Every year tourists, from around the world come to Barbados to experience the best of what this island in the sun has to offer ??? sandy beaches, sparkling blue sea, exotic local dishes, and friendly people.
Once here, many of these tourists fall in love with the island and come again and again, investing thousands of dollars each year in the hotel industry, restaurants and other businesses, large or small, throughout the island.
Retirees Jim Payton and Marilyn Phillips from Ontario, Canada, have been coming to Barbados since the mid-1970s. Marilyn was first to arrive in 1977, after choosing the island randomly with friends.
???It was kind of like just throwing a pen on the map,??? she confessed, adding that they had decided to visit whatever country it landed on. ???It landed on Barbados and I???m so happy it did,??? she smiled. Marilyn had such a wonderful time that she came again the following year with Jim. The couple, who is currently on their 31st trip to the island, confessed what they liked about Barbados.
???Aside from the fact that it???s freezing cold in Canada, it???s safe???we go out late at night to any part if the island and never feel uncomfortable,??? Jim noted, while Marilyn added: ???I just love the friendliness of the people; everywhere we go we always feel welcome and safe???.
The two stayed at a number of hotels along the west coast for a few weeks at a time during the early visits before they decided to stay for at least four months out of the year at a family apartment.
???In the early years, we stayed in hotels all over the island ??? a lot of them in Holetown and Sunset Crest on the West Coast and also the Sugar Cane Club at the northern end of the island…Now we have an apartment at a family home. It???s like coming home. I think it???s nice to be in a home instead of a hotel for the long term. When you are in a hotel you are always in a hotel mentally. When you are in an apartment, you???re home,??? Jim noted.
This has allowed them to forge firm friendships with the Barbadian family who owns the home to which the apartment is attached, as well as other locals. ???I have a friend in St. Lucy whom I now call brother. We have been together for so long I feel I have helped to raise two of his children. We taught them how to swim. We used to take them to the sea, to pools. They are both quite successful. I take some pride in that,??? Jim asserted.
Over the years, the couple has seen a number of changes in Barbados, and while they are happy to see how it has progressed, they noted that they miss some of old ???Barbadiana???. ???Back when I first came I loved Barbados because it was quaint. I loved the chattel houses ??? all of that has changed. Now I see the big wall houses. I miss the little chattel houses,??? Marilyn recalled fondly.
???No more donkey carts,??? Jim said laughingly, then added: ???When we first started coming here, in St. Lucy and St. Peter, a lot of people didn???t have water directly in the house, they had stand pipes so you would see the women gathered around the standpipe chitchatting. That???s all gone now; persons have water in the house and electricity???.
Jim and Marilyn have also done their part to encourage other visitors to come to the island. This includes family members and friends. ???I encourage people to come here every year???.This year I brought four that were absolutely dedicated visitors to Florida. If you check their Facebook now they don???t even know how to spell Florida. After they???ve been to Barbados, they???re not going back to Florida; they???re coming here from now on,??? Jim boasted.
Jim and Marilyn, like many other repeat visitors to the island, have been feted at Ilaro Court, the official residence of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart. This is Government???s way of saying thank you to those many visitors who have fallen in love with this island and regularly return to these shores, thus contributing significantly to Barbados??? economy.