MONTEGO BAY – Barbados has all the raw materials necessary to fix the issue of low spending by visitors, Jamaica’s minister of tourism Edmund Bartlett has advised.
Responding to questions from Barbados TODAY at a media breakfast hosted at the Jewel Grande Montego Bay resort as part of the start of Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX), Bartlett explained that low spend recorded in Barbados in recent years, especially in the cruise industry, could simply be a matter of refreshing and being creative with the tourism product.
Bartlett suggested one means of raising visitor spending is “to encourage the building out of local experiences”. As an example, the tourism minister cited the setting up of five attraction networks in Jamaica, each catering to different reasons why people travel, or “psychographic profiles” of the market.
“For example, 88 per cent of the world travels for food and there is no better food that what is provided in Barbados. There is also shopping because 67 per cent of the world travel for shopping, so Barbados can build out its shopping experiences or take products from outside and add value to them,” Bartlett said, adding that heritage tourism must be a major driving force for the industry.
Last year, Jamaican tourism had a record 12.1 per cent increase in arrivals with 500,000 new visitors to the island, which yielded an “extra USD $500 million” in foreign exchange.
And based on the numbers for the first seven months of 2018, that record is on the verge of being broken, he said.
Jamaica’s position in the global tourism market is the result of long-running efforts to significantly enhance the value of the tourism product in an increasingly competitive market, Bartlett said.
“It comes down to customer value proposition and people will pay always for the higher value because that is what the market is about. We are mindful of this change that is taking place in terms of the competitiveness that has come about because of the increasing number of countries that are embracing tourism.
“The market has changed significantly, and the competition has heightened, and market is now about price and value and the better the value the higher the likelihood of the price,” he contended.
But the tourism minister also stressed that Caribbean territories must remain allies in the struggle for global market share.
It was at a news conference last month that Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds painted a picture of an industry in “deep state of crisis”. He revealed that a study had indicated that despite rising numbers of arrivals, the industry was failing. Cruise passenger spend had dropped to a low 47 per cent within the past ten years, he said.
“The situational analysis having been completed, I am now in a position to say to you that it reveals that the cruise sector in Barbados is in a state of very deep crisis,” Symmonds said then.
“In my view, unless imminent and immediate and fundamental alternatives are put in place, we are confronting ourselves with catastrophic failure,” he added.
Port size constraints, inefficient passenger infrastructure, low interest in onshore activities and undesirably poor customer service were all listed by Symmonds as issues which could cripple the local cruise industry.
There has also been a significant decline in visitor satisfaction, with the island ranking 24th in 2014 after placing 10th in 2008, according to a report by the Business Research and Economic Advisors (BREA).
But the matter of extremely low spending by cruise passengers was an issue that needed to be addressed immediately, Symmonds said.
According to Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) surveys, average spend of the 725,020 cruise visitors to Barbados in 2016 was US$60, dropping to US$58 in 2017 despite a record 818,752 arrivals.