Enabling tourism in northern Barbados

Are Speightstown and areas in the north of the island sufficiently attractive to lure visitors from other countries? Do they need to change to suit tourists’ demands? Or should they just be locations to provide an added pull for Barbados’ guests?

Those were the issues mulled over Wednesday night when leading players in Barbados’ tourism industry got together with northern tour operators to discuss tourism development in the island’s north by 2025.

Chairman of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Roseanne Myers said the attractions were there but needed infrastructural support. Former tourism minister Noel Lynch said the product has to be moulded to suit the tourists’ needs, while water sports operator Tony Babb said the north needs more resident business owners. In the view of tourism executive Colin Jordan, the northern offerings should complement Barbados’ overall attractions.

Atlantic Submarines and BHTA chairman Roseanne Myers
Atlantic Submarines and BHTA chairman Roseanne Myers
Former tourism minister Noel Lynch
Former tourism minister Noel Lynch
Water sports operator Tony Babb
Water sports operator Tony Babb
Tourism executive Colin Jordan
Tourism executive Colin Jordan

“There are a number of unique things about Speightstown that could become part of a package that sells Speightstown as an attraction within the Barbados context,” Jordan said in conference room of the Almond Village where the tourism stakeholders met.

“We’re not talking about Speightstown outside of Barbados’ tourism, we’re talking about Speightstown being an essential part of the development of Barbados, unique in its historical involvement,” added Jordan, who is Director of Business Development at the Mango Bay Hospitality Group of Companies and Director of Finance at the BHTA.

He added that few visitors leave their homeland to specifically holiday in northern Barbados. But he contended that locations in the north are relevant.

“People are looking for variety in the destinations they are going to and Speightstown, as a part of the north, and the north generally, [are] well positioned to assist Barbados’ tourism by providing variety. We’re not talking about the north or Speightstown as some special destination, we’re saying that within the Barbados context – possibly within a Caribbean context – when we are talking about providing variety for visitors, Speightstown must feature in providing that variety.”

Jordan spoke of the linkages connecting British tourists – who make up 35 per cent of Barbados’ visitors – to Speightstown, the island’s first port which was dubbed Little Bristol. He also mentioned ties with Americans, as Bajans left the parish of St. Peter to form the settlement of the Carolinas in the United States.

He found support in his suggestion from a member of the audience, Aird Atherley, who suggested that this vein of heritage tourism has the potential to bring visitors, through twinning Speightstown with Bristol in the UK, and St Peter with South Carolina.

Concerned resident Aird Atherley
Concerned resident Aird Atherley

While not disagreeing on the north’s attractions, Lynch, a tourism minister for eight years up until 2008, cautioned: “Don’t sell what you have, find out what the people want . . you don’t sell what you got, sell what the people want.”

He said that twinning of locations does not bring people to Barbados, and that visitors still come for the traditional elements of a tropical destination – sun, sea and sand.

“Eighty percent of our [tourists] still come on a tour operator programme for leisure within a tropical environment,” he said, adding that when booking they may discover Barbados’ northern elements as an added reason to visit, or discover those extra attractions upon arrival.

“Nobody don’t get on pun no plane and come to Barbados to come to Speightstown . . . confront your realities, create a real marketing concept and go from there,” Lynch advised.

Myers, who is also chairman of Atlantis Submarine Tours, said the non-functioning jetty in Speightstown is the obstacle to underwater tourism in the upper end of Barbados.

“The north, especially the northwest, has some of the best coral reef development in Barbados. The farther north you go, the more pristine the reefs become. The only reason that Atlantis is not diving in the north is because of that jetty,” she said.

Speaking about the potential for the north once there was infrastructural development, Myers said if the pier was functioning, “we would be in a situation where we could tow the vessel [submarine] and leave it here, and maybe two or three days per week we operate from the north, and I’m sure it would really expand our market offering.”

Babb said the problem with the jetty was that it was built in the wrong place. “There is no place in the world where anybody would build a jetty right by a reef, because a reef always has wave action.”

He said the only way the current structure will ever work is as a cruise and fishing jetty.

The water sports operator expressed hope that when a new jetty is being considered, the experience of locals would be taken into the final decision.

Consistent with his call for local input, he complained that the little investment in the north was done by non-northerners, much to the disadvantage of the zone.

“Most of the people who own businesses in the north, do not live in the north,” Babb said.

19 Responses to Enabling tourism in northern Barbados

  1. Francis McClean
    Francis McClean September 2, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Keep it simple. Don’t tear those nice buildings down, fix them. Please keep that quaint look that is historical. Promote it well and that quaint sleepy town will do the rest. It’s a nice get away from the hustle and bustle. Nice and relaxing is Speightstown, my favorite spot.

    • Kenneth McGill September 2, 2016 at 11:49 am

      I agree 100%. Love going to Speightstown seeing the historic building type that is no longer in Bridgetown and the museum.

  2. Michael Goodman
    Michael Goodman September 2, 2016 at 10:52 am

    It is too ‘disconnected’. A water taxi service Careenage, Holetown, Speightstown, would not only ‘connect’ it, but provide a valuable service for locals, as well as an enjoyable experience for visitors.

  3. Donild Trimp September 2, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    I like the water taxi idea.

    Go for it.

  4. jrsmith September 2, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    As business person myself , I totally agree with (Aird Atherly) one of the major problems in Barbados ,Barbados has become an over priced tourist destination , the lower region is offering similar packages a lot cheaper challenging what’s offered in Barbados , no political connections have the ability to put it right.. One other major problem the major hotels with its one way financial policy profits sent out of Barbados and none being reinvested in the local industry that greed is destroying the economy..

