Tourism stakeholders urging police force to deal with harassment

BHTA’s Executive Vice President making a point.
BHTA’s Executive Vice President making a point.

Tourism stakeholders are tonight pleading with the Barbados Government once more to see the importance of the tourism product and realise that it is being affected by constant harassment and act urgently.

Those who met with senior members of the Royal Barbados Police Force this evening at Ocean’s 2 Resort in Dover, said this problem can no longer be ignored.

Chairman of today’s forum, Hal Austin, told Barbados TODAY it had been four months they have tried to have a meeting with Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy to discuss ways of dealing with this scourge but to no avail.

He was not the only one who urgently desired a remedy either.

Hoteliers and restaurateurs all loudly and strongly vented their disgust with the issue and what they felt was the RBPF’s and Government’s inefficiency to deal with it.

Operations Manager at Ocean’s 2, Paul Collymore said he believed the Gap could be to Barbados what South Beach was to Miami but it would only work if there was a reduction in the level of harassment.

“I forbid anything happen in the Gap because if anything happen[s], it impacts on the businesses in this area, it impacts on the destination and I think as soon as something happened we are going to have this reactionary approach to crime prevention,” he said.

While the business people acknowledged the good the Force did and adamantly stated it was not their intention to make the Force look incompetent, they warned if the problem was not solved those visitors who did decide to visit the island and St. Lawrence Gap would be confined to the hotels.

Inspector Steven Streeks.
Inspector Steven Streeks.

And in the current economic climate when guests are willing to patronise businesses they would not be inclined to do so outside of the hotels’ environs.

”What we rely on is word of mouth and the positive experience from the guests who go and put it on Trip Advisor. Trip Advisor… is not a social media site to be overlooked. I think we have to understand the importance [of tourism]… we need help and we need urgent help. We are eight weeks before the start of our season where you will have more visitors on the ground.  I don’t think we need to wait ‘till the start of the season, I think we need to get the momentum going right now and take a zero tolerance approach. Same as in Bridgetown, whatever can be done in Bridgetown can be done in the gap and let them understand and get a clear message to them that we had enough,” Collymore urged.

General Manager of Couples, Wayne Williams, added his thoughts. He said the impact this menace is causing economically on the Gap and Barbados’ coffers had not been stated enough.

”I have 280 rooms and at 50 per cent I have 280 guests. I am going to encourage all those guests, because it is in my benefit, to get off the property. My business relies on repeats and I do have a lot of guests who come to Barbados who have been to Jamaica, what’s the difference? Staying at the property does not give them [a different experience] they can get that at an all inclusive property in Jamaica.

”We sell St. Lawrence Gap in a major way – it is the freedom of movement and the economic benefit is tremendous. One hundred of my guests walking out on the street in over a week, what do they spend? We need to look at that, we are losing and what it takes to just be more vigilant and have more police presence. I think the presence does make a difference,” he said.

Presently the lone mobile police unit located in the Gap is operational once a week.

One of the officers, Inspector Steven Streeks, said “it operates when the resources are available”, however the stakeholders wholeheartedly stressed this was not the way to go.

Visibly frustrated and still shaken, one businesswoman recounted a harrassing experiencing. She said a very familiar person to officers harassed her a few years ago and up to today nothing has been done.

”He sent an email where he threatened to chop off my head, tell me to go back to Guyana where I came from – I was born here. I took that letter to the police nothing happened. I called [Ministry of Transport and Works] because he was on my sidewalk nothing happened. I called Town and Country Planning because he had a stall that was left there for more than two weeks, nothing happened. If that is not harassment… he has to practically kill me first before something could happen”, she argued.

Speaking on behalf of police, Crime Prevention Officer, Station Sergeant Stephen Griffith said the force planned to meet with the stakeholders again at a later date to discuss ways forward.

This was the fourth meeting between police and tourism stakeholders for the year to deal with the issue.


5 Responses to Tourism stakeholders urging police force to deal with harassment

  1. Tony Webster September 14, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Apathy. Lethargy. Attrition. Incompetence. Irresponsibility. Attention-Deficit-Syndrome. No, I’m not speaking of the police. Or the business-people. Or the “relevant authority” . Or our vaunted “Courts System”. Or the relevant Hon. Minister. Or indeed, the assembled , collective might and brain-power we comfort ourselves into believing will “swing into action” every Thursday.

    I’m speaking about you, and me. WE are responsible. We are the ones who should be drawing lines in the ground; should be “lighting fires” at the nether regions of those culpable…instead of watching fires spread throughout Rome…while fiddles are playing! WE are at fault, for accepting the status quo, as “normal”. Include also, the many in the wider society, who know something is really dread…but they keep silent. They are not directly touched as individuals, and couldn’t give five-cents, either way.

    When will we ALL realise, that this is the time; the place; the crossroards; to choose the way ahead:-
    A: Business as usual, with soothing “long-talk music” OR
    B: Change the model; and reform ingrained attitudes; and hold people to account. OR
    C. Be prepared to accept, that without appropriate action, we shall certainly arrive at a “tipping-point” beyond which… well, let’s just say, we will face in full measure, ” Consequences”!
    This is no time for time for “sticking-plaster solutions” .. we passed that “gap” …a l-o-n-g way back. This is not a matter specific to the Gap, or to hotels, or restuarants. It is symptomatic of a systemic failure which requires immediate “intervention… before it metastatises.

    Who, exactly, is driving this ZR? De conductor?

  2. Edward Twyman September 14, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    I am an American i’ve been to Barbados a few times and fell in love with the island, and I read your news paper at least 3 times a week. It’s heart breaking to think there are problems similar to ours.I dream of buying a home there please work to make the island safe for tourism.

    Thank You Ed Twyman

  3. tim.f September 15, 2013 at 8:36 am

    As a 5 month resdient of the gap every year, i say,it is time the govt and the police do something to get these people off the gap..They dont intimidate me, but they do alot of others who may never come back to this island for this simple reason alone…people move fast in this area, thus dont stop in at the many bars or shops for this very reason.station 2 officers at peak times of the day in this area and you will see the culprits disappear very quickly…and make sure ,throught prosicution, they dont return to these areas!
    i hope to see a change in just over 2 months when i am back again for the winter.

  4. JP September 15, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Embarrassing on all levels. Letting apathy and incompetence reign. Classic. Add in the Charles Osgood poem on responsibility and a mess.
    condensed version:
    “Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody were members of a group.

    There was an important job to do and Everybody was asked to do it.
    Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
    Anybody would have done it, but Nobody did it.
    Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job.
    Everybody thought Anybody would do it, but Nobody realized that Anybody wouldn’t do it.
    It ended up that Everybody, blamed Somebody, when Nobody did, what Anybody could have done.”

  5. ian brathwaite September 17, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    All Barbadians have the responsibility of safe guarding our way of life (peacefulness ,tranquility,kindness and beauty) . I am a born Barbadian who now reside in the USA. It is always a pleasure to hear travelers tell me what a good time they had in Bim. We have something that a lot of other Islands do not have and that is the freedom to walk-about the Island without restriction. From my observation here in the US, it is worth assigning plain cloth (undercover) officers where you have a lot of visitors to the island. Let it be posted and known that full time plain clothes officers of the (RBPF)Royal Barbados Police Force are on duty 24/7 and stiff penalties will be enforced. After all, tourism / Hospitality are the chief sources of income to the Island.
    I agree with one of the post above that said {the Gap should be to Barbados what South Beach is to Miami}.
    Thanks for taking the time to read my post.


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