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BHTA calls for less talk, more action

Barbadian hoteliers are not comforted by promises of help from Government.

Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association President, Patricia Affonso-Dass, complained today that two months after being assured requested relief was theirs, BHTA members were still waiting.

“While we are grateful to Cabinet for the approval of additional items to the (Tourism Development Act) over two months ago and to the ministry for the collaboration with the private sector to complete the list, these items are still not available to the industry,” the official told members attending the organisation’s fourth quarterly meeting today at Hilton Barbados.

“This simply is not acceptable in a tourism-based economy. We can do better, we must do better,” she said. Affonso-Dass also wanted to know what had become of promised assistance with the cost of electricity hotels were paying, noting that assurances of help had emerged from series of meetings BHTA representatives had with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart recently.

“The Prime Minister set in place the opportunity for the BHTA to meet with him every six weeks to discuss any additional issues, review the ongoing challenges and to monitor the progress and for him to be able to update our grouping on the progress made on the matters raised in these discussions, (and) this has occurred twice over the past few months,” she noted.

“Although there has been some positive feedback with respect to some of the challenges, namely the sanctioning of additional items to be added to the second schedule of the Tourism Development Act and the promise of an incentive to assist the hotels with the cost of electricity, the actual implementation of these, to date, has not taken place.

“I would like to reiterate that whilst we are very appreciative of the assistance that the Prime Minister is working to offer the industry, it is imperative that solutions to obtain speedy implementation regarding these initiatives be put into place to ensure the continued viability of the industry,” she added.

The president said in the absence of funds to market Barbados’ tourism and thereby assist the sector in becoming more competitive and viable, it was “absolutely crucial that … the quality of the product and service offered to the guest be exceptional and of the best possible standard”.

“Hotels and attractions alike need to continually improve their offering by keeping it fresh and current for the discerning traveller, thus ensuring customer satisfaction,” she said.

“Items that are contained in the second schedule of the TDA need to be continually revisited so that the product can remain on the cutting edge. The core incentives that are currently offered are in serious need of revision to not only encourage investment but to assist the industry to survive in today’s every changing business atmosphere.

“We are living in a now generation where the customer’s expectations are shaped by fabulous offerings from our competitors and the commodity that we offer is a perishable one — once the guest has gone the opportunity is lost to make a great impression. Our industry therefore must have the ability and the regulatory support and framework to be dynamic.”

Affonso-Dass also restated the BHTA’s call for a special facilitation unit within the Ministry of Tourism to “ensure that challenges are efficiently routed to the relevant agencies (and) ministries or decisions makers for prompt solution and that assists potential investors in getting from a project plan submission to a functioning business without the burdensome and frustrating weight of bureaucracy and red tape that continues to strangle our growth”. (SC)

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