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Barbados is well within most budgets . . .

Debbie Bartlett

… and achievers deserve it
ITCM says now is the time to push the boat out in the Caribbean

Even in the worldwide travel business we can be insular in our thinking. We in the UK and mainland Europe, for example, are concerned about maintaining business during a recession that still has some bite. We may sometimes wonder how the long-haul destinations are managing without us.
That question came up during a lunch at Cotton’s in Exmouth Market, Islington.

Cotton’s provides Caribbean food of some repute and was a natural choice for a chat with Cedric Lynch, Business Development Manager of the Barbados Tourism Authority in London, who has been mesmerising the UK with his gently swaying Bajan accent for some time.

Accompanying him was Debbie Bartlett, Sales Manager of the 224-room Accra Beach Hotel & Spa, a property that is an ITCM special favourite amongst so many delightful properties on that island. Jon Martineau, its General Manager, is a frequent visitor to the UK and for many years was head of the Barbados Hotels Association.

Debbie was on a sales tour of the UK. ‘There are seven meeting spaces in the hotel,’ she said, ‘with the largest able to seat 90 delegates. About US$1.5m has recently been spent on refurbishment of all the 142 guestrooms in the original building.’

We asked Debbie: ‘Is Barbados finding things hard during the recession, with a drop in business from Europe? ‘Well’, she answered, with an accent that almost put Cedric’s in the shade, ‘European business is down, for sure, but we are doing very well with regional business. Corporate clients around the islands enjoy visiting Barbados and are only too happy to organise their meetings at Accra Beach’.

That brought to mind the interviews that ITCM did just a few weeks ago in Thailand, another desirable long-haul market. The markets of China and India, and even Russia, we were told, are more than taking up the slack left by the USA-Western Europe downturn.

The conversation turned to the present trend in incentives. There are about half a dozen names that trip off the tongue when thinking of a desirable destination that everyone would like to visit, places that immediately motivate if offered as an incentive award. Strangely enough they are mostly islands. Just think of what replies you would get if you stopped a hundred people in the streets of Europe and asked where they would love to go for a holiday.

Accra Beach Hotel & Spa
There is no doubt that Barbados would be high on the list.

Those European companies that have survived these terrible trading conditions should now be encouraged to reward their loyal and obviously hard-working – even overworked – staff with the kind of break they would really appreciate. And, strangely enough, it could require less of an outlay than one imagines.

Estimates from around the lunch table suggested that a group from Europe could be provided with a very memorable trip as a thank-you from their employers for under £1500 (say,1800 Euros) per head. This could most likely include return flights, four nights at the Accra Beach, full board and local drinks, water sports and notable excursions, such as swimming with turtles in the Caribbean.

The time should be past when a finger was pointed at companies for spending money on benefits for their workforce. Now is the time to stop questioning companies who reward their achievers and to start recognising the hard work that has been done. Push the boat out in the Caribbean.

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