|Dr. Elaine Rocha has encouraged tourism stakeholders to see the value in diasporic tourists. (C.Pitt/BGIS)??|
Tourists who look like us have much to offer this island, and their links to Barbados are stronger than we can imagine.
This was the overriding theme shared by Dr. Elaine Rocha, as she delivered the Tourism Week lecture on Non-Accidental Tourists: The Importance of the African Diaspora to Stimulate Modern Tourism, which was held last evening at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination, University of the West Indies.
Dr. Rocha posited that for the industry to survive and flourish, it was essential "to invest in something that makes us special". The solution, she said, was embracing a national identity and sharing it with those who had ties to the island.
Offering examples, the lecturer said that "what marked the history of Cuba was the revolution. They transformed the revolution into a touristic attraction…In Johannesburg, they transformed apartheid [into a tourism heritage theme]…". She added that Barbados had a unique position to approach cultural tourism in a similar format and to build on its history as ???Little England’.
She said that this would be especially appealing for members of the diaspora whose families had immigrated to countries in Latin America generations ago, but who ensured their children knew about Barbados.????
The high level of education, sovereignty in the functioning of the country and the lifestyles of the people were some of the factors which would attract diasporic tourists, Dr. Rocha maintained, as they wished to see "places where black people are successful."
She noted that pairing tourism and education would be beneficial, as long-term diasporic students to these shores would make a valuable economic contribution, and seek to share their experiences by inviting others to visit.
She also highlighted the fact that the financial prowess of black communities was often overlooked and revealed that Black America’s collective buying power was "estimated at more than US$1 trillion dollars [for] 2015".??
Speaking specifically about her home country, Brazil, one of the newer source markets for Barbados, Dr. Rocha revealed that while Brazilians were unlikely to travel for beaches, as they had their own, they would however, be fascinated by the culture and lifestyle, engage in shopping, and would be attracted by the low price, since travelling from Sao Paulo to Barbados was less expensive than travelling from Sao Paulo to Manaus.
Stressing that it was crucial for tourism stakeholders to review their stereotypes of black tourists, including domestic tourists, Dr. Rocha remarked that, according to research, "diasporic travellers were more likely to infuse money into the local economy when travelling to the country of their heritage, than most international tourists…
"National heritage [goes] beyond historical sites. It is your culture…and embracing your culture will bring more people, tourists, from everywhere," she said.