British diplomat reassures region in wake of Brexit vote
Britain’s top diplomat here is urging Barbados and the Caribbean not to panic in the wake of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, assuring the region that “nothing will change overnight”.
British High Commissioner to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Victoria Dean issued a statement today seeking to reassure those who are worried that the Brexit vote will have damaging impact on the vital tourism industry, as well as trade.
“I should be clear that nothing will change overnight. British tourists will keep coming to the region, keep contributing to the local economy and keep enjoying these beautiful islands,” Dean emphasized.
Just yesterday, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy sought to allay concerns that Britain’s pending exit from the EU might lead to fallout in terms of tourist arrivals from that territory.
Speaking to reporters after a short tour of the Sam Lord’s Castle site in St Philip where demolition officially began to make wayfor a new Wyndham Grand Hotel, Sealy suggested that the vote would not affect the island’s tourism.
In reference to the fact that the UK was Barbados’ biggest source market, he said, “That is the case now, it was the case last week, and it will be the case next week, whether they are part of the EU or not”.
However, he acknowledged that the tourism industry was sensitive to currency values, pointing out that the pound sterling had
always been a “fickle currency”, as it fluctuated quite often.
“These issues are not necessarily new. To be frank I am just happy that some sense of closure has been brought to this issue of whether they’re in or out. And, the truth is that Barbados has to do what we have to do. The brand is extremely strong in the UK and that is not going to change, and we have to continue to work hard.”
His position was in sharp contrast to that of the President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Eddie Abed, who warned that the current uncertainty in Britain could not only affect tourism spending out of the UK, but also dampen travel from that market.
“A British visitor may be so uncertain about what his future holds that he may decide to put off his holiday for this year. These are the bigger questions we need to ask ourselves. So I would say definitely we need to fore plan and we need to try to cater to that individual and understand the uncertainty that they are currently going through,” the Chamber
Sealy was also roundly criticized by Barbadians who reacted to the story on Barbados TODAY’s Facebook page and blogs.
“Which planet is Sealy living on? Stock market, real estate and currency in the UK plummeting and he don’t think that it will not (sic) affect us? The UK catches a cold and we don’t sneeze, we catch pneumonia,” one
“Again, Sealy gone on the selective hearing bandwagon. He needs to listen, understand and deliver. Brexit will affect BIM – foreign currency, expats pensions, tourist will travel elsewhere,” another posted.
However, the message from the British High Commissioner is to keep calm, at least for the