BTMI’s Director for the Caribbean and Latin America, Corey Garrett, presents 9-year-old local surfer Ras Memelik Lewis with a goodie bag at the media launch last weekend. Looking on are (left to right): father Wayne Lewis; brother Ras Tafari Lewis; surfers Josh Burke and Tyler Gunter; and Co-director of Surf Promotion Barbados Ltd., Christopher Clarke. (S. Forde-Craigg/BGIS)

Barbados is now centre stage as it hosts the World Surf League (WSL) and Live Like Zander Junior Pro Events at the world-renowned Soup Bowl, Bathseba in St. Joseph.

According to Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI), Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Corey Garrett, the event which runs March 28 to April 03, will see 206 (144 men and 62 women) surfers from Canada, the USA, Latin America and Barbados competing in the final and largest men’s and women’s qualifying event to close off the 2021-2022 North America Qualifying Series (QS) event.

Mr. Garrett who was speaking, over the weekend, at a media launch for the event at the BTMI’s headquarters, One Barbados Place, Warrens, St. Michael, said his team was looking forward to the exposure the island would receive as a result.

“Of course Barbados is quite happy to host a major sporting event of this type after the two-year hiatus…. One of the things that we at the BTMI and Barbados on a whole are keen on developing our athletes, so the BTMI is looking to work more conscientiously with Barbadian athletes. 

“Of course in the surfing realm, events like WSL are quite important as we look to diversify our tourism product, and many of the discussions we’re having nowadays are of course, how can we market Barbados more to the world, “Mr. Garrett explained.

Co-director of Surf Promotion Barbados Limited, Louis Venezia who is the father of former surfer Zander Venezia who passed away in September 2017, announced that the surf events were not only about the athletes competing to gain a spot in the finals but would also help to shine a spotlight on sports tourism in Barbados.

Mr. Venezia stated: “The main objective is to promote Barbados as a sports tourism destination increasing the volume of visitors to Barbados by hosting and promoting surf events….

“The tourism impact that we receive from these events is that travelling along with these competitors will be family, friends and spectators and media personnel. This will increase the number of arrivals to Barbados approximately 350 to 400 visitors.  These visitors will help to boost our tourism product through hotel, house and car rentals and by patronising supermarkets, restaurants, souvenir shops and the like.”

In addition, he pointed out that the partnership with the WSL as the governing body of professional surfing is another “huge” opportunity for Barbados.

“The WSL hosts over 175 global events annually broadcasting over 800 hours of surfing and promoting air time.  It has over 2,250 athletes worldwide and in 2017, it paired up with Facebook and Instagram and has collectively an estimated over 50 million followers.  So it is a huge opportunity for Barbados to go to the world through these three avenues,” Mr. Venezia explained.

In response, Chief Executive Officer of BTMI, Jens Thraenhart, said that his organisation is looking to grow public-private partnerships like the one with WSL. 

“I think in the end public-private partnership is what really drives tourism.  It can’t be just the ministry or BTMI alone, we need to work with other agencies, … to look at new emerging markets and see how we can build partnerships that are not only sustainable but also achieves BTMI’s mandate while being mutually beneficial for all organisations involved,” CEO Thraenhart pointed out.

Also present at the media launch were Co-director of Surf Promotion Barbados Limited, Christopher Clarke; Chelsea Tuach, International Pro Surfer and Sports Tourism Ambassador; 2018 WSL World Junior Champ, Kirra Pinkerton from San Clemente, California, USA; Tyler Gunter of Newport Beach California, USA and local surfers, Josh Burke, Ras Menelik Lewis and Ras Tafari Lewis.

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