MAHO--Former Bahamas Minister of Tourism Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace was a speaker at the Caribbean Aviation Meetup conference ongoing at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort and Casino convention centre until this Thursday. He is Principal Partner of the Bedford Baker Group, a collection of independent professional advisers offering services in travel, tourism and hospitality.

During his presentation on the effects of United States (US) Immigration Pre-Clearance at airports, he touched on the benefits US Pre-Clearance had on the Bahamas.

Wallace also said Caribbean islands tend to always measure number of tourists coming to their destinations as solid information about their tourism sector. “If that is how you measure your tourism product, then you are missing the point completely,” he said on Tuesday.

The expert added that analysing the tourism product had more to do with how much money the tourists spend and what they enjoy once they arrive at their preferred destination.

“Most tourists arrive by air when traveling to Caribbean destinations. ‘Impulse tourist’ is the fastest-growing group of travellers that visit the region. The value of the head count of the tourists who spend US $1,500 cannot equate to the same tourists that spend just $50 a day. Those travellers are impulse tourists because they make the decision in the same week or month that they will travel. They say to themselves, ‘I got to get out of here. I need a vacation,’” said Wallace.

Responding to questions about governments wanting to increase departure taxes, Wallace said governments should not measure their tourism product solely on the taxes. If they do, they are mis-measuring tourism.

In particular, he highlighted what he called the “madness” of some leaders who “shoot themselves in the head” by trying to implement airport fees that actually become counterproductive to the economy as a whole.

He used the example of the Bahamas that at one point was so affordable to travel to, Casinos would fly in patrons for as little as $99 knowing they would spend more. However, with the introduction of many airport fees and related taxes, the $99 ticket now costs more like $249, making it much less affordable to implement such incentives.

He added that taxes inflate the prices and tourists will think twice before traveling to the destination.

He cautioned governments against introducing fees that would figuratively be equivalent to “shooting themselves in the head.”

Pre-clearance makes it possible for travellers to the USA to clear Immigration and Customs, Public Health and Department of Agriculture inspections at the airport before boarding their flight. This enables passengers to make faster and easier connections when arriving in the United States, as they no longer have to go through Customs and Immigration on arrival. Wallace said the money spent on creating the facilities is a small margin of returns the airport will get thanks to the service.

Wallace was named one of the 50 most influential people in Caribbean tourism in the past 50 years, selected by Fast Company magazine as one of the Fast 50 global champions of Innovation, selected as Person of the Year for the Caribbean by Travel Agent magazine, named one of the most extraordinary minds in Hospitality and Travel by the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association (HSMAI), and recognised for Lifetime Achievement by both HSMAI and the Association of Travel Marketing Executives (ATME) International.

He was included in Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Birthday Honours List in 2009 and awarded Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire CBE for his contributions to tourism. More recently, he was selected to serve as a member of the Executive Committee of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA).

People who worked with him in the past described him as “an erudite, results-oriented and well-read individual with a passion for performance and modernisation. A natural leader, he readily embraced technology, statistics and clarity of vision to inspire colleagues at CTO to strive for excellence. His knowledge of tourism marketing is encyclopaedic and exemplary, but he never lost the common touch and always looked out for rank-and-file staff.”

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