Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy????

Government is embarking on a number of creative ways to develop the tourism sector to meet market demands and the new more discerning tourist.

This announcement was made yesterday by Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, as he delivered an address to officially open the 25th Anniversary Week of Activities of the Hotel and Restaurant Workers’ at Solidarity House, St. Michael.

He said: "Some of the initiatives that we have in train, [include] the restructuring of the Barbados Tourism Authority into two separate entities to place greater emphasis on product development and tourism marketing….We???ve been doing this full consultation with the Barbados Workers Union… that is one initiative. We also are developing standards for attractions that are entertainment facilities as a quality assurance tool; and standards for the transportation sector and this is being done in conjunction with the Ministry of Transport, and the aim is to ensure a positive experience by using providers such as transport services."

Mr. Sealy also stated that Government was also looking at developing community tourism programmes and strengthening sports tourism to include a greater variety of sporting activities to bring more persons to Barbados, to ensure that visitors had a good experience and that they kept returning.

Speaking about some positive signs on the horizon, the Tourism Minister mentioned that the airlift?? from Brazil, was doing even better than was expected?? and?? that negotiations were under way to have a direct flight from Panama City.?? He also indicated ??a flight from Dallas, Texas, was scheduled to start on December 16.

Mr. Sealy also declared that, "there is a very real possibility, in the not too distant future, that we would have some tourists from China; we have started that process and it is quite optimistic."

Assessing the performance of the sector as whole, he added," I am actually quite pleased to report for the first six months of 2010, that we welcomed 271,840 stay-over visitors, as compared to 263,849 for the same period last year; that represents an increase of three per cent… while?? we are still not back to the 2008 levels, the mere fact that we can report an improvement, in my view says a lot about the sector and the workers?? and what we have been able to do as a team to get our numbers back up.

"We all know the tourism arrivals for the UK are on the decrease and in order to offset that decline we have been looking at our other markets, including some non-traditional markets; Canada, the US of course are up, and we are doing well with getting increased flights from Air Canada, West Jet [and] American Airlines to facilitate additional seating capacity."

Mr. Sealy stressed that the global economic recession from which the world was now trying to emerge had meant that the past two and a half years had seen severely testing times for the country’s economy as a whole, and for the tourism industry, in particular. He sounded a note of caution that the country was not "out of the woods yet" but opined that he had complete confidence in the ability of the workers.

??"Remember that it is the tough times that show your true mettle, not the smoothe times; when the chips are down, you will see what one’s true character is", the Tourism Minister underlined.

He reiterated the call for persons all?? in the sector to continue to work together to seek excellence, since tourism was a very fragile industry. Mr. Sealy, consequently, called for innovation, vigilance in planning, continuous training in employee welfare and maintaining service excellence as imperative to achieving desired goals.??clashley@barbados.gov.bb

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