    Look what happen to the gap , local bajans use to support the gap but everybody gradually forcing they prices up as for the tourist , bajans then are left to pick up the pieces on bajan wages, the people who suppose to control the tourist industry makes you wonder how they have stood bye and accept what’s going on..
    My take to get the Speight town area on stream you need a active group of business people who is willing to work , you elect an independent (Mayor) non political, you do not get politicians or certain other people who belongs in the tourist industry
    involve you can talk to them nothing more.. finding private investors and some local people would do the trick

    This is the man to become the mayor (Aird Atherly)…

  5. Brian Skinner September 2, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    My wife and I have rented holiday accommodation in Speightstown for our last two visits and we love being reminded of Barbados as we knew it 30 years ago, before all the west coast construction. I’m not opposed to progress, far from it, but I think all Speightstown needs is a bit of dressing up. Fix the roads and sidewalks and, most importantly, fix the jetty. I know lots of Canadians who love Speightstown and even though we’re staying in St. Philip for our next holiday, we will definitely be visiting Island Plates, the Orange Street Grocer and the Fisherman’s Pub.

  6. Ann Harding September 2, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    Speightstown’s historic charm would be easy to develop out and difficult financially to preserve. Please don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! My #1 suggestion (as the pier has already been noted) is to create a walk from the bus terminus to Queen Street which is a pleasure, versus the current frightening sight of dirty looking streets with no obvious way to get to town safely. The bus terminus is shabby. I’ll never forget my first impression, getting off the bus – I was so relieved to see a policeman on the corner and made straight to him to ask how to get to Speightstown. He pointed down a street which I felt required bravery to travel down. Now, I know better, but if you look at it from a visitor’s perspective, it isn’t pretty. What to do? Start with basics. Fix the roads and sidewalks, continuously clear the litter, provide and service adequate trash bins, put up some welcoming directional signs, and upgrade the village of tiny shop huts.

  7. Ann Harding September 2, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    Clarification: by bus terminal, I’m referring to where everyone actually gets on and off the buses, near Church Street, as the actual terminal is farther from town center. I am personally very happy not to have noisy, smelly buses constantly passing the places I enjoy frequenting, yet you’ll often hear locals say that moving the route is what killed Speightstown. Simply, the experience of alighting and moving towards the main shops became unpleasant.

  8. Maria Leclair Dasilva
    Maria Leclair Dasilva September 2, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    40 plus years later and they are still talking about this. This topic comes up just about every 5 plus years, like everything else and nothing gets done. Same topic, different person.

    • Cherylann Bourne-Hayes
      Cherylann Bourne-Hayes September 2, 2016 at 9:12 pm

      All they know how to do is ‘discuss’ so that thwy can say that they were looking into it. Waste of oxygen.

  9. Joan Wickham
    Joan Wickham September 2, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    speightown is unique the way it is, they can have fish fry like oistins to lure the tourist/locals on Friday nights, Saturday can be an all day flea market/street fair with steel band music/all the local folk characters, which would much needed dollars to that area, they can even be a cruise to spieghtstown, or a ferry type thing for the weekend, it just need a good events planner to brighten up the place

  10. Jan Shaw
    Jan Shaw September 2, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    Beautiful just the way it is. A taste of old Barbados. Problem is, because of the by-pass people aren’t aware of it. Please promote it the way it is. If you want water sports go to Mullins. A lovely experience for tourists to mingle with the ‘locals’.

  11. Cherylann Bourne-Hayes
    Cherylann Bourne-Hayes September 2, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    They are always freaking discussing and never doing. Heck they want ideas? I see some really good ones here. For goodness sake people read pages like this and you will see a lot of great ideas, amidst some wonky ones, but there is some really good information and comments sometimes.

    Save time and money

  12. jrsmith September 3, 2016 at 4:14 am

    Speightown needs the kind of development as like (Warrens) but a domestic local development , gone are the lick of paint and curtain days..The infrastructure of the area needs to be properly developed, roads , storm drainage , tidal protection , emergency power, large water storage system look at the (Lime Centre) .. the speightown area is seriously out of date …how are you going to attract investors can you walk them around the area at the present time and say what .

  13. Daniel Krupa September 3, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    I live in Canada and my wife and I have visited Barbados quite a few times. I agree that Barbados prices are going high and possibly too high for the average person to visit. I love to scuba dive and dive at Hightide up north when I go. I love the quaint atmosphere of speightstown but agree that something needs to be done to fix it up. Nothing major but clean up the streets and bus terminal.And maybe thrown on some paint on some buildings. I also agree that the GAP is getting way too expensive and sometimes feel that Barbados only want the upper middle class and rich to visit them. We travel the Caribbean a lot for the diving and there are a lot of islands that are quite a bit cheaper and you get more for your money. Saying that,we are coming down in November to celebrate our 51rst wedding anniversary. As of yet,do not know where we are staying.

  14. seagul September 6, 2016 at 11:24 am

    The millionaires–yachts–the cows…..

  15. Dee Morgan September 15, 2016 at 6:13 am

    The MSc Tourism students at UWI CaveHill have for the past 5 years or so produced great ideas on this topic. Maybe the ideas can actually be put in practice.

  16. Elaine Wiley February 21, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    I’m Canadian and planning my next trip to Barbados and an planning to go to Speightstown. Have been several times and stayed in the Accra Hotel. This time we are going to try a self catering accommodation, that’s close to the bus, grocery shops and close by restaurants. We’d like a more inclusive vacation within a community as opposed to crowds of people and nightlife. We’re not looking for 5 Star eateries, just small local places with reasonably priced good food, access to fresh fruit and veg and meat for cooking at home should we wish. We love Barbados and its people but we’ve done the touristy stuff. We just want to enjoy island time, sun and relaxation.


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