Tourism should no longer be seen only in terms of bodies in airline seats and heads in hotel beds.
Senior Fellow at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, Dr Keith Nurse, made this point today during a presentation on the topic Tourism, Trade in Services and Global Value Chains: The Case of Barbados.
The venue was the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies.
Arguing that this island’s tourism had gone beyond a mere head count of visitors, Nurse observed that Barbados had witnessed a “servicification” of the industry – which he explained as the provision of a wide range of services for visitors.
He said Barbados was probably the country with the highest level of “servicification” in the Caribbean.
The UWI academic told his audience: “Today I am not here to speak about arrival numbers; I am not here to speak about hotel occupancy; I am not here to speak about any of those things that you normally hear. We usually speak about whether arrivals are up or down. However, the services that are really critical in deepening the value added to the industry are never discussed.”
Nurse noted that even though Kodak gave the world the still camera and then the digital camera, it recently filed for bankruptcy and got knocked out of the market. He suggested that the same thing was taking place in tourism. He said countries which have sought to introduce value added services to the tourism product, have remained vibrant destinations.
Nurse, who has served as an advisor to international organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Organization of American States (OAS), pointed out that when people thought about tourism, they still focused on hotels when villas and other forms of accommodation were becoming more significant.
He noted that 42.9 per cent of villas offered baby-sitting services, 57 per cent offered wedding services, all of them had Wi-Fi access and 42 per cent offered conference facilities. “Villas are not just offering a bed on which to sleep,” he pointed out. “They are offering a wide range of services to their guests today.”
The UWI academic noted that villas retained the services of persons who cut the lawns and clean the pools. He made reference to a study which was carried out at a villa management company that showed it had procured $10 million worth of services in Barbados in one year.
Nurse also stated that a study carried out on Goddard Enterprises, one of the island’s largest conglomerates, had surprised him at the quantum of services which it offered in the tourism sector. “Goddard’s offers many services to cruise liners and air carriers, particularly catering,” he said.
He went on: “They offer excursions and tours. They offer garbage collection services to cruise liners and luxury yachts for businessmen. They transport food to aircraft and package the food.” Nurse pointed out that Goddard not only provided these services to the tourism sector in Barbados, but also to the tourism sector of other sister Caribbean territories.
He also referred to a study carried out on the Sun Group of companies that showed it owns hotels, produces the Barbados Pocket Guide, owns the Going Places travel agency, provides insurance coverage, has a car rental service and offers guided tours of the island.