Consultant: Stop putting square pegs in tourism’s holes

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Top positions within tourism ministries throughout the region are filled with executives “who do not fit” the sector, and as a result, they are under-performing.
May Hinds, CEO and founder of the Barbados-based May Hinds Consulting firm, who has been in the business for over 34 years said tourism pays the bills and it is time to refocus.
She cautioned, “We ought to be very careful about putting the right people in the right places and putting aside friends and family and political persons and so forth. I call no names but it happens too often in our region.”
Hinds explained that the practice of putting square pegs in round holes has prevented some countries from becoming “laser-focused” on the direction tourism should take.
She explained that others have learnt through consultations that the tourism ministry and other relevant authorities need strategists and planners who understand the sector.
One misconception that Hinds has seen throughout the region is that seasonal arrivals determine how well the destination has performed. Measuring the arrivals at airports and seaports cannot be the sole metric she emphasised.
“We have to look at the achieved room rate for those hotels, and we have to look at occupancy levels,” Hinds said.
Officials must make it a habit of examining the tourism-generating markets that respond well, and on a local level there needs to be a steady check of room inventories,” Hinds added.
In the same interview, the tourism consultant said that an uptick in crime could have devastating effects on a country’s tourism industry, especially if it warrants travel advisories from outside the region.
“We could see a slump in hotel bookings, brand and image of the region. We are one region; basically what affects one affects the other.”
But Hinds made the point that criminal activity should be separated into property-related activity such as burglary versus violent offences like murder before measuring its impact.
“We need to focus on our host populations … if we look at our countries in the Caribbean, if we get them as best as they can be, it will be a more welcoming and safer place for our visitors.”
One country she has advised, created a squadron of “tourism police” to monitor the sector, and another island trained its entire police force in tourism courses so that they serve as safety ambassadors for the destination.
She also expressed that if the killing and other criminal activity is done to locals by locals, it would not necessarily draw as much international media attention as it would if a tourist loses his or her life.

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