A senior UK airline official is cautiously optimistic about visitor arrivals from the island’s number one source market.
While insisting that it is still early days yet, of Virgin Holidays managing director Joe Thompson, said the uncertainty surrounding the Britain’s exit from the European Union, could be compounded by the Barbados Government’s new tax measures on the tourism industry.
“2018 bookings [were] looking pretty stable versus the previous year – it is still early days for 2019 but we’re looking ahead. We are certainly very conscious that there is a certain amount of uncertainty in the UK right now as the Brexit negotiations continue and consumer confidence is not quite as high in the UK as it has been in the past.
“I think that is why it is so important that we continue to invest in the guest experience and the product because there will always be ups and downs in industry demand but what makes it sure that you win the long run is making sure that that guest experience is evolving and adapting to the changing consumer taste,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“It is still early days to draw definitive conclusions [on the impact of the tourism levies]. There are a lot of variables that come into play but there is no doubt that demand for travel is price-sensitive, consumers do have a choice of destinations,” Thompson added.
Thompson was speaking at the launch of Virgin Holidays’ partnership with the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Education Foundation on Thursday at Copacabana.
He said that it was critical that Government form a balance between raising revenues from the industry and making it more sustainable.
“In raising the finance, it is quite essential for Barbados and the income that is generated from the numbers of guests arriving . . . is first of all protected and continues to grow. That is the balance that Government has got to strike,” he said.
In July, the Mia Mottley administration announced a raft of travel taxes as part of a $1.2 billion economic austerity package. This included the Airline Travel and Tourism Development tax where tickets for travel from October 1 are subjected to a US$70 fee for trips to extra-regional destinations and a US$35 fee for travel within the Caribbean; a hotel room tax of US$2.50 per night for B Class properties and apartments; US$5.50 for A Class and US$10 for luxury resorts; and a ten per cent tax on shared accommodation such as Airbnb.
Currently 2018 flight bookings for Virgin Holidays have improved from last year’s, Thompson revealed.
But he stressed that in order to compete on the global tourism market the needs and interests of guests always needed to be accommodated.