Prime Minister David Thompson (right)??enjoys a performance at the inaugural Fully Accessible Barbados (FAB) Awards at The Hilton Barbados.??Also pictured??are (from left to right) Minister of State in the??Ministry of Education, Patrick Todd; President of the Barbados Council for the Disabled, David "Joey" Harper and Mrs. Mara Thompson.

There is a pressing need for Barbados to diversify its tourism product by finding niches in which it can have an absolute advantage.

And, according to Prime Minister David Thompson, "the statistics show that in catering to the needs of the various categories of people with disabilities, we are not just creating niches, but penetrating a high demographic component with enormous spending power."

He made this observation last Sunday, while delivering the feature address at the Barbados Council for the Disabled’s inaugural Fully Accessible Barbados (FAB) Awards at The Hilton Barbados. The awards were designed to encourage changes needed in the local environment that will enable persons with disabilities to have access to all facilities.

The Prime Minister noted that there were approximately 10 million persons with disabilities living in the United Kingdom with an estimated ??80 billion purchasing power; that adults with disabilities in the USA spent approximately $13.6 billion a year on travel; and that the combined annual disposable income of Canadians of ??working age with disabilities, was Can. $25 billion.

"Similarly in the Caribbean, where the third largest number of our visitors reside, there is also a huge demand for holidays by disabled people who do not travel abroad because of the fear of discrimination.

"I therefore want to congratulate the Barbados Council for the Disabled, the National Disabilities Unit, the Barbados Tourism Authority and the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association for opening our eyes to this huge market," Mr. Thompson stated.

He pointed out that an Accessible Barbados would attract new and repeat business, given the high elasticity of the persons with disabilities market. For example, he observed that such individuals usually travelled with care-givers, family or friends; the location of conferences was frequently selected with accessibility in mind; and hotel users said they would stay in hotels two more times per year if hotels were to accommodate their needs as a person with a disability.

With respect to Barbados becoming fully accessible, the Prime Minister said that strides had been made. These advancements included the 2002 White Paper on Disabilities currently being reviewed in order to arrive at an Action Plan as a precursor to drawing up the legislation.

Mr. Thompson also noted that the Building Code, which included provisions to set and regulate standards including those for people with disabilities, was being seriously considered by the Ministry of Public Works.

"In order to make Barbados fully accessible, recognition of the rights of people with disabilities must become the norm. Government is working towards introducing legislation banning discrimination against people with disabilities," he observed.

The Prime Minister congratulated the awardees for voluntarily demonstrating what could be done for both ethical and business reasons, and noted that "for reasons that are consistent with Government’s policy of protecting and empowering the most vulnerable members of society, we shall at a later point turn the spotlight on the facilities of every service provider in Barbados". ??

The winners of the FAB awards were Accra Beach Hotel and Resort; Amaryllis Beach Resort; Hilton Barbados; Colony Club; Black Pearl Steak House and Wine Bar; Brown Sugar Restaurant; Bath Beach Facility; Cheffette Restaurants (Wildey and St. George’, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, NULL, NULL, 0); Just Grillin (West Coast’, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, NULL, NULL, 0); The Beach House; Kensington Oval; Ocean Park; Sheraton Mall; George Washington House; and Grantley Adams International Airport.

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