Categorized | Letters, Local, News, Regional

More innovative strategy required to rescue the Caribbean tourism industry from its decline

CaribbeanNewsNow

September 16, 2014 · By Staff Writer ·

Dear Editor,

In an article published on Sept 7 in KN, Guyanese born Sir Ronald Sanders who lives and works in the Caribbean seems to be out of touch with reality as he is of the opinion that in order to stem the decline of the tourism industry in the English-speaking Caribbean, there is a new opportunity for growth which lies in attracting large numbers of visitors from what he considers a lucrative Chinese tourism market, particularly at the higher end, that is just waiting to be tapped.

Therefore in consideration of this promising bonanza for Caribbean tourism, governments of the region should start mobilizing and pooling their scarce resources to make fundamental development changes to their infrastructure and facilities which he considers necessary to attract Chinese visitors, who would like to see the place spruced up before considering the region a worthwhile tourist destination.

The tourist industry in the English-speaking Caribbean is in a slow downward spiral because of the lack of investment, high operating costs, limited attractions and indifferent service. In addition, most of the tourists coming to the region are from Europe and North America, and in recent years they have suffered from loss in their discretionary incomes, high air fares and burdensome taxes on overseas travel which together have put a damper on their dreams for a Caribbean holiday. Therefore it is unlikely that the golden years of Caribbean tourism will bounce back any time soon with or without an influx of Chinese tourists.

The Chinese have no historic or cultural affiliation with the Caribbean, nor is there anything unique in the region that will particularly attract them. The 2013 World Tourism Cities Federation Report gives some useful information which indicates the spending habits of Chinese tourists at the lower to mid-income levels, although it is reasonable to assume that the upper-end Chinese tourists will have more sophisticated tastes and needs and therefore their expectations and spending will differ somewhat. Nevertheless the statistics show that the most important spending by Chinese tourists was on things they love to have at reasonable prices to take back home – 58% on shopping. Accommodation takes about 18% of their spending while 13% was devoted to food and entertainment. Air travel accounts for only 11%.

New York, London, Paris, Zurich, among other cities in Europe and North America, have been popular destinations for well-to-do Chinese because they have excellent infrastructure, diverse state-of-the-art shopping malls, and unique and historic artifacts they want to see and explore. What does the Caribbean have to attract and entice Chinese to travel half way round the world to visit and spend their holiday when there are other popular and cheaper destinations such as Hawaii, Phuket, Bali and Korea nearer home? Caribbean duty free outlets usually have limited and over-priced merchandise to offer tourists, and even such locally produced products as Mount Gay and Appleton rums sold at their airports are more expensive than at some retail liquor stores in New York.

The Chinese tourist is a savvy traveler, and it will take more than cheap air lifts to entice large numbers of them to spend their leisure time on Caribbean shores. Therefore Caribbean governments should not be led to believe that Chinese tourists are only waiting to fill regional hotels if such fundamental facilities as the beefing-up of security to protect their electronic devices, enhanced Chinese cuisine and the elimination of visa requirements are not met by hoteliers/governments.

To save the Caribbean tourism industry from decline, governments will have to make it attractive for investors to come to the region and build 5-star hotels with good facilities, provide services at affordable prices and put in place an aggressive marketing strategy to attract those tourists only waiting to explore the sand and sunshine of the once glorious Caribbean which is showing signs of tiredness everywhere.

To get some insight into what could be done to achieve the desired objectives, a visit should be made to the Persian Gulf to see how the desert countries there have transformed their barren lands into attractive and interesting destinations for tourists from all over the world, including Guyana.

Guyana as part of the Caribbean community has attracted large inflows of Chinese who have been coming to the country, not as visitors to Kaieteur Falls nor as guests to the Pegasus Hotel, but as traders and workers in the construction, extractive and catering industries. Therefore Sir Ronald Sanders has to be more constructive and innovative in his suggested strategy to rescue the tourism industry in the region where he lives and works from its slow decline before it’s too late.

