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BHTA: Gov’t lethargic

President of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, Patricia Affonso-Daas.

President of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, Patricia Affonso-Daas.

The leadership of the vital hospitality industry in Barbados is blaming the Freundel Stuart Administration for frustrating progress in the sector.

Describing the Government as lethargic, President of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, Patricia Affonso-Daas, told the Annual General Meeting of at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre this morning that the BHTA has been submitting a number of requests to the Ministries of Finance and Tourism over the past two years, yet many of the issues were still to be meaningfully addressed.

“It is disappointing to say the least, that some six months after approval by Cabinet of the additional list of items to the TDA (Tourism Development Act) list, that we have still been unable to get the list ratified,” Affonso-Daas asserted.

She said all of the hotels’ suppliers had cited the condition of the properties as one of the key reasons for the island’s diminished competitiveness. The association head noted that the additional items would assist the sector greatly in directly addressing this issue.

“Can we truly be serious about expecting that tourism will be the sector to turn around the economy if this level of lethargy in process and frustration of purpose is allowed to continue?” asked the hotelier.

“There has been enough talking. All agencies have clearly and repeatedly identified the issues and I do not believe that there is any shortage of ability to get the job done. What is needed now is leadership, commitment to change and action.”

She said much momentum was lost during the latter part of 2012 and stretching into the first quarter of 2013.

“The elections proved to be a huge distraction for the business sector since no decisions were being taken on many important issues which were pending for some time,” argued Affonso-Daas.

Lethargy in Gov’t

“Even now, three months after the election, there is still a lethargy in Government which is having a major impact on business.”

She also warned that the hotel and tourism sector was headed in the same direction of the sugar industry, which has been declining for the past two decades.

“We cannot take our hotel plant elsewhere, but we are fast following the sugar industry with the number of hotels which are either closed, up for sale or just are not meeting their cost of production,” she reasoned.

The BHTA head pointed out that despite a general understanding of the sector’s importance to the economy by the private sector, it continues to miss many opportunities to strengthen its position by more effectively maximising cross-sectoral linkages.

Affonso-Daas also referred to a BHTA-Private Sector Strategic Partnership Meeting last month at which a high level of frustration was expressed.

“And there was understandable distress from several of our members regarding the lack of movement in areas key to the survival and blossoming of Barbados’ visitor economy.”

She even went back 10 years and looked at all of the addresses given by past BHTA presidents, adding “it is scary how similar they are”.

“The advocacy issues and challenges facing the sector have not changed,” the president lamented. (EJ)

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