Christopher Sinckler M.P and the Minister of Tourism and International Transport, the Hon. Richard Sealy M.P have informed that there is no major issue from a policy perspective with this. The challenge relates mechanism for the implementation which we are told is currently being considered.
- Further to a meeting of all the relevant parties to deal with the issue of fees to be charged in Folkestone Marine Park and the congestion in Carlisle Bay the BHTA wrote to relevant parties with proposed suggestions on both matters. We have been actively following up and awaiting a response as well as guidelines for operating in both areas prior to the October start of the cruise season. Our plan is to convene another meeting to bring some of the matters to resolution in the absence of the feedback required.
- There continues to be concerns by members about the general cleanliness of the island. In most instances, we communicate the concerns of our members with the Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA) and follow up with them. The BHTA as direct action to assist with the cleanliness of the island and in keeping with our need to protect core elements of our brand, is refurbishing fifty (50) garbage bins strategically located close to selected schools and in Holetown, Speightstown, Oistins and St. Lawrence Gap.
The main issues of concern identified by members relate to VAT returns; Beach Harassment; cleanliness of the island; approvals for expansion or new builds under the TDA; accessing the waiver of taxes and duties for items imported under the TDAA and the impact of the NSRL.
We met with BRA on the VAT and NRSL as was reported. A few members reported that they have received some outstanding VAT returns. We will continue to highlight specific company issues once we are furnished with the information. We wish to thank the BRA for their continued openness to dialogue and to the resolution of issues.
You are encouraged to provide information on those issues which are impacting on your operations so that we can discuss with the relevant partners when we meet with them.
PROMOTIONS AND ACTIVITIES
Our general feedback from Accommodation and DTS members indicate that this marketing programme has not delivered the level of expected results. One of the challenges has been that while this programme provides the option for kids to stay and play free to age sixteen (16) years many accommodation members already provide a summer programme where kids stay free up to age twelve (12) years. In the meantime, discussions at the marketing committee level have been ongoing to determine the 2018 summer promotion. The objective is to have this promotion agreed to by the time we attend World Travel Market (WTM) in November.
This year we partnered with the Intimate Hotels of Barbados (IHB) in the promotion of Staycation. From information received Staycation bookings continue to be positive. This is good news for our hotels as well as for the economy as vacationing at home instead of abroad helps our foreign exchange reserves.
The Staycation focus has also been extended to the Caribbean market. The Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) is in the process of completing a marketing initiative with the 2017 Staycation accommodation properties. This promotion involves collaboration with Going Places Travel and LIAT to promote Barbados in select Caribbean countries and offer these visitors the Staycation rates.
Art of Cuisine – Barbados Meets the World
In July, we launched the first Art of Cuisine – Barbados Meets the World, event featuring Barbados Chef Jason Howard and friends – Chef Jason Licker, Chef Marco Maestoso, and Chef Angel Betancourt. Three pop-up events were held; two dinner events at Oceans Two and Daphne’s Restaurant respectively, and an Afternoon Tea event at the Crane Resort. Additionally, training sessions were conducted for local chefs over a five-day period. The idea was to expose local chefs to new and unique ways to cook, to plate, and to preserve local produce available to them.
While there were some teething problems in the execution of the week of activities, the event was successful for many reasons. The creativity and output at the event was superior; we received tremendous social media exposure; our local chefs were exposed to new skills, and we realised the possibilities for our famers and chefs, in terms of the production and use of local produce. The linkages between agriculture and tourism were put in the spotlight during this event. The BHTA proposes to make some adjustments to this event so that participating members are provided greater value.
This first-time event which took place in July with some synergy with the Art of Cuisine event, was also a success. Substantial environmental awareness and education was undertaken. A pre-event focused on teaching one hundred (100) children to swim and to make them more aware of the marine environment. I wish to thank Andre Miller for the tremendous support he provided in making this activity a success.
Crop Over 2017 and Carifesta
We have not received any official numbers regarding Crop Over bookings as yet, but anecdotally, it appears that the smaller south coast hotels performed reasonably well during this period averaging between 65% and 95% occupancies. This trend also continued during the Carifesta period.
