Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy (right) is pictured in conversation with??Gospelfest Executive Producer, Adrian Agard, while President and Chief Executive Officer of the BTA, David Rice, looks on. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

Event-based tourism has a critical role to play in Barbados’ offerings to visitors.

This was the view of Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, as he addressed a press briefing for Barbados Gospelfest 2012, held yesterday at the Divi Southwinds Beach Resort. ??Mr. Sealy explained that the festival, and others like it, were vital to the sector and that the industry and artistes should not be underestimated.

"One of the real benefits of this exercise [for] the local artistes [is] the exposure…I know that has been a constant focus of the [organisers of Gospelfest]," he said, and pointed out that the Rihanna concert, held last year, was an example of how artistes could gain visibility from a well established brand.

"…The band that Rihanna insisted open for her…called Cover Drive… used that as a platform and had a number one song in the United Kingdom.

They are] young Barbadians, all Barbadians who are now touring all over Europe and the U.K. and enjoying tremendous success and pushing the brand Barbados," Mr. Sealy noted.

With Barbados Gospelfest celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the Tourism Minister emphasised that while a product may mature, its value could continue to grow if it evolved with the times.

"We have noticed that [for] some of the events that we have started, as they emerge and go into a certain age, it’s only natural that [they] go through the ebbs and flows.?? Run Barbados had its challenges, the Barbados Hockey Festival had its challenges, they are both 20 plus years as well; and we are going to continue to work

with the quality event planners and promoters that are there to see that they can continue to make this island some place to visit," he stressed.

Mr. Sealy said he had no doubt that event-based tourism would draw great numbers to the island, and observed that "…58,000 people visited Barbados in the month of July last year.?? [Those were] the most persons that came in any calendar month since April 2007 [for Cricket World Cup], and that was directly related to the enhanced Crop Over activity and the Rihanna concert…"

While this niche of the industry was necessary, the Tourism Minister emphasised that "It is not the desire for the Barbados Tourism Authority to be an event planner, but we want to work with the event planners out there and I think in [Gospelfest Executive Producer] Adrian Agard, we have someone of character, of quality, who is highly driven, who we can continue to work with and to build this festival from strength to strength."

Minister Sealy expressed his belief that the local product could only benefit from these endeavours, as "Events can move people, and we want to continue to work to see that sporting events, cultural events, other types of entertainment events as well, that we will work with them…because it is a necessary part of our offering."


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