Hotels along the sewage-plagued south coast are taking a massive financial hit as guests cancel their reservations due to the ongoing crisis, according to the association of hotel properties and attractions.
The Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) today revealed some of its members have lost up to $200,000, as visitors flee the accommodation sector in the affected areas.
Chief Executive Officer Rudy Grant said properties between Lanterns Mall in Hastings, Christ Church, and Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary in Worthing, also in Christ Church, were among the worst affected.
Without naming any of the properties or giving further details, Grant told those gathered at the Hilton Barbados Resort for the association’s first quarterly meeting for the year that internal surveys done in December 2017 and again in February 2018 found a “higher levels of cancellations” during that period.
“If I can give two examples; one member would have seen an increase in the level of cancellations that amounted to $20,000, while another member would have seen an increase that amounted to in excess of $200,000 when comparing the 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 periods. So there has been some impact,” Grant reported.
“In addition to the cancellations, some members also had to spend money on measures to mitigate against further revenue loss, such as contracting the services of private solid waste management companies,” he added.
Grant also vowed that the BHTA would lobby the authorities for compensation for affected members.
“I give you the assurance that we will be continuing our discussions with the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) and the other entities to facilitate compensation for our members with respect to the loss of revenue that those members would have experienced as a result of the south coast sewage plant issue,” he pledged.
It was only last week at the international travel trade show, ITB Berlin, survey designer’s dp2research and researchers, Norstat, announced that Barbados had been chosen among 140 countries as number one in the world for customer satisfaction on the Destination Satisfaction Index.
While it was not immediately clear if the more than 70,000 global travellers from 24 source markets who chose Barbados were asked about the sewage problem, or if it was raised at all, the statement by Grant helped put in perspective the losses suffered by tourism business on the south coast.
The BHTA executive also reminded the gathering, which included Barbados Labour Party spokesman on tourism Ronald Toppin and Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo, that he had already spoken to Government “with respect to how we believe the issue of the plant should be dealt with”.
Since the situation began to deteriorate over a year ago, the BHTA has been calling for temporary fixes and immediate action to address the overflowing effluent along the section of the tourist belt.
At the end of last month it issued a strong warning that if the situation were allowed to fester it could prove disastrous for the island’s tourism industry, which posted record tourist arrival numbers in the last two years.
Acknowledging that the situation had improved in recent days, Grant pledged the BHTA’s support to the BWA in its efforts to ensure a long-term solution.
Meantime, BWA General Manager Keithroy Halliday did not address the issue of compensation, telling the meeting the statutory agency had almost exhausted its operational cash flow.
“The Barbados Water Authority is, of course, very empathetic. We are very conscious and very aware of what this has done and what the impact at the national level has been.
“We have limitation constraints of course. Our resources are limited unfortunately and while we have tapped into a number of other resources and we are working almost 24 hours a day since last October/November, it still is a challenge for us to contain in a particular way,” the BWA head said.
“Financial resources are also very challenging because we have basically exhausted most of our operational cash flow to try to meet the needs of the constant maintenance, repairs and response. We are trying in every possible way to respond as best as we can in a timely way as we can,” he explained, adding that “even I have been guilty of not being able to respond to calls as they come in”.
He said about five possible medium-term measures had been examined, and the BWA had decided that the one likely to be least disruption was the construction of injection wells, which was now under way.
Acknowledging that the island’s bread and butter tourism industry stood to lose out big time as a result of the sewage mess, he said the BWA was trying its best to resolve the situation as quickly as possible with very little negative impact as it could.
“Our tourism product relies on it, the health and safety of our folks rely on it and we certainly do not want to be seem to be [negligent] in any way,” he said.
“We are being guided by the request of the [Environmental Protection Department], the Coastal [Zone] Management Unit as well as the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders, in terms of making sure we manage this risk a particular way because we know our tourism product relies heavily on what we do. We cannot add any further risk to our environment,” he said.