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Electing tourism

With all of the Christmas and New Year’s festivities gone, I am sure that much focus will now turn to the next general election here in Barbados. Whereas this is something that is very necessary and important for us as a people, I am hoping that we do not allow the political chatter to become the tourism message for the island in our international source markets.

If we can take lessons from the recently held elections in the US, it would certainly give us an idea as to the level of uncertainty, which can be generated because of something like elections. The last thing that we need as a country, which is so heavily dependent on tourism success, is for potential visitors from any of our major source markets to feel uneasy about visiting the island because of our political climate.

Over our history as a people, we have generally been able to conduct our domestic affairs is such a way that did not affect our international relationship or image. Today, we operate in a totally different world of communication, where social media and individuals control much of the messaging which is received worldwide — and within seconds. While I am a supporter of this modern technology and understand the many benefits that can be derived from it, I believe that we should use it responsibly.

The next three months are critical for our tourism success for the entire year and we cannot afford to lose focus. The first quarter of the calendar year is when most tourism entities build a foundation for profitability.

Last year, we had a relatively successful first quarter, and while the rest of the year was up and down, Barbados was still able to maintain strong foreign exchange earnings. We definitely need to achieve this same level of first quarter performance or better.

There are many activities which will take place during this first quarter which we, from a tourism point-of-view should certainly focus on to keep our tourism messaging positive. There are events like the Naniki Jazz Safari — January 17-21, Holders Season of Opera — March 9-23, regional cricket, Holetown Festival — February 10-17 and Easter — March 31, just to mention a few which we can use to excite our visitors about.

Of course, some visitors love our style of politics and even enjoy attending our political meeting. During the last election, I remember hearing visitors marvel at the way we here in Barbados conduct ourselves during meetings. I am hoping for similar behaviour to be demonstrated again this year and not hurt our tourism efforts.

* Tourism is our business, let’s play our part.

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