Already struggling to keep tourism spend up and adequately compete with more attractive destinations, the Barbados bread and butter tourism industry has become less competitive, according to the latest Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report.
Published by the World Economic Forum’s industry programme for Aviation, Travel and Tourism, the 2017 survey placed Barbados 58 out of a total of 136 destinations with an average score of 3.91.
This represents a slide in the island’s ranking from 46 out of 141 countries in the 2015 report with a score of 4.1 out of 7.
The report examined a range of areas under the board headings of enabling environment, policy, infrastructure and natural and cultural resources. Specific areas included international openness, price competitiveness, business environment, safety and security, health and hygiene, human resources and labour market, and information and communication technology (ICT) readiness.
The other Caribbean countries listed in the report were Jamaica, ranked 69, and Trinidad and Tobago at 73.
The 370-page report ranked Barbados at 134th for price competitiveness; 123rd for cultural resources and business travel; 118th for natural resources; 85th for international openness, 71st for business environment and 59th for human resource and labour market.
Other areas of ranking included ICT readiness at 42nd; health and hygiene at 41st; environmental sustainability at 27th; air transport infrastructure at 35th; tourism service infrastructure at 37th; and ground and port infrastructure 14th.
Just last week Executive Director and Professor of Strategy at Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business Dr Miguel Carrillo warned that Barbados’ position as a tourist destination was “eroding” as it continued to face severe competition from other destinations, and that the island had difficulty in attracting and retaining even more visitors because of a lack of attractions.
The report said the majority of the countries in the region relied on their rich natural resources and good hospitality to appeal to tourists, and tended to be internationally open. It added that while most of the governments in the region understood the strategic role tourism played in development and job creation “some shared difficulties remain”.
“Central American and Caribbean countries continue to rely too excessively on their natural resources and have not made much progress in developing other tourism segments or complementing their beach offer with other activities,” it said, pointing out that culture was one area to tap into.
“While ground infrastructure is relatively well developed in North and Central America, including the United States, Canada, Panama, Barbados and Jamaica, ground transportation continues to lag across South America,” it added.
With international tourist arrivals to the hemisphere jumping from 170 million in 2013 to just over 201 million in 2015, North and Central America welcomed about 80 per cent of those visitors and Latin America, the remaining 20 per cent, it said.
Last year there were about 1.24 billion international arrivals, while the Caribbean received over 29 million, of which Barbados welcomed 630,000, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
The report called for all countries to find a better balance between developing their travel and tourism sectors and environmental protection, given the size and the importance of the natural environment.
The survey, titled Paving the Way for a More Sustainable and Inclusive Future, said while North America and Europe have dominated the travel markets in previous decades, that may not be the case “for much longer”.
“By 2030, most of the growth in international travel will come from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, which will enable further growth and job opportunities in these regions. While markets in Europe and the Americas will continue to grow, the rate is incomparable to other regions,” it said.
The not so good news for destinations such as Barbados is that “emerging markets will not only become larger source markets but also they will become more attractive destinations”.
“Between 2016 and 2026, the top ten fastest growing destinations for leisure travel spending are expected to be India, followed by Angola, Uganda, Brunei, Thailand, China, Myanmar, Oman, Mozambique and Vietnam,” the report stated.
The survey also pointed out that millennials were quickly becoming the industry’s core customer base, and therefore creating a strong value proposition for this group would be key to attracting them over the next decade.
The 2017 survey warned that to remain competitive the industry must incorporate more high-tech applications while tailoring offerings to traveller preferences. However, it warned industry officials to ensure that increased automation did not lead to a disconnect between online and in-person exchanges.
The research suggested that automation would change the nature of some travel jobs and eradicate others altogether.
“The industry hopes that new employment opportunities could outpace eradication should industry growth forecasts be met,” it said.
The top ten most competitive travel destinations in the 2017 report are Spain, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Italy, Canada and Switzerland, according to the survey.
Up to the time of publication local tourism officials had not responded to questions posed by Barbados TODAY in relation to the latest report.