Yours faithfully,

Charles Sohan

 

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CaribbeanNewsNow

September 16, 2014 · By Staff Writer ·

Dear Editor,

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In an article published on Sept 7 in KN, Guyanese born Sir Ronald Sanders who lives and works in the Caribbean seems to be out of touch with reality as he is of the opinion that in order to stem the decline of the tourism industry in the English-speaking Caribbean, there is a new opportunity for growth which lies in attracting large numbers of visitors from what he considers a lucrative Chinese tourism market, particularly at the higher end, that is just waiting to be tapped.

Therefore in consideration of this promising bonanza for Caribbean tourism, governments of the region should start mobilizing and pooling their scarce resources to make fundamental development changes to their infrastructure and facilities which he considers necessary to attract Chinese visitors, who would like to see the place spruced up before considering the region a worthwhile tourist destination.

The tourist industry in the English-speaking Caribbean is in a slow downward spiral because of the lack of investment, high operating costs, limited attractions and indifferent service. In addition, most of the tourists coming to the region are from Europe and North America, and in recent years they have suffered from loss in their discretionary incomes, high air fares and burdensome taxes on overseas travel which together have put a damper on their dreams for a Caribbean holiday. Therefore it is unlikely that the golden years of Caribbean tourism will bounce back any time soon with or without an influx of Chinese tourists.

The Chinese have no historic or cultural affiliation with the Caribbean, nor is there anything unique in the region that will particularly attract them. The 2013 World Tourism Cities Federation Report gives some useful information which indicates the spending habits of Chinese tourists at the lower to mid-income levels, although it is reasonable to assume that the upper-end Chinese tourists will have more sophisticated tastes and needs and therefore their expectations and spending will differ somewhat. Nevertheless the statistics show that the most important spending by Chinese tourists was on things they love to have at reasonable prices to take back home – 58% on shopping. Accommodation takes about 18% of their spending while 13% was devoted to food and entertainment. Air travel accounts for only 11%.

New York, London, Paris, Zurich, among other cities in Europe and North America, have been popular destinations for well-to-do Chinese because they have excellent infrastructure, diverse state-of-the-art shopping malls, and unique and historic artifacts they want to see and explore. What does the Caribbean have to attract and entice Chinese to travel half way round the world to visit and spend their holiday when there are other popular and cheaper destinations such as Hawaii, Phuket, Bali and Korea nearer home? Caribbean duty free outlets usually have limited and over-priced merchandise to offer tourists, and even such locally produced products as Mount Gay and Appleton rums sold at their airports are more expensive than at some retail liquor stores in New York.

The Chinese tourist is a savvy traveler, and it will take more than cheap air lifts to entice large numbers of them to spend their leisure time on Caribbean shores. Therefore Caribbean governments should not be led to believe that Chinese tourists are only waiting to fill regional hotels if such fundamental facilities as the beefing-up of security to protect their electronic devices, enhanced Chinese cuisine and the elimination of visa requirements are not met by hoteliers/governments.

To save the Caribbean tourism industry from decline, governments will have to make it attractive for investors to come to the region and build 5-star hotels with good facilities, provide services at affordable prices and put in place an aggressive marketing strategy to attract those tourists only waiting to explore the sand and sunshine of the once glorious Caribbean which is showing signs of tiredness everywhere.

To get some insight into what could be done to achieve the desired objectives, a visit should be made to the Persian Gulf to see how the desert countries there have transformed their barren lands into attractive and interesting destinations for tourists from all over the world, including Guyana.

Guyana as part of the Caribbean community has attracted large inflows of Chinese who have been coming to the country, not as visitors to Kaieteur Falls nor as guests to the Pegasus Hotel, but as traders and workers in the construction, extractive and catering industries. Therefore Sir Ronald Sanders has to be more constructive and innovative in his suggested strategy to rescue the tourism industry in the region where he lives and works from its slow decline before it’s too late.

Yours faithfully,

Charles Sohan