Three key factors – sustainability, innovation and resilience – must be assessed for Barbados’ tourism sector to recover.
That is according to the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) Country Representative to Barbados, Juan Carlos de la Hoz Viñas.
He was speaking during the opening ceremony of a three-day online consultation being hosted by the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank.
“Resetting a sector that is the central pillar of the national economy seems a daunting task, but it is essential. At the IDB, we believe that countries should aim to do this in the most sustainable way, placing importance on innovation and resilience for tourism recovery,” Mr. Viñas stated.
In addition, the IDB representative noted that Barbados must think “deeply” about using culture and confidence as a catalyst for innovation in its efforts to re-imagine the tourism sector, as was stated by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley at an IDB forum last year.
He also said that the garnering of ideas from multiple perspectives and experiences is also vital to the process of ‘Reimagining Tourism in Barbados’.
Mr. Viñas shared what he expected from the three-day consultation: “As we take on the challenge of reimagining what tourism can look like [and] as we examine the issue from different angles, we listen; we discuss; maybe even argue, but again and most importantly, we listen, so that we better understand as many sides of the issue as possible in order to move forward with a clear purpose.”
Mr. Viñas disclosed that the IDB had brought forward US$20 million from its National Tourism Program.
The IDB Country Representative said it would help to reinforce tourism diversification through new heritage and cultural products.
“The promotion of these products through effective digital means can make full use of Barbados’ distinctive tangible and intangible cultural endowment, while enriching the traditional 3S (sun, sea and sand) model and helping to extend the tourist season with products that do not solely rely on climate.
“More than ever, in this context of COVID-19, the transactional costs of travel are very high. It is essential that destinations can offer irreplaceable and unique tourism products, capable of motivating travel despite adverse circumstances. The IDB-financed National Tourism Program aims to help Barbados maintain this vital ‘pull’ factor.”
Mr. Viñas continued: “And secondly, by increasing data analytics and digital visibility…. We have been working with this Government to design a very innovative programme that is set to bring extensive digital transformation to the public service and the many platforms and services that impact on the ‘ease of doing business’ in Barbados.”
He stressed that the organisation is in the business of improving lives, and pledged IDB’s continued support to assist in reshaping the tourism industry for the benefit of all.
Also speaking during the opening ceremony was United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Secretary General, Zurab Pololikashvili, who noted that “Barbados has long been a leading tourist destination” and that “UNWTO stands by Barbados”.
He also noted that the tourism sector had been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and believes Barbados and the Caribbean will bounce back and for this to occur, they must rethink tourism.
“This is the time for new ideas. Innovation is at the heart of UNWTO’s work and I’m pleased to see it will be a central part of rethinking tourism in Barbados,” Mr. Pololikashvili said.
The Secretary General also shared the view of Mr. Viñas that digitalisation has a role to play in the future of tourism. He said digitalisation could keep tourists and tourists’ worker safe, and if rolled out in a harmonised way would help restore trust in travel.
“At the same time, digital solutions can help make tourism in the Caribbean more attractive to investors, driving recovery and future growth,” he stated.
In addition, he suggested rethinking supply chains, which could allow every level of society to be part of tourism, and commended Barbados for hosting the consultation which included all the relevant players to move ahead from policymakers to small businesses.
Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Senator Lisa Cummins, thanked the IDB for its continued support as a developmental partner and for its willingness to engage and support the Barbados Government.