Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Irene Sandiford-Garner today described as “fake news” reports that visitor spend had declined, even as tourist arrivals had reached a record high in 2016.
“Madame President that is another untruth,” the Government senator declared during her contribution to debate on the Appropriations Bill, 2017 this afternoon.
Boasting that Barbados had earned more than $900 million from tourism last year, Sandiford-Garner reported that the average daily spend had in fact risen in 2016.
“There was an estimated US$167.41 [last year] compared to US$164.40 [in 2015] which was spent every day by the average visitor.”
She disclosed that visitors from the United Kingdom were the big spenders, shelling out $184 per day, representing a 4.1 per cent increase.
The tourism spokesperson noted that visitors from the Caribbean and Canada also spent more last year, recording increases of 3.5 per cent and 1.9 per cent respectively.
“The remaining markets all recorded declines in average daily spend but we saw increases in our average spend, so we are looking at a total of $984.3 million brought into this economy in the last year, which is $83,000 more, or 9.2 per cent more money was spent by our visitors in Barbados in 2016,” she said to loud thumps from her colleagues.
Sandiford-Garner said the island could have earned even more had the private sector taken full advantage of new laws which facilitate the opening of stores top accommodate visitors on bank holidays and at the weekend.
She complained that it was a “shame” that two Sundays ago, with four cruise ships docked at the Bridgetown Port, Cave Shepherd was the only store opened.
“I am saying to myself, what more does a government need to do to spur action within the private sector? What do we need to do? Do we need to go downtown and open the stores and serve the visitors? What do we need to do?
“And I need to hear from somebody in the sector what it is that is preventing our business people from taking advantage of that market,” she said.
In a release issued last December, the islands marketing agency, the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) had reported that between July and September, the country had earned 2.6 per cent more from tourism when compared to the same period in 2015 due to an overall rise in arrivals, but that on average, each visitor had spent US$1.50 less than the same period the previous year, down 1.1 per cent to US$131.22 per person.
However, last month when it released its performance report for all of 2016, the BTMI, quoting the Caribbean Tourism Organization exit survey, had revised the figures upwards to those mentioned today by Sandiford-Garner.