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A timely initiative

Last week I offered what I believe could form part of the solutions to our tourism challenges for the destination, with relation to the possible upkeep of the island’s tourism plant. One week later, I have only received one response to my suggestion. I find this disappointing.

Last night the CTO carried a live television programme on CMC as part of its information outreach. The theme for last night’s programme was based on Sustainable Tourism. I want to congratulate the CTO and CMC for this initiative; I thought that it was timely and well done. Whereas most of the discussion centred on ecological sustainability and community involvement, very little said about the sustainability of the physical hotel plant.

I raised the issue last week because having seen the editorial in the Friday July 13 edition of the Barbados Today under the heading Tourism’s Challenge, I believed that it was a serious enough issue to which every concerned citizen should want to offer input and possible solution.

During this week, I heard how much more difficult it may become for us as a country to borrow money in the future, as a result of the downgrade by Standards & Poor’s. At first, I thought that my idea for funding future development in order to sustain our tourism product and remain competitive would be dead in the water. However, after pondering overnight, I asked the question: What is the alternative. Our immediate economic alternatives are few and far between. Charting a new economic course will take time and doing nothing cannot be an alternative. Therefore, at the risk of being redundant, let me repeat my suggestion.

I believe that Barbados has a fantastic opportunity to lead the way. The BHTA introduced the Tourism Fund over seven years ago; this fund has the potential to move our tourism product and marketing to unprecedented levels.

The challenge as I see it is that the fund is a voluntary one and too few players are participating. Imagine what could happen if this fund became mandatory and hotels that are now afraid to participate for fear of loss of business became part of the fund. I feel that instead of generating a million dollars a year, perhaps that figure could be five million. Imagine what could happen if we had a fund that generates $5 million a year, and we were able to use that fund to lobby for $200 million specifically for tourism product improvement and marketing.

Lastly, imagine what could happen if we used the proceeds from a fully activated tourism fund to offset the impact of the interest rates for properties accessing the loan funding and being able to repay these loans at extremely low interest rates which would not hurt operational cash flow.

I believe that this is where we need to take the tourism discussion in this country. This can pave the way for public/private sector partnership never heard of before anyway in the world.

I would love to hear from readers on this issue.

Tourism is our business, let us play our part.

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