The audience at the final in the Ministry of Tourism series of town hall meetings to discuss the formulation of a White Paper for the Development of Tourism in Barbados, which was held on Monday night at the St. James Secondary School.????
Government set out to hear the views of Barbadians on the future of the tourism industry, and six town hall meetings and hundreds of comments later it has completed yet another step on the road towards developing a White Paper for the sector.
The final meeting saw a capacity audience at the St. James Secondary School last evening, where a wide cross-section of Barbadians and visitors shared their views with Ministry representatives.?? Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, expressed great satisfaction at the response to the series and said he was pleasantly surprised at the turnout, the fervor and the range of topics of interest raised by the attendees.?? ??
"The one thing I would say that undergirds [the series] is the passion that people have, throughout the island, for tourism and tourism issues. Some of the issues are ones that you would expect to hear about – beach access, the situation with the West Coast and how it has been allowed to develop, issues relating to the conditions of work within the tourism sector…but a lot of people seemed to be concerned about the environment.?? ??There were a lot of suggestions relating to sustainable tourism, eco tourism, recommendations on how we can preserve our beaches, our gullies, etc. and I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that so many people seemed to have strong views on the subject," Minister Sealy remarked.
Another feature of the public consultation, which impressed the Tourism Minister, was the vast representation from various sectors.
"I can’t help but continue to emphasise that the cross section has been tremendous – students, owners of tourism related facilities, workers and just ordinary Barbadians who are passionate about what’s happening in their country and what direction we should take tourism.?? It has been a worthwhile effort, not only insofar as preparing the White Paper is concerned, but certainly for all of us who have a responsibility in creating tourism policy," the Minister noted.
Chief Research Officer in the Ministry, Gale Yearwood, explained that other steps will have to be taken in order to reach the level of crafting the proposed White Paper. ????????????????
"We will begin to look at the interventions that have been made over the last few weeks, and we are going to have some round table discussions, [which] are going to be more targeted, in terms of looking at stakeholders, some of whom play specific roles in the industry."
After different levels of consultation have been completed and a draft formulated, there are plans to include the public in the revision of the document.
"We would like to come back, maybe to have one big meeting and [have the document on] the internet and encourage persons to have a look through to see if what we have compiled is actually what they wanted…and then we can make amendments, to get ready to submit it to Cabinet," Ms. Yearwood suggested.
The White Paper on Tourism should be completed by the first half of this year and Minister Sealy expressed confidence in the Ministry’s ability to meet that target.
"We have an excellent team in place. They are working hard and they understand the importance of this project, so we will meet the deadline for that first draft," the Minister promised.