Tourism officials expect bleak second quarter, but hope for improvement
July 19, 2013

Tourism officials expect bleak second quarter, but hope for improvement

With visitor arrival figures for June still pending, tourism officials expect a bleak second quarter compared to last year, but are hoping for a better third quarter, thanks to a number of activities taking place this month.{{more}}

In the latest quarterly statistics released by the St Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority, stay over visitor arrivals, as well as same day arrivals are way below what they were at the end of the second quarter 2012, and are not projected to surpass last year’s figures when the June numbers are made available.

Stay over arrivals to the end of May 2013 total 10,693, compared with 18,124 up to the end of June, last year, while same day arrivals up to May this year are at 436, while figures up June for 2012 total 814 visitors.

Glen Beache, the chief executive officer of the Authority, told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday that the numbers are disheartening, but pointed out that the trend is being experienced by countries worldwide.

“It’s something that we have to look at. I’m not happy about it.

“The stay overs are down, which for me, is arguably the most important. I never expect same day to improve, because of how expensive it is for regional travel.

“It’s not the best time to be in the tourism industry, but you still have to fight for it; this is what we do and this is what’s keeping us above water,” Beache said.

The former tourism minister noted that because of the high cost of travelling, fewer persons have been travelling in recent times, opting to travel closer to home, or to decrease the time and distance they spend on vacation.

“It’s very expensive to get to St Vincent and the Grenadines, and with people watching their budget, it also makes it more difficult.

“At the beginning of this year, I was reading a report which said that for the first time in history, you actually have people having so many vacation days left off because they took a limited amount of vacation days last year, and the reasons for this is that they know companies are going to be looking to lay off, and all of them want to show that they are dedicated to the job, so they try and take a minimum of vacation days compared to the past.

“Also, nobody is sure if they are out of the economic downturn… Nobody seems to be sure if we’re back on track or not and the problem is, even in places like the US, Britain, Canada, even Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, because those are our biggest clientele, so to speak.

“And when you listen to the economists, some say that ‘yes we are on the right track, we are coming out of this,’ and others say ‘no this is just the beginning, and we still have a long way to go.’”

According to Beache, St Vincent and the Grenadines is competing against the rest of the world for the ‘tourism dollar,’ and with a local budget of EC$13 million, St Vincent and the Grenadines has its own challenge in getting visitors to these shores.

“When you look at the top biggest spenders in international tourism, you are going up against China with US $102 billion; that’s what they spend on tourism… Germany (US$83.8 billion), United Kingdom (US$52.3 billion)… St Lucia just reaised their annual budget of US$50 million, and Barbados at US$55 million and that’s just to name two in the immediate area around us….

“Every ministry is fighting for that dollar that they get from government,” he added.

“Tourism is no different in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and none of us is ever going to be satisfied with the amount of money we get, and as much as we’ve done an excellent job in social media and marketing and public relations, it is still something that we have to look at.”

Not all of the visitor arrival figures show a decline, however.

Beache lauded the fact that visitor arrival figures by yachts were “holding their own,” at 6,851 up to the end of May, and expected to come close to, or surpass last year’s figures of 10,046 by the end of the second quarter.

The cruise ship numbers of 6,297 up to the end of May, have already gone past last years 3,770 for the first half of 2012, but Beache said that with the cruise ship industry usually fluctuating, it will be a wait and see what the final figures will be.

“It could be up this year and in a month’s time you can see that it’s down by 30 per cent, Beache noted.

“And the new laws which the US government has just put on the cruise ship industry, where they must use a certain type of fuel which is more environmentally friendly, which is great because I am an environmentalist, but it is also a lot more expensive, so it means that a lot more of these cruise ships companies are going to stay closer to home port to maximize their profits as much as possible.”

The CEO said that with the Carnival season just coming to an end, and two twenty 20 cricket matches to be played between the West Indies and Pakistan, he expects the figures for the third quarter to look healthier, and with increased arrivals, increased spending.

“Carnival always has certain numbers coming in, and the influx is always good for Carnival.

“When I spoke to the hoteliers, they seemed to be happy with this Carnival season, so I’m waiting for the figures to see what happened.

“We will get an influx for the cricket too, so I expect July to be a very good month for us, in terms of figures.

“But I always tell people, the figures are one thing, what they’re spending is another; so even if we get more people coming in for Carnival this year, which is good, I would prefer to take less people coming in for Carnival and see them spending more money in the country.”