Last week I spoke of getting ready for the season. This week I want to take a look at the impact of Christmas on tourism and the employees working within the tourism industry.
Christmas to most people seems to be a special time of the year. It’s the time when we tend to do things that we have not done for the entire year, like go to church, clean, spend time with family and give gifts. For some people going on holiday for Christmas is the thing to do. I remember taking a family holiday in 2000 and it was an experience unlike any other.
Christmas travel decisions are some of the most difficult decisions a family could make. Although the family has decided that they are not going to be at home, all of the comfort and joys of being at home are still expected. A hotel being over-sold and having to “walk guests” is never easily accepted, because a lot of time deciding on the destination, location and property goes into the decision making process and arriving at the location to be told that you are being relocated to somewhere else brings about immediate disappointment.
For those of us working in the tourism industry, we are still expected to provide the same level of service required of us as if it were not Christmas. This means that many hotel employees are called upon to forego many of the above-mentioned elements that make Christmas special. This type of sacrifice that tourism workers make in order to earn foreign exchange for our country does not always seem to be acknowledged by the public.
I remember for many years when I worked in the Food and Beverage Department, never being able to attend the family gatherings. On the other side of the coin, working on Christmas Day can be financially rewarding; there are people who do not have a problem giving up the family time for the financial gains.
Of course, some businesses take the decision to close for the Christmas holiday period. This got me to thinking about another side of tourism as it related to Christmas. My research indicates that on Christmas bank holiday [Boxing Day] we are expected to have five cruise ships arriving here in Barbados — Aurora, Carnival Victory, Massdam, Celebrity Equinox and Riviera. These five vessels will carry approximately 4,500 passengers on board.
The question is: What will happen on this day? Will the ancillary services be available to the passengers? Are they going to be able to do dutyfree shopping or are we going to lose a foreign exchange opportunity? The reason that I am mentioning this now is because I remember us having a similar situation a few years ago and we received poor reviews as a cruise destination for not being available on the busiest cruise ship arrival day of the week.
One may ask the question: How much of a foreign exchange opportunity are we talking about? It is estimated that we earn approximately $68 per passenger per day from the cruise ship arrivals. If we have 4,500 passengers on the ground, the approximate earning power to the industry is just over US $300,000.00. Given the dependency of our economy on the performance of our tourism industry, I feel that this question deserves careful consideration and an answer.
* Tourism is our business, let’s play our part.