It is all set for one of the biggest weekends here in Barbados. After weeks of preliminaries with all of the various events, the Crop-Over Festival reaches it climax on Monday August 5.
But Crop-Over is not the only thing that makes this weekend extremely busy; there are a series of other events taking place along. The T20 Cricket, which started a few days ago, certainly brought a new level of excitement to the island as well, and from my observation, spending money was not a struggle.
Although I have never claimed to be an economist, I believe that this type of excitement is exactly what is necessary for Barbados to keep pushing in the right direction and it strengthens foreign exchange reserves. One may easily ask how I am so confident that this type of activity lends to foreign spending.
I have a very simple way to forming my conclusion. Try getting a flight into Barbados over the next couple of days and see what is happening. Try getting a cluster of hotel room at any of the major hotels and see what happens.
On the other hand, however, we still have to be careful, because it is my observation that it is equally difficult to get a flight out of Barbados, as it is to get one in. It is my understanding that airlines are reporting full loads as far as August 20.
My interpretation of that is that there are many Barbadians leaving the island at the same time as there are visitors coming in. This means, that while we are attracting foreign exchange we are also losing it via the same route — travel.
I do want anyone to get me wrong. We cannot avoid outbound travel. To the contrary, without outbound travel, we would still have an airline problem because aircraft will come in fully booked and leave empty and therefore airfares would have to increase in order to make the flights viable.
That would create additional pressures on our already perceived image as being a high price destination. The balance that I am referring to is making sure that we do not spend more on outbound travel than we spend on inbound.
While we are busy preparing for the biggest weekend of the year, we must also keep focussed on the rest of the year. Most hoteliers would tell you that almost immediately after the Crop-Over Festival, occupancy dies and the gains made during the festival are not enough to sustain the industry until the start of the winter season.
Previously, the Banks Hockey Festival provided a prolong festive atmosphere for the island as those who could not make it for the Crop-Over Festival, would make it here for hockey, or those who came for the Crop-Over would extend their stay for the Hockey Festival.
It therefore seems natural to me that we need to do everything humanly possible to resuscitate the Hockey Festival or replace it with something else. The month of August is a critical summer month.
In previous years, filling August would have been easy as it was a peak travel period for the UK market, but with that economy still under severe pressure we must ensure that we have alternatives.
* Tourism is our business, let us play our part.