A nation-wide attempt to address deficits in research and to get the population more connected with the tourism product is the ???shot in the arm??? needed to propel the destination as the number one choice for travellers.

Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner, gave reasons for addressing the disconnect between the people and the product during a press conference called to give details on the 22nd Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Congress of Ministers and High-Level Authorities on Tourism, slated for Wednesday, September 3 and Thursday, September 4.

She also shared information on the live launch of the Barbados National Tourism Host Programme (BNTHP) on October 4 in Queen???s Park.

Addressing the media on the BNTHP, Senator Sandiford-Garner explained: ???Over the years, we have seen a disconnect develop between the people and the product. We have also had a deficit in researching the product because the industry is???an excellent product and it is the only export product that every single Barbadian can sell. You do not have to be qualified to sell it; you just have to be a Barbadian to sell it.

???Thus, our recognition is that at this juncture in our industry, we need to have a more concerted effort placed on developing that product and making it a competitive one, because the human resource element of the tourism product has only been addressed at the expertise level of the hotel industry. But, having a nation-wide approach to educating and in a very informal way training Barbadians about the product that they are selling has never been done and it has taken us two years to get this done.???

Senator Sandiford-Garner pointed out that the tourism industry has been in existence for 60 years, yet emphasis on product development had never been undertaken. She said facilitating this effort would fall into the Tourism Product Development Department of the newly-restructured Barbados Tourism Authority, and added that the programme would be launched by Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart ??? the champion of the initiative.

The Parliamentary Secretary also gave details on the 22nd OAS Inter-American Congress of Ministers and High-Level Authorities on Tourism.??She said that come September, that meeting was expected to attract more than 200 people from the OAS??? 34 member states in the Caribbean and Latin America. She noted that Barbados will be the first country in the English-speaking Caribbean to host the Congress in 25 years.

In response, Country Representative of the OAS, Francis McBarnette, said the Congress is expected to address issues such as transportation, sustainability, the heritage product and crime.??He added that renewed efforts would be placed on tourism as a top priority in the hemisphere, since ???the industry is one of those issues that is cross cutting???.

???Tourism is not about hotels alone, it is about cultural heritage, patrimony, built heritage, and I think the Congress allows all these issues to come to the fore,??? he stated.

The Congress has as its theme: Tourism Competitiveness: An Essential Element of Sustainability, and will discuss the following sub-themes during the plenaries: Measuring Competitiveness: Price versus Non-Price Factors in Tourism; Importance of Tourism Infrastructure, Tourism and Inter-Sectoral Linkages, and Sustainable Destination Management.??The Inter-American Congress of Ministers and High-Level Authorities of Tourism was established in 1939.


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