Firing back at Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss’ that Barbados had a good tourist season last year, hotelier Adrian Loveridge says it was opposite.
The Trinidad Express’ January 22 edition reported Inniss, who addressed the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce earlier this week, as saying the island was beginning to rebound and that it enjoyed a good winter tourist season last year, but Loveridge told a People’s Assembly last night that Barbados’ visitor arrival numbers actually fell some 19,000 last season.
“The winter period runs from the 15th of December to the 15th of April, but if you look at all of December, January, February, March and April, we actually fell that period,” he told Barbados TODAY, following the event at St Christopher School, and added: “Over that period, we’re actually down 18,889 long-stay visitors.”
He said that the largest fall in numbers was in the peak months of December to February –– the critical money-making period for hoteliers when they expect the highest occupancy and charge the highest rate.
“So if you lose such a staggering percentage during the winter, it not only affects the numbers, but it greatly affects the ability of each hotel,” he said. “Of course it’s a trickle-on effect, because if you don’t have people in the hotel rooms, they’re not renting cars, dining in our local restaurants, visiting our activities, etcetera.”
The small operator, who has been in the business for over 30 years, went on to question this season’s prospects, while not extending much hope for salvation from JetBlue’s announced increase in passenger load to Barbados from the United States.
“The US market is especially concerning,” he told Barbados TODAY. “And clearly the US market is where we have the biggest concern, because there has been no growth whatsoever in the US market over the last five years. In the last five-year period we recorded [fewer] US visitors than we did in the previous five years.”
Citing comparative statistics as an indication of performance, Loveridge said: “St Lucia has overtaken us in terms of US arrivals, if you look at the period January to September, which is the latest information to compare with St Lucia.”
“In fact, Barbados recorded for the period January to September, [last year], 91,532 American long-stay visitors, which was down 9.6 per cent on the same period in 2012.
“Whereas St Lucia recorded in the same period of comparison, 97,855 American long-stay visitors, which showed an increase of 10.9 per cent. So there is a 20 per cent differential between us and our neighbours.”
Addressing JetBlue’s announced jack up in seat capacity of flights to Barbados to an annual figure of just over 120,000, Loveridge said: “Now, if you can imagine an entire US market can only fill only 120,000 seats. And we now have that number coming from JetBlue alone, having lost American Airlines from JFK.”
He contended that a significant percentage of those seats would be filled by travelling Barbadian nationals, and that it would be optimistic to say tourists would be accounting for half of the passenger load.
“My concern is with no growth whatsoever in terms of tourism out of the US for the last five years, what plans do theBTA have to put in place to increase the US visitor numbers?” he asked, and answered: “I can’t see any national marketing plan in place at the moment”.