Change of attitude vital to taking forward our tourism

It has been interesting to me to have heard all of [the] opinions during my three-year tenure at the BTA as the chairman of its board, and it has been even more interesting the vitriolic and muscular tone in which these opinions are shared, oft-times at the minister and the chairman in particular.  

It led me to ask myself why this would be so? Why would an industry which has been described as one of the most important sectors be constantly derided and pilloried, rather than a united, patriotic stance taken to ensure that the interests of all are protected?

–– Outgoing chairman of the Barbados Tourism Authority, Adrian Elcock, as he addressed the annual general meeting of the Intimate Hotels Of Barbados group last week.

 

In his speech, Mr Elcock went further to knock the industry’s critics, including “media houses of recent ilk”, which he said seemed to thrive on sensationalism as the basis of a story.

The BTA chairman also singled out politicians –– no doubt on the Opposition side –– who he said were constantly engaged in a game of one-upmanship, as well as “industry partners, and hoteliers in particular, who recognized a long time ago that the more complaining they did, the more likely the Government of the day would buckle and provide concession after concession at a cost to the country that we cannot afford”.

Mr Elcock also pointed to a growing cynicism among our people and a view that when something positive was being said, those commentators must be politically biased.

“We cannot continue on this path,” he said. “This sector is too important to too many families in this island.

“We need to wrap ourselves in the flag of patriotism promoting our country at every opportunity. Technology has allowed more voices to enter discussions, but in the same token it allows those discussions, whether negative or positive to be instantly promoted to countries outside Barbados, also known as “source markets”. So we can no longer say that we don’t all play a part in determining the fortunes of our country because what we say is being heard at some level or the other . . . .”

Enough said, Mr Elcock! But why is it that you tourism people somehow feel you are the only ones who love this beautiful island of ours, Barbados?

Does the fact that criticisms are sometimes voiced really mean that the importance of the sector is lost on anyone, or that critics do not care about the image of our island? Certainly not!

Or, are we simply not allowed to speak as bluntly as Mr Elcock did in his address when he described the soon to be disbanded Barbados Tourism Authority, which he oversaw for the past three years, as “a slothful, wasteful, and inefficient organization in an increasingly dynamic, technologically-driven, and commercial industry”?

Is it a case of what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander? Or, in the media’s case, does the so-called sensationalism only apply to our reports on crime and job cuts in the tourism sector?

We are hopeful that with all the recent utterances by officials about the need for a radical, bold and fresh approach to our tourism planning and marketing, that we will also witness a transformation in attitude at the level of officialdom.

To be equally as blunt as Mr Elcock, the bureaucratic and oppressive mindset of our officials also needs to urgently change as well. Otherwise, it would be like pouring old wine into new wine vessels or running a 767 on Dash 8 wheels.

If we in the media report that 40 tourism jobs have been cut, within the context of national retrenchment, it does not mean that we want our vital tourism industry to fail, or that we have something personal against “the minister or the chairman” for that matter.

And similarly is it with our reporting on crime. That the media highlight the shooting death of a visitor, as was unfortunately the case earlier this year, does not mean that lost on us is the significance of tourism, or the fact that we may have spent between $41 million and $77 million in marketing per year over the past nine years.

We expect much better from our key tourism players who are widely travelled and should know better the ways of the developed world and how they treat frontally to matters of communication.

Certainly, our tourism officials should be able to present a much more enlightened view of such than those who never really get to venture past the gates of Grantley Adams International.

But that every aspect of our lives is affected by the performance of tourism –– from brushing our teeth to drinking a glass of water from our taps –– does not mean that we must wear blinkers and be less than generous with the truth about what is the “lived experience” of the average Barbadian.

Barbados is a beautiful place, but it is not a paradise. And there can be no running away from the fact that our tourism performance these days can best be
described as flat.

That officials would have us sugarcoat things, in support of a fairytale image, is backward, to say the least.

We wish our BTA chairman well as his tenure comes to an end.

 

5 Responses to Change of attitude vital to taking forward our tourism

  1. Santini More
    Santini More August 7, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    I think Barbados Today are ‘right on the money’ in this article.

    Reply
  2. Santini More
    Santini More August 7, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    I think Barbados Today are ‘right on the money’ in this article.

    Reply
  3. Joy Johnson August 9, 2014 at 10:20 am

    I happened to work with the RUN BARBADOS Race Series in the past, that series is 30 years old. The Entire SPORTS DEPT from the BTA was wiped out according to what i have heard from a very reliable source. Before I disclose what was said to me;
    How could the Board cut everyone out of Sports Tourism? I am a beneficiary of that division of tourism; are you saying that none of the 4 staff (who are now gone) are worth their salt…NOT ONE?????

    Gregory Armstrong (BTA about 20 years – Former National & professional cricketer, Angella Wilikinson – (more than 10 years). I know Angella, she is hard working, especially at Run Barbados time.
    They were the first 2 to go.
    Winston Carter (25+ years), may seem quiet but he is good at pulling things together. And Hugh Husbands (3 years)- the last to go, Former professional cricketer, and the youngest member of the Department who I heard has always had good ideas. Are you telling me that none of these persons have any idea about Sports Tourism? are they not Creative? something seems wrong… is there no HR Department to review employee progress?

