The head of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) is sounding an alarm that all is not well in the hospitality sector and urgent Government attention is required to prevent hotel closures and other serious consequences.
President Sunil Chatrani said today the signs of disaster are too many to ignore and serious action, rather than more talk and studies, is necessary.
“We need to fix what we have and we need the tools to be able to do so. I am referring to the concessions that were approved by cabinet nearly nine months ago that we still cannot access. If we are serious about turning this economy around, then we need to create a conducive environment to facilitate the necessary and long overdue reinvestments,” he said in a statement issued this evening.
Highlighting concerns expressed by ministers, stakeholders and other observers about a range of issues affecting the industry, he added: “The recent debates concerning shortage of rooms, quality of rooms, declining tourist arrivals over the last decade, concessions to Sandals, lack of clarity of direct tourism services, restructuring of the Barbados Tourism Authority, loss in airlift capacity from major feeder markets, high operating costs, low returns on investments, declining service standards, losing our share of the younger tourist market, limited attractions . . . all serve as smoke signals to indicate that all is not well.”
Chatrani pointed out that the problems facing the industry have already been well documented.
And he contended that if Barbados is really depending on the industry to turn the economy around, “then we really need to stop and listen and deal with the issues.”
“Several studies have been done and many papers exist on the challenges of the industry. None of the recent comments highlighted in the press are new. There is the PCS study, the Tourism Master Plan, The Tourism White Paper and the list goes on. They all basically identify the challenges and the areas that we need to focus on, but these studies and documents have been around for years now and little has been done strategically to regain our share of the market in the Caribbean,” he said.
Insisting that he was not trying to stir up any political debate or pit the private sector against the public sector, the BHTA boss said each side had to contribute to the solution.
“We all are responsible for our own success and something needs to be done urgently or we will continue to see our room inventory decline with the closure of existing hotels and the deterioration of the remaining room stock.
“We are already an overpriced destination that is uncompetitive and the situation will only continue to get worse if we do not address these problems now,” Chatrani added.
Although not making any direct reference to Government’s decision to compulsorily acquire the Sam Lord’s Castle property and spend $200 million in transforming it into 450-room resort, he argued that adding new room inventory cannot be the quick fix.