Tourism warning

Ex-Cabinet minister cautions officials to tread carefully with sector’s development

A former Government minister is cautioning Barbados and the rest of the region to tread carefully with their tourism development.

Sustainability consultant Elizabeth Liz Thompson has sounded the alarm that increased tourism numbers could also spell higher environmental degradation.

Addressing the opening of the sixth annual Statia Sustainability Conference in Oranjestad on Wednesday, Thompson said the primary objective of traditional tourism policy in the Caribbean had been to attract as many tourists as possible to the islands.

However, she said, with this success has come environmental harm.

“The model of bringing more tourists, which the islands pursue, is putting pressure and pollution on fragile eco-systems which tourists have come to enjoy. It is a classic catch-22. The belief is if we bring more tourists we will make more money, but this thinking is flawed. The more tourists who come the more environmental harm is done and the greater the level and rate of environmental degradation, thereby compromising the quality of the product and putting the product at risk,” she warned.

Tourism continues to be the mainstay of the Barbados economy, with its total contribution to national income estimated at $3.5 billion, or 40 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) last year.

This is forecast to rise by 3.9 per cent per annum to $5.1 billion or 46.1 per cent of GDP by 2027, according to the latest estimates issued by the World Travel and Tourism Council, the global business community.

However, Thompson told today’s seminar, which is being held under the theme Sustainability: A Tool for Development, that regional destinations needed to guard against the environmental impact of the “bring more tourists model”.

“We seem to believe that these eco-systems will last forever or remain pristine no matter how or by how many people they are used,” she said, while suggesting that a new approach be taken to the development of tourism in the region.

“We should move to approaches where we are selling quality and exclusivity and limit access to the numbers we allow into the islands every year, as this will limit the stress and the burden on the island eco-system.”

Using the Turks and Caicos as an example, she said the country continued to be in “extremely high demand” even though it has limited the number of cruise ships and yachts that could use its port on any given day.

“They have tapped into the notion of selling exclusivity and as soon as you sell exclusivity people want it irrespective of how you price it,” she said.

In her address, Thompson also advocated for better treatment of local investors and workers while lamenting that far too often the region’s focus was on receiving tourism revenues “and the needs and preferences and the comfort of the tourists are given precedents over those of the very nationals who must welcome, entertain serve and service these tourists”.

She also took a swipe at the all-inclusive hotel model in the region, stating that it “allows money to remain on property while domestic shops and service providers are shut out from the benefits of the financial receipts.

“Statistics also show that because of the high degree of foreign ownership of hotels, the region retains only 20 to 30 cents in every dollar with the bulk of the tourism dollar for rooms, resorts, recreation and even food, going to companies outside of the Caribbean,” she said, adding that “unless we change the fundamentals and have more local ownership and investment, regional earnings will continue to be minimal relative to the revenues generated on the islands but banked elsewhere.

“Rarely do local businesses get anywhere near the concessions, tax rebates and incentives given to foreign investors to do business here, and the cost to the locals doing that business is much higher. Although their contribution to the tourism product and the tourist experience is a higher value, domestic investment is not recognized in the same way as foreign investment.”

The former Minister of the Environment in the Barbados Labour Party administration of Owen Arthur also urged regional authorities to pay closer attention to the regulation of activities such as jet ski operations and whale watching and to ensure better management of garbage and sewage disposal, as well as other forms of pollution, since these activities could present “severe threat to sustainable development” of the region’s tourism product.

11 Responses to Tourism warning

  1. Kammie Holder December 7, 2017 at 12:36 am

    Thank you Liz for I have sounded the alarm bell on the need for sustainable tourism.

  2. David stone December 7, 2017 at 3:38 am

    I’m a regular visitor on business, it’s not the tourists that bring an eco challenge have a look inside your own garden. The pollution coming off your road vehicles busses smaller shuttle busses and trucks is incredible. Not to mention the amount of rubbish strewn around lingering towards the waters. Make barbados tidied and try tackle the pollution. Waste oils?? People with cars over gulleys whilst dropping oils for service.

  3. Sheron Inniss December 7, 2017 at 6:01 am

    100 % agree. Less is sometimes more. Amen.

  4. Richard Johnston December 7, 2017 at 7:38 am

    Barbados needs economic development into other sectors instead of simple growth in its main sector.

  5. John Everatt December 7, 2017 at 10:03 am

    With the sewage situation on the south coast I don’t think we have to worry too much about run away tourism. The tourists will run away from here on their own.

  6. Delia Rose December 7, 2017 at 10:29 am

    Dont you worry your little head Ms Thompson. This government has everything well in hand. Tourists (and locals) walking in sewage, swimming in sewage contaminated sea, inhaling sewage odour. Add to that the horrendous cost of everything thanks to the new taxes. So we soon wont have any tourism industry to worry about. Google beaches in Seychelles, Hawaii, Bahamas just to name a few. Tourists have many better options.

  7. Alltalk December 7, 2017 at 11:47 am

    Is so amazing that this former minister has so much mouth after being treated like trash clean your windows, Liz, before you clean others go back under the rock or….. where you were.

  8. tyrone downes December 7, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    How much did that toilet facility at Oistins cost again Liz I forget. Do you believe that if your crooked Barbados Labour Party had spent that 400,000 dollars in upgrading the sewer system in the south when you were the government, we would not now have the problem? And was it your husband who had the contract to build the famous Oistins project.P/S: You should consider entering NIFCA Liz, that cry-baby act you put down at the 79th annual general conference of your crooked party… was the bomb. A class act by a classless woman.

  9. seagul December 7, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    Increased tourism numbers have since twenty years now brought higher environmental degradation. Growing up along Rockley-Hastings coast we slowly saw the deterioration of the reef life along that stretch. Need not say what was the cause of this pollution. And now it has reached a rude awakening point of probably no return. But what we have for the most part are forms of leadership, which benefits the bourgeoisie and refuses to challenge the roll of the big business community and hoteliers.
    Our solution and survival is in agricultural creativity. However we must overcome that mental illness which dictates our senses that this is beneath our intelligence.

  10. Sherlock Holmes. December 7, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    In as much as the issue on the south coast is horrendous these politicians never cease to amaze me.It definitely time for new blood both sides are literally one of the same, a bunch of theatrics espoused by alarmist, typically cold soup warmed over.

  11. Joe scoles January 13, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    I was careless 3 years ago during my annual visit and went swimming at Accra beach after a very heavy rainfall. I got the worst case of diarrhea possible and under a Doctors care for about 2 weeks. It came from the streets and craphole that is emptied into the beach water when it fills up. Yes, no warning sign for the public, just let them get sick.


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