By now, much of our energy would be going into fine tuning the annual re-DISCOVER the Caribbean Show, which usually takes place in late April. Just in time for the longer and leaner eight summer month tourism season. Sadly, unless a major sponsor comes forward, it will not take place this year and this may prove to be one of the biggest mistakes ever.
The Barbados Tourism Authority lost interest in what would have been the eighth annual show by reducing their already limited financial support and not even being prepared to ‘man’ a stand for the two days of the event. This despite a compliment of over 130 staff members and the enthusiastic support in the past by the current Minister of Tourism. In fact, before entering office, he won and enjoyed one of the spectacular prizes donated by our many exhibitors.
It became ever more difficult to explain to the twenty other participating Caribbean countries, who were willing and enable to send a delegation, often at considerable cost, when the national marketing agency of the host country was half-heartedly supporting the endeavour.
If three of our main traditional markets, the UK, Canada and USA, fail to show some sign of growth during this summer, it will be largely down to the extra air capacity being generated by REDjet within the region, to give any hope of maintaining visitor arrival numbers this year. The event itself, brought in over 400 overseas delegates annually, who all needed hotel accommodation, with secondary spending on meals, taxi transfers, car rental etc. Many extended their stay to take into some of our tourism offerings and/or visit travel agents.
Even at the height of their support, the BTA cost contribution was under BDS$60 per delegate or less that the departure tax each attendee would have paid, let alone the VAT and taxes collected on other goods and services. We calculate each overseas exhibitor stayed an average of 4.4 nights and spent around US$1,200, so it delivered a 40:1 ROI (return on investment).
Putting that in perspective, the Best of Barbados (BOB) programme attracted a direct subsidy of up to BDS$600 per person, and thats even before the additional costs to promote it were taken into account. The lead-in BOB package price including flights and 7 nights accommodation was as low as US$459.
Or analysed another way, when you compare the same ROI that re-DISCOVER delivered to the quoted $4 million Rihanna concert, it would have produced $160 million in tourism revenue or the overall BTA annual budget, a staggering $3.76 billion.
I have no doubt those managing REDjet, fully understand the critical importance of filling their aircraft in both directions. And that was always a considerable component part of the motivation behind the show concept.
Now that the BHTA’s Staycation website is linked to that of REDjet, the lower fares offered by the carrier makes it the perfect match for other Caribbean territories to take full advantage.
With the end of what hopefully was the more lucrative winter season less than a month away, the Olympics on the horizon, increased APD levels and with seemingly no national marketing initiative on the horizon.
It appears again that it is going to result in some sort of knee-jerking retroactive response, maybe launched so close to the sell-by date, that any effect could be limited.
PS: This column was written before REDjet announced its suspension of services.