Tourism boss fears crime backlash
The head of one of the island’s leading tourism agencies is warning that if the crime rate continues to escalate, Barbados could reach a point where “no amount of marketing or promotional campaign” will attract visitors to its shores.
This caution has come from Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the recently-established Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA) Dr Kerry Hall, who saw the recent upsurge in crime as a matter which needed to be addressed urgently.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY this morning, Dr Hall described the current situation as unprecedented and called any threat to Barbados’ main foreign exchange industry “a serious one.”
“As a consequence, a situation can potentially occur whereby we deliver the best service possible, have the friendliest people, develop the most creative and effective marketing and promotional campaigns, upgrade and enhance our product and create new exciting and innovative attractions and activities and these efforts may be in vain if the situation worsens and our guests are deterred from visiting our shores,” she explained.
“I know that we as a nation do not wish for this to occur and that every effort will be expended to ensure that it doesn’t.”
While pointing out that over the years Barbados had built a reputation as one of the safest places in the world to visit, the BTPA boss maintained it was important that tourists felt comfortable while on the island.
She said visitors had become used to feeling safe here and that in turn had led to Barbados being touted as one of the most enjoyable destinations.
“There is a direct correlation between safety and a person’s capacity to relax. The wonderful thing about Barbados is that unlike a lot of other destinations where tourists exist in a bubble, and are confined behind high walls, huge fortresses and 1000-room plus hotels where they are boxed in and boxed out, Barbados does not have that.
“Those people never get a chance to connect with the local communities. Our guests can walk out the front roads of the hotel, catch a Transport Board bus or a minivan or even walk to the restaurants or supermarkets, because they feel safe. The modern day traveller wants to immerse themselves in communities and go and interact with locals and go to local events. That is our experience and that is one of our strongest’ advantages, that is what sets us apart,” Dr Hall added.
The CEO revealed that in the 2015 World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitive Report, Barbados scored a commendable 5.75 out of seven in the Safety and Security Index.
She said this was higher than the Caribbean and North American average of 4.64.
“While Barbados ranked up theere higher than a lot of developed countries in the Western Hemisphere, we cannot allow this to slip away. That is why this is so important to our country; this is why Barbadians need to know we cannot lose this critical component of our nation’s reputation as a whole, but particularly with respect to tourism,” Dr Hall noted.