Deputy Leader of the Senate, Kerry-Ann Ifill,??chatting with Acting Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart (right) and Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, John Maginley, following the opening ceremony of the 11th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development (STC-11), at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. (A. Miller/BGIS)

A Government senator believes that the Barbados Council for the Disabled has created a world-class product and is "keeping the right balance" through its programme, Fully Accessible Barbados (FAB).

Deputy Leader of the Senate, Kerry-Ann Ifill made this assertion recently, as she addressed the 11th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development (STC-11), at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, in Two Mile Hill, St. Michael.

Noting that FAB was a new wave in the Caribbean tourism world, Ms. Ifill said: "It’s quite a small wave currently – more of a ripple in the distance – but it’s set to become a veritable tsunami.?? Its pioneers are those who believe hotels, restaurants and places of interest should welcome all guests equally, regardless of any disability they might have."

While commending the newly renovated Harrisons Cave for signing on to the programme, she added that FAB was intended not only to help but also to award public and private sector initiatives that had made their facilities and services accessible for all. Ms. Ifill stated it was also designed to promote Barbados as an inclusive society, to raise the awareness of the local business community to the benefits of receiving an access award and to raise the standard of service delivery by incorporating a "universal design".

Senator Ifill, declared: "Ultimately, accessible tourism in Barbados and the Caribbean is an issue of equity, economics, and citizenship. Quite simply, if countries and service providers are not preparing for the inevitable ageing of the population and the increasing expectations of people with disabilities, they are not acting in a socially-sustainable manner.

"In meeting the needs of this significant group of visitors, tourism providers can strengthen their businesses across all market segments and build a niche within a dynamic and ever evolving group of travellers."

She pointed out that ttourism destinations in Europe and Asia were aggressively working with the public sector to improve accessibility that held major potential for improving the overall quality of their tourism product. The Senator maintained: ??"Providing equal access to goods and services will be a "must", also in the tourism sector. Therefore, public and private providers especially here in the Caribbean, need to be equipped with the confidence and the ability to meet their legal responsibilities under existing and future legislation."

While she acknowledged that action to support tourism providers must be taken at all levels, with the participation of stakeholders, she reminded delegates that strategies which benefited people with disabilities translated into benefits for other sectors of the community.

The STC-11, which will end tomorrow, Wednesday, May 12, is being held under the theme, "Keeping the Right Balance: Creating Opportunities Through a World Class Sustainable Tourism Product."??

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