Car rental companies reported a “mixed bag” with respect to Crop Over. Bookings were slightly up over last year. However, there was a very sharp drop off immediately following the end of Crop Over, which meant that the booking periods were not as long as have been in the past.
We have had a few changes and additions to our resources within the Association. Rhea Walker is the new Receptionist/Administrative Assistant. She takes over from Akilah Martin who had temporarily filled that position. Kathy-Ann Grant, the Acting Membership Relations Officer, will be leaving us next week having resigned her position effective September 18, 2017. We extend our sincerest gratitude to Kathy-Ann and Akilah for their dedicated service and wish them every success as they continue their professional journey. In the interim, Judy Wilkinson will handle all membership matters until a replacement is recruited.
Effective September 1, 2017 we engaged the services of Ethic Vision Inc. to work with us in executing our social media agenda. I wish to thank Rashad Hinds for the support he has given us over the past few months with our social media programme.
The HR Committee (Internal) has interviewed for the position of Business Development Consultant. A recommendation from the HR Committee is expected to be considered by the Directors at next week’s Board of Directors meeting. For the past three months Ms. Averil Byer has been providing temporary Business Development Consultancy services to the BHTA. I wish to thank her for her support and assistance.
The Leadership 21, CVQ management level 2 and 3, is a highly recommended learning experience for managers and supervisors. This training is provided by Toney Olton and his team at The Potter Center. We believe that there must be investment in leadership skills at the management and supervisory levels if we are to sustain a competitive edge in the delivery of our products and services in the future.
To support these efforts, we secured part funding from The Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Council, and agreed to underwrite part of the training cost to make it more affordable to members. The fee to members is $500. The plan for this September was to have three cohorts, but regretfully only twenty (20) persons registered, which means that we will now conduct just one cohort starting September 19, 2017. This cohort will be for a duration of ten (10) weeks.
Members are encouraged to take advantage of this type of subsidized training which can prove beneficial to your organization.
UWI SCHOLARSHIP DISBURSEMENT
The BHTA hosted two (2) golf charities to provide scholarship funding to students pursuing studies in the Tourism degree programme at the University of the West Indies (UWI). The award criteria which was developed in conjunction with the Tourism Department at UWI will be reviewed by the Directors at their next Board meeting. It is proposed that students in both the undergraduate and graduate programmes can apply for these scholarships.
- The Caribbean Society Hotel Association Executives (CSHAE) meeting in Turks and Caicos September 13 – 16, 2017 has been postponed due to Hurricane Irma.
- CTO’s State of the Tourism Industry Conference (SOTIC) – will be held in Grenada from October 10 – 13, 2017.
- IMEX America 2017 is in Las Vegas, USA, October 10 – 12, 2017.
- World Travel Market (WTM) takes place in London from November 6 – 8, 2017.
- The BTMI will conduct a promotion in Paris immediately following WTM.
While we continue to collaborate with Government to achieve the agreed benefits for our members the process is painfully slow. I speak specifically of the additional forty-nine (49) items to be added to the list of items approved for importation, the process of adding further items to be approved for importation and the inclusion of the stand-alone restaurants in the TDAA by utilising the same criteria as what exist for restaurants attached to hotels.
I know that this frustrates our affected members. It frustrates us at the secretariat. We will however continue with our efforts to ensure that our members receive the benefits of these agreed measures and to encourage our government counterparts to execute. These measures provide for greater global competitiveness for our tourism industry.
The success of our industry is dependent on our building of a strong team – Government, Private Sector partners and Workers representatives. The growth, development and sustainability of this very important industry which provides significant employment and is our country’s major foreign exchange earner requires that timely decisions are made and executed by all parties. We no longer have the luxury of time if we wish to continue to safeguard this very important industry.
In closing, I wish to thank the Chairman, Directors and members of staff for their continued commitment and support. We pledge to continue to engage and build relationships with all members as we continue to build our organisation and strengthen our advocacy.