The newly-established National Cruise Development Commission (NCDC) is setting about getting cruise ship passengers to spend more tourist dollars in Barbados. Worried about the decrease in receipts from this segment of the tourism industry, the NCDC said it is a problem for Barbados.
Chairman of the commission Errol Humphrey said although the island welcomed 731,000 cruise passengers for the 2017/2018 cruise season, 46,000 more than the 2014/2015 season, according to Business Research and Economic Advisors data, visitor spend was lower. “This is a challenge for us,” he admitted.
Humphrey explained that the average tourist spend was US$64 per person for the 2017/2018 tourist season, compared to the average of US$75 for the 2014/2015 season.
“That trend is one of the reasons we are here and why the cruise commission was established – to come up with ways to hopefully reverse that trend,” Humphrey told a town hall meeting at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Tuesday night.
The meeting was organized by the three-month-old commission, established by the Mia Mottley administration to, among other things, carry out an assessment of the cruise industry here and identify opportunities and areas for economic benefits and come up with plans to improve visitor spend.
Pointing out that one approach was to get more ships to homeport in Barbados, Humphrey said this would call for better marketing of existing offerings and increasing the attractions across the country in order to cater to those passengers.
“Barbados needs enhancements of its existing attractions and it needs to develop and bring to market new and exciting attractions. That is the only way to go. The tour operators, they need attractions because that is what they sell,” he insisted.
He said that with regard to the attractions themselves, there is a need for innovative and visionary tour operators in order to market the products and deliver an unforgettable experience,” he added.
Chair of the Attractions and Experiences Committee Roseanne Myers was also of the view that increased visitor spend should be driven by product offerings.
Myers said the commission had already started to identify what was already being offered to the cruise passengers.
She said the commission had also sought to identify other attractions that were available in Barbados but were not being sold to the cruise passengers, as well as new products and concepts that were yet to be introduced.
“There are really a lot of good ideas out there and if we really look at what is being offered it is the same thing that has been offered over the last 20 years. In fact, off the top of my head I can [also] think of 20 things that we have lost in the last 20 years,” she said.
Myers said that the committee has already started a series of meetings in an effort to increase visitor spend from cruise passengers, adding that Government was willing to help businesses gain more from that industry.
“There are some fundamental things that I believe we need to say. If you really are interested in the sector you should reach out to the BTMI (Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.) if you have a product, attraction or experience or if you are not sure what the requirements are to operate with the [different cruise] lines,” encouraged Myers.
“We recognize that there are many persons who want to get into the sector but they need the intermediary help. We also have to spend some time looking at the whole question of merchandising,” she said.
Pointing out that there were about four cruise lines that currently overnight in Barbados, Myers said “One of the challenges that we have, sorry to say, there is not enough product offering in the night that people who are overnighting are being invited to”.
This must change, she added.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Tour Committee and Deputy Chairman of the Commission Dean Straker suggested that Bridgetown could become the island’s single largest tourism attraction.
However, he argued this transformation had to begin by first making the capital into a place that Barbadians would wish for themselves.
“We have been mandated to increase the visitor spend from cruise passengers. We must start by enticing more passengers to leave the ships when in Barbados because quite a few do not,” said Straker.
“I maintain that if we start by creating a town to please ourselves, we will by extention, be able to please the cruise ship passengers and visitors from around the world,” he said.
He argued that Bridgetown was in need of major sprucing up including cleaner streets and proper garbage collection, green spaces, public washrooms, wheelchair access and improved lighting.
During the meeting a number of suggestions and ideas were put forward including the joining of some small businesses that offer similar products and services, greater use of technology; introduction of more authentic Bajan experiences; development of the historic Tyrol Cot Heritage Village; more guest interaction with locals and non-traditional bus tours, among others.