‘We need to exploit heritage tourism’
Barbados must move with haste to get sound legal framework for heritage preservation and conservation.
This view was expressed by Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy as he addressed a meeting of regional conservationists gathered in Barbados for the first conference of Caribbean National Trusts and Preservation Societies, as Barbados seeks to capitalize on its UNESCO World Heritage inscription for Historic Bridgetown And Its Garrison.
Addressing the close to 70 participants drawn from across the region, Britain and the United States, gathered at the Savannah Hotel, Sealy said Barbados must move with haste to cash in on the benefits to be made from the fast-growing cultural heritage tourism niche.
“Not only for the UNESCO property, but for our heritage assets in general,” he said.
“There is ample evidence now that cultural heritage tourism is indeed one of the fastest growing segments of tourism. Cultural heritage tourism is now widely recognised as a key marketing component of international tourism. It has become an important item for tourism policy makers worldwide simply because the modern tourist is no longer interested in leisure experiences but they want to immerse themselves in the cultural realities of the countries they visit.
“This is what they say they want and we have to respond,” Sealy stressed.
“I believe that our built and natural heritage will add tremendous value to our overall tourism product.”
He noted that the World Tourism Organisation was unequivocal in its assertion that tourism has become one of the major players in international commerce, representing one of the main sources of income for many developing countries.
“The Caribbean is, by definition in terms of percentage of GDP, the most tourism dependent region in the world and so we have to embrace what we see as the global trends. Here in Barbados, like almost everywhere else in the Caribbean, I think the exception being Trinidad and Tobago with its fluorocarbons, the lifeblood of the economy is tourism and we understand the linkage between conserving our heritage and sustaining our tourism product,” the tourism minister said.
“We are working diligently to develop and implement strategies that will enhance a visitor’s experience through the creation of heritage tourism cultural links.”
Sealy praised the work of the Barbados National Trust for leading the effort in preservation for the past 50 years. He also publicly commended Professor Henry Fraser for his literary work on preservation.
“I want to salute the Barbados National Trust and all the trust and preservation societies across the Caribbean for the work that they are doing [by] building excellent relationships with citizens and visitors alike through various programmes to highlight the importance of preserving our built heritage,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Karl Watson, president of the Barbados National Trust, which is hosting the four-day conference, said he hoped the inaugural conference would be an annual event, since many of the trusts and societies were facing similar problems.
“Unless we cooperate and move forward as a region, then we are like so many crabs in a bucket, crawling on each other’s back. Hence the mandate of this conference – get to know each other better, to know what we are all doing and to seek out ways and means by which we can help each other,” he said.