New Year’s Message
As we in the BHTA look forward to 2023 we do so with a tremendous spirit of hope and optimism. It is always a matter of great interest that we place so much significance on this one particular tick of the clock that signifies the change from one year to the next. What magical transformation takes place as we transition from one second to the next and one year to another? What does the move from 2022 to 2023 really mean and how can we make it more meaningful?
A new year is one of the most celebrated moments across countries and cultures. It is a time for reflection on the past and to envision the future. A future we take the moment to shape by resolving all the things we will do differently. The past, possibly filled with triumph or littered with our regrets, is now beyond recall but the future glimmers tantalizingly brightly. Filled with promise that we can do, and be, better. We wish therefore to take this moment to do both: to reflect on the past year and to share our hopes for the one ahead.
2022 has been a year that marked some recovery from the seemingly unending, creeping devastation of the COVID pandemic. Our industry had many signals during the year that the end was nigh. Yet every time we held hope, it seemed to be dashed by the reality of our continued restrictions. It was in September 2022 that the entry and mask protocols were relaxed. Leaving us poised to return to the levels of service for which we were known prior to the pandemic. It was just in this past month that the Ministry of Health announced an end to all protocols and a return to what we previously accepted as normal.
In 2022 Bajans signaled, in ways large and small, that they too welcomed the restart to the industry. The Cadres survey conducted by the BHTA in February this year, showed that even in the midst of the pandemic a majority of Barbadians (75%) felt positively towards the continued arrivals of tourists. They also rated it highest in relation to its importance to the Barbados economy compared to other sectors tested.
The Governor of the Central Bank lent his vote of confidence to the return of the sector. In successive economic reviews he spoke to the positive growth in the economy and the pivotal role that tourism continued to play in that growth. Even as war raged and inflation soared, both locally and globally, tourism remained an economic beacon for our country.
Our tourism workers have perhaps been most receptive to the recovery of the industry. While we faced a significant exodus due to the closure and curtailment of the industry, we have seen a return by many to full time employment. In fact, the industry now faces an opposite challenge in that there are significant labour shortages and not enough trained and skilled people to meet the needs of the sector. Even with Barbados unemployment rate reported as 7.1 percent at the end of November, tourism businesses are still struggling to fill available posts.
Progress means forward or onward movement and while we are still not back to pre-pandemic performance, we have seen meaningful progress in 2022 towards our goal of a healthy and fully functioning tourism industry. Occupancies have seen significant recovery over 2020 and 2021 for this year 2022. Year to date occupancies are 59.3 percent compared to 36.8 in 2020 and 33.3 in 2021. Our critical industry measure of revenue per available room has also shown positive movement and is at $333.68 year to date 2022 compared to $126.76 in 2021 and $228.99 in 2020.
While numbers give us the most reliable gauge of our progress, it is definitely not measured by numbers alone. The partnerships we have forged over the last year are an important indicator of our industry’s health. We are particularly pleased about our relationships with our Ministry of Education and educational institutions - from secondary through tertiary. The provision of the Island in the Sun books to enhance the study of tourism and the six scholarships awarded to the Jean Norma Holder Hospitality Institute and the University of the West Indies (UWI) signal our commitment to the development of the people of this island. Across the globe there are Barbadians excelling in all areas of tourism. We aim to continue to attract the best and the brightest to this industry and to incentivize them to remain at home so that we can benefit from their passion and ingenuity.
Our partnerships across this year have also extended to our Ministry of Tourism and International Transportation, our Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., and other governmental agencies. The BHTA understands that while we are on the ground delivering service, our government is the partner with the strategic vision and the ability to establish a policy framework to ensure that Barbados remains the leading tourism destination in the region and the world. In 2022 the BHTA continued to be vocal about the areas we see as threats to the success of our industry from our local struggles with crime, to the global challenges such as the need for increased airlift to serve the needs of the sector. We have also continued to speak to the need for facilitation of the players in the sector as critical to its growth and development.
As we enter the arrival lounge of 2023 we would like to leave any unnecessary baggage from 2022 behind. The BHTA’s articulated vision is to be the private sector organisation providing national leadership for vibrant and sustainable tourism development. Our values speak to the way in which we will accomplish that vision and so in 2023 we commit to making those values our resolutions.
Our first resolution is that we will utilize research to make informed decisions on behalf of the industry. There has already been commitment at the highest level for this approach. This means that the industry promises to utilise the best research tools available. Information will be used transparently and with the highest attention to integrity in reporting.
Our second resolution is that we will work with world class standards only. This is a critical resolution as it speaks to ensuring that we look outward to see the trends and developments across the industry and then best adapt them to serve our needs. For all its uniqueness, Barbados competes in a global market. If we are to do so effectively, we must balance our traditions with the need to revolutionise our processes and systems. In so doing we will achieve our goal of delivering excellent service to our guests and stakeholders
Our third resolution is that we will settle industry issues by building synergies and working with our partners. Our partners include our suppliers and those in the travel trade. They also include our governmental partners. Some positive progress has already been made in this regard with the draft of the public, private partnership plan which will see the industry having a greater stake in the governance of the national marketing. Our most important partner, however, is the people of Barbados. We are the true planks in “brand Barbados” and we therefore are clear in our need to continue to build awareness, participation and ownership in this industry by all Bajans. We recognize that solid partnerships are characterised by open, regular communication and high levels of trust and these will be our goals as we move forward.
Our fourth resolution is to be nimble. This ability to respond to dynamic and changing circumstances is the only way that we will be competitive. We therefore further resolve that we will do what we say we will do, when we say we will do it and to the highest possible standard and we hold all of our partners to this same impeccable standard.
These resolutions are not intended to be lofty words on paper. They are a call to action. Action that is necessary if we are to transform this industry in the ways that will create the energy needed to lift this island up and to take it to the next level. It is the same type of energy that it took to form this association 70 years ago and to bring us to this important milestone. It took people with vision who were also willing to work tirelessly. We are therefore even more cognizant that achieving these resolutions will require focus, discipline and commitment on the part of all. It will require hard work. We can be smart about it but we know that it will require sacrifice and even some pain. However, it will be growing pain.
The Irish have a blessing which says, may the best of your past be the worst of your future. There can be no more apt blessing for our people and our island as we enter this new year. May we continue to embrace and celebrate those things that have made this little nation so great and utilize them to ensure that we provide the best possible future for us all.
Have a happy, healthy, prosperous and purposeful New Year.
Chairman - Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association.January 31, 2023 | By System Administrator