Tourism officials confident but worries linger
Although there may not be any short-term impact on Barbados’ tourism from the United Kingdom’s decision to exit the European Union (EU), local authorities are leaving nothing to chance.
Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) William Billy Griffith said while officials here did not expect any negative impact from the Brexit vote, they would continue to be proactive and would meet with industry players in the UK to examine the issue.
“Barbados, along with the rest of the world, has been monitoring the Brexit situation since the referendum on June 23rd. There have been significant commentary and prognosticating within the media on the potential impact it may or may not have on our tourism product, as the UK is our number one source market,” Griffith said.
“Over the past month we have been gathering information from all of our major suppliers in the UK. It is still early days yet and indications are that there has not been any short-term impact thus far. Notwithstanding, a team led by our Minister of Tourism and International Transport Richard Sealy, along with our chairman Alvin Jemmot, our Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association chairman [Roseanne Myers] will be meeting very shortly with the leadership of British Airways, Virgin Airways and the top ten operators in London to examine the issue. These meetings commence the middle of next week,” the tourism chief reported.
He said the delegation would also seek to discuss “new strategies towards preserving our market share so that we are strengthening our position to fiercely defend airlift in this legacy market”.
The BTMI’s optimism is not shared by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ambassador Robert Bobby Morris, who said Thursday night he anticipated a reduction in the number of British tourists coming to Barbados, along with a decrease in spend.
Morris told a panel discussion on the Impact of the Brexit vote on Barbados as part of the Robert Bobby Thomas Memorial Lecture, a fall in the value of the British pound as a result of Brexit would make it more expensive for Britons to visit Barbados, thus taking a bite out of the country’s primary market.
The former trade union leader also feared that even broader concerns could rise for Barbados, including the possibility of the imposition of visas on Barbadians visiting Europe.
“We are able to go into Europe without needing visas, that is a tremendous advantage . . .we don’t know whether that will still continue. But that’s a discussion that will have to go on,” he said.
In a stinging rebuke of the British, the CARICOM ambassador charged that the Brexit vote was based on racism and he warned of a possible halt in migration, which would affect Barbadians who wished to settle in Britain.
“The English are racist, and part of that Brexit I believe is because they want to stop migration. That is the biggest issue that they want to discuss,” an unapologetic Morris said. “So if they are not likely to want to encourage people to come in – they also have a feeling about those who are there already, they don’t want them – and therefore there is going to be an identity clash between those persons who are not Caucasian and those who are Caucasian, and that will impact us because we have large Diasporas.” the noted historian added.
The UK market, which represents 36 per cent of tourist arrivals here, recorded a three per cent increase during the first half of this year when compared to the corresponding period last year.
In addition, Barbados is expected to welcome more flights from that European market, with one additional flight each from British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.