Barbados is known for excellence and for delivering a “superior tourism product and visitor experience” and that reputation must be protected.
Those were the sentiments expressed by Head of the COVID-19 Health Communications Team, Ambassador Elizabeth Thompson, last night, as she sought to explain why Government was offering compensation and return trips to travellers affected by delays in receiving their second COVID-19 test results.
Stating that the term visitor includes those Barbadians who had come from abroad, Ambassador Thompson explained that Government made a promise when it ‘advertised’ that those who came to the island would receive their second COVID-19 test results in a specified time frame (24 to 48 hours).
She said Government’s inability to deliver on that promise recently, resulted in much negative publicity locally and abroad.
“We took a decision that our international reputation as a high quality world renowned destination had to be protected, and there was a cost to protecting that reputation; whether we were going to pay to fight litigation, or whether we were going to pay PR firms to be doing aggressive advertising to save our brand and our image.
“We determined that if we had a gesture of goodwill to those people who suffered inconvenience that it looked better to hear in the media, ‘Government unable to give test results, offering new stay or new vacations; than Barbados horrible destination; results unavailable; lost all my money; couldn’t pay hospital bills; couldn’t pay hotel bills, etc.,” Ambassador Thompson explained.
She pointed out that the offer to refund accommodation costs was in no way showing preferential treatment to visitors.
She stressed that visitors and nationals are going to be dealt with fairly and equitably, however, Government has a responsibility to its visitors, the same way one would have a responsibility to anyone staying in their home as a guest.
Ambassador Thompson also highlighted that Government had been assisting the local population, having spent $60 million in COVID-19 support, and that support was “in the form of Adopt A Family, in the form of direct cash grants, in the form of support to small businesses and support to the tourism sector”.
Pointing out some of the positives that could come from those persons accepting the offer of a return trip, she noted: “It means they are coming to spend money in Barbados. It means that a taxi driver is picking them up at the airport. It means that a Bajan is going to braid their hair on the beach, that they’re going to buy food in a restaurant. It means that our economy is taking over. And, it isn’t just about protecting the economy; it is about protecting the society that is dependent on that economy.”