Brexit not posing a threat to tourism sector

Preliminary figures from the BHTA for July and August show there has been minimal falloff in tourist arrivals out of the UK.

Chairman of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Roseanne Myers is of the view that Barbados may have overcome the initial threats posed to the tourism sector by the Brexit vote.

Her comments were made during a recent panel discussion on Brexit, Implications for Financial Services, Tourism, Regional Economies hosted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados.

Myers revealed that a preliminary survey on tourist arrivals post-Brexit vote shows that numbers are still strong.

“The July number,s which are the unofficial results that are tallied by the BTMI [Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.], show 2.6 per cent down in July 2016 but that still represented 5.7 per cent up on the previous year. So basically you were down a little bit in July but you were still significantly up on 2014. The BTMI shared that the first 16 days of August [2016] is 6.7 per cent up on last year. So has there been an effect, maybe the results are inconclusive but certainly you have not seen an immediate effect.”

She explained the preliminary statistics do not mean that Barbados has escaped unscathed as she noted the pace of the forward bookings has slowed down.

“Some people talked about immediately, one two days after, you had a serious booking recovery and it was almost as though you had pent up demand because a number of tour operators and partners in the tourism sector spoke about the fact that just prior to the vote you had a slowing of bookings and people just waiting to see. And once the vote was done I think people just decided I’m just going to go ahead and book my holiday. I think another thing is that people were waiting to see what the value of pound was going to do. So once we had the initial drop and then the rallying, people actually saw a surge in bookings.

"Certainly when we poll the members of the BHTA – very few cancellations. The truth is your summer is already booked, nobody is going to cancel and lose their money. What we have seen is that the pace of the forward bookings have slowed. So whereas you had a very rampant pace in the first quarter and coming into the beginning of the second quarter you have seen that has slowed down and the effects of the uncertainty have come into play.”

Myers admitted that the cloud of certainty looming over the tourism industry has not fully abated which was evident in the fall off in sales at the premier attractions of Barbados.

“I can tell you anecdotally in terms of spend, I chair Premier Attractions which has eight of the major attractions in Barbados and we have not necessarily seen a major fall-off in bookings but we have seen some of them have actually seen a decline in sales for July and right now you are getting a bit more haggling than you would normally get. So you definitely feel the effects of the weaker pound.”

Myers said she believed Barbados was able to lessen any adverse effects to the tourism industry through aggressive and proactive promotions early in 2016. She added the relationship with the tour operators must continue to be strengthened as well as to develop more proactive strategies to build the Barbados brand.