Tourism Matters: Welcoming Locals for ‘Staycations’ – By Adrian Loveridge

Commentary: Tourism Matters: Welcoming Locals for ‘Staycations’

– By Adrian Loveridge – Barbados

With the recent reminder by Hugh Riley, the secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) that on average around 30 percent of the entire regional hotel room stock is empty at any given time of the year, it is perhaps even more surprising that greater emphasis is currently not being placed promoting the much heralded ‘Staycation initiative’.

As we enter the long, soft summer period, surely our hoteliers can see the value of filling otherwise empty rooms, even if they cannot command those hefty rates extracted in the winter peak period?      

With a resident Barbados population of 285,000 persons, if just two percent of locals book on average a three-nights stay annually with two persons per room, that’s a staggering 8,550 additional occupied room nights. Put another way, that would be the equivalent of entirely filling another 31 British Airways B777 aircrafts.

As well as the direct room revenue generated, there is also the real possibility of additional turnover through food and beverage sales and other optional services.

No one should really need reminding nowadays, that once a plane has taken off, or a room remains empty overnight, you cannot sell it twice the next day – so that potential income is lost forever.

My wife and I have been strong past advocates of Staycations, enjoying wonderful stays at properties in Barbados like Coral Reef, Hilton, Little Good Harbour Bougainvillea and Atlantis – among others. There is something almost magical at sunrise rolling out of bed at the award winning Coral Reef Club and slipping into the incredibly calm, warm ocean water of the west coast.

I also strongly believe that the more ‘locals’ exposed to the tourism industry will inevitably lead to a better understanding of the sector and entice more people to consider it as a serious career option where the experience gained, could lead to being labour marketable anywhere else in the world.

There is also a tremendous opportunity for one of our local credit card issuers to smart partner with our accommodation partners and offer a similar ‘cash back’ bonus that they currently offer with groceries and petroleum products when selecting a particular method of payment, perhaps also offering a weekly or monthly prize booking incentive.

With dismal rates of interest payable on financial deposits, unrelenting internal devaluation driving almost weekly price hikes on essential consumables, at least Staycations do not impact largely on foreign exchange demand and provide sustainable employment for many.

And hopefully our more creative media and advertising entities can step up to the plate and offer more affordable promotional options, perhaps via a regular weekly Staycation page in concert with potentially benefiting sponsors and suppliers to ensure a win-win for all those involved.

Ultimately at the end of the day, it’s down to the more forward thinking managers and marketers applying revenue control to help fill those quoted 30 percent of empty rooms, at a rate they are comfortable with and which will appeal to a domicile populace on our doorstep.

Not forgetting as well, that this market is as large as our single biggest source of overseas visitors in terms of arrival numbers.

Adrian Loveridge has spent 46 years in the tourism industry across 67 countries, as a travel agent, tour director, tour operator and for the last 24 years as a small hotel owner on Barbados. He served as a director of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, and as chairman of the Marketing Committee. He also served as a director of the Barbados Tourism Authority and is a frequent writer on tourism.

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