It was another evening of frank discussion and sincere comments, when the Ministry of Tourism held its second town hall meeting on the development of a tourism white paper at the Princess Margaret Secondary School, St. Philip last night.
In his opening remarks, on behalf of Tourism Minister, Richard Sealy, Permanent Secretary, Andrew Cox, assured the audience that all input was welcome, since any comments would ultimately contribute to the creation of the document.
"This Tourism White Paper is essentially a policy document that will provide a strategic direction for how tourism should be developed in Barbados over the next 10 [to], 20 years…Your views and your comments and interventions are very important to the process, because if anyone has any say in how tourism should be developed over the medium to long term, it is the residents of this island," he noted.
General Manager of Allamanda Beach Hotel, Evan Gooding, supported the concept of teaching tourism in schools, where teachers would have an opportunity to experience the industry and share their experiences with their students. He also remarked that the industry could no longer ignore the ???all-inclusive’ concept which continued to grow worldwide.
"What would prevent us from marketing towards somewhere in, let’s say Europe, to an all-inclusive customer, who comes to Barbados, stays in a hotel, does two nights at that restaurant, goes to another restaurant somewhere on the West Coast, the South Coast, goes to Oistins…it can be the tours, the taxi drivers, but it can all be packaged,"
Mr. Gooding suggested, adding that the recently concluded Cricket 20/20 Tournament would have been a perfect opportunity for this concept to be explored.
?????????????????? In addition, Public Relations Officer at the Future Centre Trust, Kammie Holder, commented on the need for Africa to be identified as a viable, potential market, as the existing infrastructure of airlift between the United Kingdom and that continent could provide a hub for flights for African tourists into Barbados. Mr. Holder also noted that there must be a greater inclusion of Barbadians in tourism, so the value of the industry – and preserving the environment which supports it – can be fully understood.
"I recently did a talk at a primary school and the question was asked ???why should you keep Barbados clean?’ and the surprising thing is that the students said ???for the tourists’…there must be a promotion of community tourism," he stressed.
This sentiment was underscored by resident Geraldine Watts, who emphasised that tourists should be beneficiaries of resources created for the local population and not the sole reason for said resources to be established.??
In her reponse to residents, Chief Research Officer at the Ministry, Dr. Sherma Roberts said:?? The notion of niche markets and increasing segments is really important.?? We’ve seen it in Croatia, Australia and Turkey, where they try to diversify the product…," she contended that educational tourism could be yet another area where the tourism plant could be expanded.
??"If we want this approach where local persons are at the centre of tourism development, then we need to pull back and see how local persons benefit and there’s equity in the system.??
I think the forum here and the vision for us consulting with persons is to see how we can craft a document that makes the local person one of the primary beneficiaries of tourism," Dr. Roberts observed.??
Meanwhile, Ministry Representative, Gale Yearwood, welcomed the input from key stakeholders. She explained: "the interventions are looking at tourism from a different perspective and that is what we want.?? We want Barbadians to see where they can benefit and how they can benefit.?? We don’t expect that coming out of this process we’ll go back to the traditional type of tourism…I encourage you to keep your interventions coming."
The final town hall meeting will be held on Monday, January 31, at the St. James Secondary School, St. James at 7:00 p.m.?? Persons are encouraged to collect copies of the Discussion Document on the White Paper for the Development of Tourism in Barbados, which is available at local libraries and online at http://www.tourism.gov.bb/, where persons can also leave comments. Additional information is also available at www.facebook.com/tourismgovbb and www.twitter.com/tourismgovbb.??