Industry players discuss potential impact of inflation on tourism

Acting Chairman of Antigua and Barbuda Hotels and Tourism Association, Alex deBrito and Managing Director of Mainstay Caribbean, Alison Sly-Adams. (File photos)
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By Makeida Antonio

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As Antigua and Barbuda prepares for the 2022/2023 winter tourist season, a panel comprised of industry professionals shared their views on the potential impact of inflation on the sector.

Inflation is being felt across the world because of the Covid-19 pandemic and made worse by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. In countries such as the United Kingdom, the volatility of markets and the resulting fall of the pound sterling have caused concerns as it is a large source market for tourists.

Alex deBrito, the First Vice-President and Acting Chairman of Antigua and Barbuda Hotels and Tourism Association (ABHTA) and Alison Sly-Adams, Managing Director of Mainstay Caribbean — a marketing and management company specializing in yachting businesses and organizations in the wider tourism industry — were both invited to discuss the effects being felt locally on Observer’s Big Issues programme yesterday.

According to deBrito, inflation on goods such as food and beverages has increased operation costs, as most of the country’s hotels are all-inclusive, meaning, profit is negatively affected since increase in costs cannot be added once costs calculated and approved in the planning phase have already been concretised.

Sly-Adams weighed in on the yachting industry, specifically where shipping costs were the biggest impact followed by instability of supply because items critical to yachting services were costing more and taking longer to reach Antigua and Barbuda. Some benefits were felt, however. She said earlier in the pandemic, people stayed anchored longer. But, an ease in travel restrictions opened up more options for travellers.

Additionally, she highlighted the challenges now facing hoteliers and other holiday property owners. Visitors who were once able to afford high-end, all-inclusive hotels may be looking towards cheaper alternatives such as Airbnb’s, she said, while those who could only afford the cheapest options may not be able to come at all.

Meanwhile, deBrito explained that there are fewer rooms available for occupancy as some hotels are yet to be reopened coming out of the pandemic. Also, he said, while it is important to go into other viable markets other than the UK, it will take time to forge and advance those new relationships.

Though costs continue to skyrocket, deBrito believes maintaining staff is critical to the survival of the industry.

“Our staff is the most important aspect or else we have no business,” he stated.

He said consumers and cost control from Prices and Consumer Affairs should practice a constant review of prices on supermarket shelves to ensure people can still afford necessities.

Sly-Adams offered a few strategies to consider during this time of instability. She advised others in the industry to review all costs, and to think carefully about the negative effect of the temptation to increase costs on products, which in turn could also affect the attractiveness of business; and to always deliver excellent customer service.

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