    Especially when i hear the BTA is trying to keep all their younger people.
    Also Ryan Blackette – Manager for Cruise Tourism, active in the Sugar Point project, Cruise is now UP this year, according to the last article in the Nation Newspaper. He too is relatively young, i am shocked to see which direction Tourism is turning, and i wonder if it will survive. But my big question is this: “Is the problem the Staff at the BTA or is it the BOARD of Tourism itself???”
    Tourism is the BABY of Barbados… our name was built on it… Right now CPL had only 3 Game nights in Barbados, why???
    St Kitts has 20 games??? ST KITTS???
    Sports Tourism brings more people in than any other sector of Tourism, Sportsmen spend more money, they patronize bars. I am praying my little business doesn’t suffer. Or if i knew I would have moved to Brazil for the World Cup, that is a Sport Tourism project if you guys didn’t know… When will Barbados pull it together and host something big that the industry partners can break Bread???

    Reply
  4. Alex 3 August 11, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    I have been coming to Barbados since 1980 gradually increasing my stay length and simplifying my needs such that I now spend 10% of my days on my island home away.
    When it comes to the tourist industry and its impact on the Bajan economy, I offer three observation.
    First and foremost Barbados cannot compete with so many new destinations for tourism dollars as long as it continues to market itself as a somewhat elite and therefore an expensive destination. So many countries have found ways and means to attract visitors with equally pleasant offerings, interesting activities and highly competitive prices. With the younger generation having the attention span of milli-seconds variety at reasonable cost is what they look for and not a traditional quiet environment.
    Second, over the years the west coast beached in particularly have been over taken by private condominium complexes where once stood hotels and multiple affordable longer stay villas.
    This adversely affects the employment levels of Barbadians. Of course during construction there are jobs created and spin off economic activity but over the long term the number jobs remaining and economic activity is far reduced from previous levels.
    Finally, I just do not understand why the government gets so up tight when knowledgeable, successful people want to invest in Barbados. For years Butch Stewart tried to get into Barbados but the government got in the way. The Almond group was a disaster. Over the years we saw a decline in service and quality and of course ABV closed and hundreds lost jobs as was the case at ABC. Now that there is desperation Butch has been allowed back in at Causerina and ABV but why the delay? Rumour has it the ABC aka Club Barbados is in a holding pattern awaiting opportunity to become a site of even more villas.
    Barbados needs to stop these multimillion dollar condos evolving on the beaches and let the Butch Stewarts of the world do their thing which is to bring development of good value experiences to travelers which means sustainable jobs for many.

    Reply
  5. Alex 3 August 11, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    I have been coming to Barbados since 1980 gradually increasing my stay length and simplifying my needs such that I now spend 10% of my days on my island home away.
    When it comes to the tourist industry and its impact on the Bajan economy, I offer four observations.
    First and foremost Barbados cannot compete with so many new destinations for tourism dollars as long as it continues to market itself as a somewhat elite and therefore an expensive destination. So many countries have found ways and means to attract visitors with equally pleasant offerings, interesting activities and highly competitive prices. With the younger generation having the attention span of milli-seconds variety at reasonable cost is what they look for and not a traditional quiet environment.
    Second, over the years the west coast beaches in particular have been over taken by private condominium complexes where once stood hotels and multiple affordable longer stay villas.
    This adversely affects the employment levels of Barbadians. Of course during construction there are jobs created and spin off economic activity but over the long term the number jobs remaining and economic activity is far reduced from previous levels.
    Third, I just do not understand why the government gets so up tight when knowledgeable, successful people want to invest in Barbados. For years Butch Stewart tried to get into Barbados but the government got in the way. The Almond group was a disaster. Over the years we saw a decline in service and quality and of course ABV closed and hundreds lost jobs as was the case at ABC. Now that there is desperation Butch has been allowed back in at Causerina and ABV but why the delay? Rumour has it the ABC aka Club Barbados is in a holding pattern awaiting opportunity to become a site of even more villas.
    Barbados needs to stop these multimillion dollar condos evolving on the beaches and let the Butch Stewarts of the world do their thing which is to bring development of good value experiences to travelers which means sustainable jobs for many.
    Finally, when it comes to how Barbados looks to first timers I must say I am saddened at the deterioration in pride of nation I have seen. It seems that with the advent of the fast food joint and beverage containers at almost ever corner, the waste in the streets has followed suit. Where there are waste containers along the board walks they are too far apart and not serviced often enough so waste over flows. Same on the streets. The bus stop in Holetown which I pass each day is a glaring example.
    The government needs to start campaigning on a Pitch In program based on pride for ones country. They need a fee structure to encourage recycling of containers rather than throwing them here there and everywhere particularly in B’Town, Holetown and Speightstown where tourists go.
    There is an old saying. “you only get one chance to make a good first impression.” Barbados will not get repeat visitors if their first impression is a bad one. More to the point, what will they tell their friends about our beautiful island?

    Reply

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