Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has outlined to an international audience how Barbados is transforming its tourism industry through retraining and retooling to make it deliver more value.
Ms. Mottley said it is time to do all the things which could make the country come back “fitter and better” when the tourism industry rebounds.
She made the comments on Monday as she addressed the launch of the Debt Relief for Green Recovery Report, which was produced in partnership with the Heinrich Böll Stiftung and the Centre for Sustainable Finance at SOAS, University of London.
The Prime Minister noted that even though the COVID-19 virus brought challenges, there were also opportunities, and Barbados took the moment to launch an unprecedented initiative to green the tourism industry.
She continued: “A critical part of our COVID-response has been in that [tourism] industry. An income-replacement programme, where we are investing in firms to provide the cash to pay 80 per cent of the wages if they retain and bring back the workers, linked to re-training and retooling of the sector. The programme works with our separately-resourced National Transformation Initiative, where we will undertake the cost of a massive retraining effort for the industry.
“We started the programme a month ago, and so far, 44 tourism firms have applied, covering just over 2,000 workers, equivalent to a quarter of the number working directly in the hotel sector. There are signs of a recovery, but with a second wave hitting many of our source markets hard, in the North Atlantic countries, we know this is a road with twists and turns, and we expect this programme will end up covering more and supporting far more than even they realised at the inception.”
Ms. Mottley proffered the view that this is the time to re-focus and reshape the tourism sector’s infrastructure to ensure it is modern, efficient, and green.
“And so, for those firms participating in the employment re-engagement programme, we will also invest in them separately to fund a Green Investment Plan. We have identified as priorities, plans that allow tourism firms to switch to 100 per cent renewable energy, harvest rain-water, make their furniture, food, and drink supply chains more sustainable and local and digitise their processes to improve efficiency in the operations of their establishments. Half of the applicants have already shared with us their green investment plans,” she disclosed.
She told her audience attractive feed-in-tariffs for renewable energy projects had been established, especially smaller projects within reach of local savers.
She said Government would lead by example and switch public sector vehicles over to electric, explaining that the process had been started in the fiscal year.
Ms. Mottley stated that there was a need to defend the nutrition security by showing a preference for fresh foods. She added that it was necessary to improve the capacity in the local agricultural sector to deliver fresh foods.
“We are investing in bringing the land back into agricultural production. We are developing technologies better to co-ordinate demand and supply of food within the region. We help farmers invest in new technologies like water-saving hydroponics, pesticide-saving vertical farming, and technologies that protect their produce.
“We also will invest in drones to be able to help reduce the incidence of praedial larceny. As we do this, we are also investing generally in resilience because we understand that green is sustainable,” she indicated.