The Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) is already thinking about a “master plan” to ratchet up marketing of the island so there is a seamless transition after the COVID-19 pandemic.
This assurance has come from Chairman of the BTMI Sunil Chatrani, who pointed out that funding, a united effort from all local industry players and airline partners will play a critical role in rebuilding the island’s main foreign exchange earning industry.
“I am suggesting that we try to figure out a plan forward now in terms of marketing. So we are no longer looking at what is happening now. We in the BTMI, our business is about marketing the destination. What we need to be doing, and what we are doing is figuring out how can we come up with a master plan,” Chatrani said during a recent Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Industry event.
“These are difficult times that we are going through and we have to be strong. Strength in numbers is what will help us to get through this. The BTMI will be working on our plan, and I urge all of you that when we reach out to you through the BHTA to work with us and help us in the development plan that will be second to none,” he said.
Chatrani said the focus of the BHTA as the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic was how Barbados could be impactful in its marketing coming out of this.
Pointing out that the airline industry and the local product offerings were critical to the continuation of the industry, Chatrani said Barbados had a “great product” and the main concern now was to “keep business alive”.
“So our focus is really on the next three to six months. And I urge you that while we are distracted in terms of going into survival mode and trying to survive and get through this period, try to plan ahead and start thinking how can we as a business survive and how can we as a business launch into the future and take advantage of this rethinking period,” said Chatrani.
However, he said there will be need for special funding for the aggressive marketing of the island in coming months.
Revenues from departure tax measures announced in the 2018 budget were to go towards funding of the BTMI. However, in a recent address, Prime Minister Mia Mottley acknowledged that with an expected dramatic reduction in travel as a result of COVID-19, revenues from the departure tax would be miniscule and new funding would be required for the BTMI.
No new funding model has yet been identified but Chatrani said the BTMI would soon be seeking support for its planned marketing strategy.
“We will be seeking or we would like to seek special funding for this. We need to figure out collectively how we can come up with a plan to really market this destination, remember everyone will be doing the same thing, how can we do this better than everyone else,” he said.
“Let us work together in developing that plan on how we will relaunch something quite significant. The key for me is going to be driven by the airlines. We have to keep our contacts and special relationships with those airlines that we have,” he added.
The tourism industry official also called on hoteliers and other industry operators to use the down period to take advantage of any training opportunities for team members.
“Let us work on the product, let’s take the time now to reflect, retool, retrain and get ready for the next three to six months,” he suggested.
One of the early plans for the hotel sector is a $20 million refinancing of the Small Hotel Investment Fund so that hotels could borrow to refurbish their properties, and they will repay the loan at an interest rate of 3.5 per cent instead of the usual five per cent.
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