|Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy (FP)|
The true potential of regional tourism, especially the event-based niche, will only be realised through viable travel options for those in the Caribbean.
This was pointed out by Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, as he addressed the launch of the eighth annual Digicel Barbados Reggae Festival 2012 at the Mount Gay Visitors Centre, Spring Garden.
He stressed that facilitating intra-regional travel was imperative for the industry. "Events drive regional visitors and we all know right now, with all that is happening and our other challenges with respect to regional travel, that we also need to have more events to attract [regional tourists]…It is not often realised that the Caribbean is actually our third largest source market, Canada is our 4th – it’s the U.K., U.S. and CARICOM [that are our main revenue generators].?? So getting traffic to come here around events is important," Mr. Sealy underscored.
Directly addressing REDjet airline’s suspension of flights since March 17, the Tourism Minister said "…the cost of travel in this region is simply prohibitive.?? I am told that there are some discussions on with respect to other players and we may be able to get some specials around the Reggae Festival.?? Certainly the resources of the Barbados Tourism Authority will be working feverishly behind that effort.??
"Obviously, with the demise of REDjet, and the way the fares have gone right back up in the air, it is a big problem.?? I sincerely hope that once and for all we can come up with a meaningful, long-term resolution for that situation…
I sincerely hope that something can be done to get REDjet back up in the air; and if in the unfortunate case REDjet flies no more, I would sincerely hope that another venture along those lines can come into reality very soon so that the consumers of Barbados, and the rest of the Caribbean can benefit," Mr. Sealy stressed.
The Tourism Minister revealed that despite these challenges, ??this year’s Reggae ??Festival, which will be held from April 22 to 29, had already seen bookings from Trinidad, St. Lucia, Jamaica, the U.S. and Germany.??
He observed that "…a lot of the visitors from the region, may or may not stay in a five star or four star hotel…but they will stay in guest houses, they are still going to rent cars, they are going to eat in restaurants…And, therefore, they are adding value to the Barbadian economy, and we need to encourage it."
Minister Sealy remarked that the organisers had more than proven the value of the festival.?? He recalled that [in 2008] "there was an inexplicable bump in travel from the region to Barbados around that April period – it was to attend Reggae on the Hill.??
Kind of like under the radar, this product, in its rudimentary stages, was making a significant contribution to regional tourism; and at that point we took a deliberate decision that from the following year, we would recognise it as a legitimate event that was driving tourists to Barbados.??
"And, I am happy to say that since then, since 2009, I have been a part of every launch of this Reggae Festival.???? The Barbados Tourism Authority has been a partner, and we have seen significant returns from that partnership," he said.
Adding that the event had evolved and continued to be a quality product, the Tourism Minister asserted that it could "become one of the world’s premier music festivals…I think they can get there."