A tourism government official-turned-private sector executive who now sits in the Senate has queried whether there need be two separate government agencies manage the island’s tourism product.
Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, Senator Rudy Grant, referred to the Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA) and Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) as “two sides of the same coin that were not functioning in the country’s best interest,” as debate continued on the Airport Service Charge (Amendment) Bill in the Senate on Wednesday.
The new service fees are expected to generate some $95 million in revenue, $75 million of which will be used to finance the BTMI and BTPA’s operations, while the other $20 million will be used for the Ministries of Tourism and Civil Aviation, and to honour Barbados’ commitments as a shareholder in the regional airline, LIAT.
He suggested that with the split of tourism product management between two agencies, there was less money available to market Barbados.
“Destination marketing requires going into the marketplace every single day, meeting with all the stakeholders, and if you are not doing the necessary promotion, you will not get the numbers coming. Some years ago, when BTMI got $59 million US, it went ‘dark’ in the marketplace. There was very little being done, and we experienced a drop in visitor numbers,” Senator Grant, who once served as Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism in the Owen Arthur administration, said.
“It is important for the destination marketing people to ensure that the numbers we have tie in and match the needs we have. So it is important that we examine the factors impacting on visitors coming to our destination, and design strategies to deal with them,” he added.
He also addressed the need to enhance service at the Grantley Adams International Airport since it formed visitors’ first impression of the island.
“We can do all the marketing and promotion we want, but when a visitor lands at the airport, that is ‘the moment of truth.’ So we have to make sure they have an exceptional experience, and Immigration, Customs, the Red Caps and everyone else they will meet there must contribute to that. Barbados is no longer merely competing with its Caribbean neighbours, but the entire world,” Senator Grant said.