When the pandemic hit, the hospitality and tourism industry in the Caribbean wasn’t just hurt by the absence of visitors. It was faced with a larger conundrum: delayed payments from major international tour operators, such as TUI and Virgin Holidays, for services rendered in the first three months of 2020. By May 2020, 69 percent of hotels had reported being owed from $200,000 up to $15 million, according to the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association.
Two years on, a solution has emerged out of Barbados that could point to a groundbreaking model for the rest of the Caribbean region. Launched at the close of 2021, BookBarbados.com, a Barbadian-owned and independently funded and operated online travel booking platform, allows users to buy hotel stays ranging from luxury to budget, local tours, Airbnb rentals, and long term stays all in one place. The site also taps into local influencer recommendations for a more authentic version of the island.
It’s what Barbados and much of the region had been missing until now: an e-commerce and travel marketing platform that will place more of consumer’s vacation booking funds directly into local businesses’ hands, and a way to stand out with a homegrown depiction of Barbados that goes beyond the sun and sand narrative.
“I mentioned it to previous government officials with little or no success on trying to basically control our destiny as opposed to leave it in the hands of the big online travel agencies internationally who sort of market multiple destinations and not just one country,” said Peter Harris, founder of Book Barbados and a self-professed serial Barbadian entrepreneur who has run businesses in insurance, media, tourism and now real estate. Harris did not reveal what it cost to launch the startup.
This is an excerpt from an article by Lebawit Lily Girma, originally published by Skift.