Minister of Culture, Stephen Lashley (third from right), and members of the head table (from left) Deputy Chief Technical Officer, Cheryl Bennett-Inniss; Sharon Christie, member of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce; Permanent Secretary in the Division of Culture and Sports, Ernesta Drakes; Deputy Permanent Secretary, Celia Toppin; and Chief Town Planner, Mark Cummins, listening attentively to the contributions from the business people. (A.Miller/BGIS)

Some property owners in Bridgetown have been urged by this island’s Minister of Culture, Stephen Lashley, to move with alacrity to refurbish some of the old buildings in the area.

Mr. Lashley made the call today while addressing a meeting for members of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce who operate businesses in Bridgetown.?? He underscored the benefits of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison to the country and brought them up-to-date on plans for the inscription ceremony slated for Wednesday, June 13, at the Garrison Savannah.

Acknowledging that some property owners were "shying away from refurbishing" their structures, he suggested that "we can turn these buildings into either properties of commerce or properties of cultural interest, thus protecting your businesses and bringing life back into the City. There is also an opportunity to turn these buildings into cultural spaces as well," he stated.

Outlining some of the economic benefits of restoration, the Minister said: "Rehabilitation costs are roughly the same as building a new structure, and it creates jobs and supports small businesses." He added that a revitalised area would attract investment, conserve resources and prevent further decay and degradation of an area.

Mr. Lashley told the gathering that while there had been complaints that businesses were moving out of Historic Bridgetown, he had not seen enough "forward thinking" regarding how to reverse that trend. "I believe the inscription of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison as a UNESCO World Heritage Property provides an impetus and it can allow the Chamber’s members to rally around that added value and interest in the site to cause businesses and people to return to Bridgetown…," he declared.

He proffered the view that the property owners within the World Heritage Site were going to be very critical to recognising the true significance of the inscription and spreading the word about the Outstanding Universal Value of the City.

"Our property now joins such other internationally recognised properties as the Great Wall of China, among others. You now have a world class property inscribed on the World Heritage List right here on your door step. We now have a product that has acquired international acknowledgement, and the question is how do we maximise the benefits of inscription?" he asked.

Mr. Lashley pointed out that research on World Heritage properties indicated four key benefits and he listed them as "enhanced leverage to pull in funding for a wide range of purposes, stimulus to awareness-raising and educational initiatives, enhanced tourism image and profile, and improved opportunities for niche branding of local products and services".

He added that research also showed that countries with World Heritage sites always had a marked increase in visitor arrivals. "Seventy eight per cent of US leisure travellers or 118 million adults participate in some kind of cultural or heritage activity when travelling, while cultural heritage travellers spend an average of US $994 per trip compared to US $611 for all other travellers. In addition, they travel more, taking about five trips per person as compared to 3.75 for all other travellers, and they also tend to stay longer; so, they have a longer time to spend money," he suggested.

Mr. Lashley underscored the importance of culture, pointing out that many industrialised cities had used the cultural sector and sports to diversify their economic base.


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