Sharp falloffs in the value of the British pound due to uncertainty over Britain’s departure from the European Union could spell trouble for Barbados’ largest tourist market.
In an interview, Virgin Atlantic’s Director of External Affairs and Sustainability Nathan Stower described this year’s high season as “decent”, but revealed there has been some concern about the future.
Recent Brexit reports indicate that the pound sterling has suffered its longest losing streak against the euro since the latter’s creation two decades ago.
According to a May 22 report from The Guardian newspaper, news that British Prime Minister Theresa May’s replacement may be willing to go for a no-deal Brexit, led to currency traders shunning the pound. The pound then slid to $1.2625 against the US dollar- its lowest level since early January.
“There’s no doubt that some of the uncertainty in the U.K – the political uncertainty and the economic uncertainty – is starting to have a little bit of an impact, not just in Barbados but to many of our destinations,” Stower admitted.
He spoke to the press after the certificate ceremony for Heartfelt Guest Care to Welcome the World training series.
“So we’re are kind of hoping for some certainty or some clarity on that situation to give consumers confidence to book ahead and look forward to their holidays to Barbados and the region.”
While admitting that Britain’s political and economic issues would not directly affect the region, Stower acknowledged that the pound’s decreasing value could make Barbados’ already expensive attractions even pricier.
“The exchange rate has an impact and we have seen the pound slightly weaker against the [United States’] dollar than it has been two to three years ago, so that has an impact on tourists’ ability to come here and spend their hard-earned cash in restaurants and all of the attractions.
“We had a very good start to the season, but obviously these bookings were taken 12-18 months ago, so we’re pretty pleased with the high season and actually the next few months are looking pretty decent.
He added: “We will be keeping a close eye on the exchange rate and we hope that when we get some certainty on this process, which we are confident we will still get later in the year, the exchange rate will improve so that people who come here can enjoy all that the island has to offer,” he said.
Given the level of uncertainty surrounding the critical British market, President of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), Patricia Affonso-Dass has called on stakeholders to improve their service.
“Those destinations that really deliver meaningful experiences are the ones that will stand out when everything goes back to normal. It’s those experiences that people will remember and the destinations that they will come to,” she added.