Big bucks to rebuild tourism
The largest dedication of a Barbados Labour Party government’s resources, if elected, will go to tourism.
The promise is held within the party’s just released manifesto which bemoans the current state of tourism, noting that for the first time, most of the countries of the region were out-performing Barbados.
“Perhaps the most startling revelation is to be found in the latest published data of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation which places Barbados in the 22nd position, third from the bottom, of the 24 countries in the region.
“These countries all face largely the same market conditions as Barbados does but many of them, perhaps for the very first time in history, are outperforming us and seeing positive growth in their tourist arrivals at a time when activity in our sector has plunged by six per cent,” the manifesto quoted.
But it promised: “The marketing and the development of our tourism and hospitality industry are so important within the overall scheme of national development that they must enjoy first claim on the financial resources available to the state.”
Charging that the Democratic Labour Party government had allocated millions to “non-developmental political programmes and failed experiments … while the Barbados Tourism Authority has remained constantly cash-strapped, starved of funds and suffering the indignity of being unable to pay its creditors even after being forced to borrow millions from the National Insurance Scheme” the BLP promised different.
“To be sure, the high operating costs which already had to be incurred by those making capital investment in the accommodation sector in Barbados have been made worse by the fiscal and other macroeconomic policies that have been employed over the last five years, especially the increases in VAT and energy costs that were imposed on the sector.
“It is also regrettable that, at a time when the industry as a mature industry needed capacity improvement and product diversification, almost all of the new investments that were on stream or planned to refresh or expand the productive capacity of the sector have not been realised.”
The manifesto further stated: “To reverse this troubling trend, the performance of the sector must exceed the historical average, to allow activity in this one area where our economic potential is greatest to compensate for deficiencies in other sectors, and in so doing to drag the entire economy out of its present doldrums.
“To this end we must revive the Five Star Tourism Industry we once had. We must encourage the influx of luxury brands, and private long term capital inflows in general, to support capacity development in the sector.
“At the same time, assistance must be rendered to small and medium-sized businesses in the sector, most of whom find it a challenge to access financing on terms and conditions conducive to the viability of projects even at a time when there is excess liquidity in the local financial sector.”
The document further noted that maids, waiters, taxi drivers, small farmers and others who service the industry but were now on the breadline or working short weeks would benefit from policies that put them “back in full-time and rewarding employment”.
“As such, only a series of extraordinary measures will suffice to enable the sector to adequately perform the usual lead-role in relation to its contribution to output, employment and foreign exchange generation. In order for Tourism to lead us out of this morass, there must a clear commitment that this sector must have first claim on government financial resources as the principle driver of the Barbados economy. This vital sector must never be starved of funds nor can there ever be a deficit relating to the implementation of policy regarding this sector’s success.” (LB)