With hours to go before United Kingdom residents vote in a referendum that will determine whether the country remains in or exits the European Union (EU), there are concerns among Barbados tourism officials about a possible negative impact on the industry, given the fact that the UK is the island’s leading source of visitors.
Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Sue Springer said today while industry officials were expecting a favourable performance this year, the outcome of the so-called Brexit referendum was an issue they were keeping a close eye on.
“As we look down the road for the remainder of the year, there are many challenges and opportunities ahead of us,” said Springer, delivering the CEO’s report at the BHTA’s annual general meeting at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre this afternoon.
“Tomorrow, June 23rd, will be the day of decision for ‘Brexit’ . . . . There is much speculation regarding the outcome of the vote and strong cases have been made for both sides of the equation. The experts feel that on balance if ‘Brexit’ should happen, that the negatives outweigh the positives with respect to the impacts on Barbados, a scenario not to be discounted for the tourism sector,” she added, without giving details.
Tourism officials have also pointed to the summer Olympic Games scheduled for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August and the US Presidential Election in November as two events which were also likely to have a negative impact on visitor arrival numbers.
“We are still counting the cost of the Zika cancellations and the pace of cancellations that is currently being reported by the hotels is higher than average when compared to previous years,” Springer also reported.
She went on: “The actual impact of Zika is difficult to measure as we cannot calculate a figure for the persons who when taking a decision to book a vacation and do not travel to Barbados or the Caribbean due to Zika.”
The BHTA CEO said the exchange rates for the British pound sterling and the Canadian dollar were additional concerns for the industry, “especially in the summer and fall periods as the demographic of the visitor to Barbados is very different during these periods”.
The opportunity though, said Springer, lies in the fact that Barbados will be celebrating 50 years of Independence later this year. “So any shortfall from the US market during November, will be more than compensated by the many Bajans returning home to celebrate,” she added.
The Golden Jubilee of Independence will be officially celebrated on November 30, the date on which Barbados ceased in 1966 to be a British colony and became a sovereign nation in the global community of independent states.
Springer also saw opportunities in current and planned hotel projects, including the Sandals expansion, the building of the new Wyndham Grand, the Hyatt Hotel and the expansion of the Sea Breeze Hotel.
She said these projects will increase the island’s hotel room stock and should help to attract more tourists to the island over the coming years. (MM)