Unmoved by persons who are of the views that Barbados has no right to be in Brazil and China, Tourism Minister, Richard Sealy believes that the penetration of these two markets represents strategic thinking on the part of leadership.

This was hinted at today, as Mr. Sealy addressed local and international journalists at the Savannah Hotel, who are in the island to cover the October 8-11 Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s (CTO) Leadership Strategy Conference at Hilton Barbados.

Minister Sealy said: "There are those persons who believe that we have no right [to be] in Brazil and that we should not even be considering China.

But the truth is that there was a time 20 years ago when people would have said ???you had no right [to be] in the UK, you should just be looking at Canada and the US. And, now [the] UK is our number one source market.

??"So, I think that you can’t only think about the here and now but that true leadership and strategic leadership means looking forward – 15; 20; 25 even 50 years from now, and so I think that also taking into account emerging markets like

China is something that the Caribbean Tourism Organisation not only should be doing; it’s something that it has to do, if it is going to be a serious regional body," Mr. Sealy stressed.

??Reiterating that Barbados, like others worldwide, had seen challenges recently, he pointed out that 2008 and 2009 were decline years for world tourism and Barbados was no exception. With respect to 2010, he added, "Even though we have recovered some of what we lost in 2009, we are not quite back up to what we would have seen in 2007 and 2008. In fact, we are year to date about 4.1per cent up on last year.

??"If you look at the period January to September for 2010, we are 4.1per cent on last year for a similar period and that tells us that there is some recovery. And, in fact that reflects to some extent what is happening globally, because whereas it is a decline year generally, certainly in terms of revenue, there is some glimmer of hope and we are seeing some definite improvement in the industry."

While Mr. Sealy explained that increases had been significant coming out of North America, he lamented the fall off in the UK market. He stated: "Year to date, the increase out of the US has been just under 20 per cent, at 19.6 per cent, and of course, out of Canada there has been a 21 per cent increase. So, we have had good growth in numbers from those two markets.

??"Our UK numbers continue to be in decline by 8.1 per cent – a big worry for us, because not only is it our largest market, but it is also the market where most of our visitor spend comes from. The British tend to stay longer. So we are terribly concerned about that situation."

??The Minister, however, noted that a number of initiatives were in train to try to reverse the trend and pointed out that over the last few months, July to September; the country had actually done better than last year with respect to the UK. "That tells us that our initiatives and efforts are probably starting to bear fruit – that we have probably come out of the trough and are starting to go back up hill again. It is going to be a long hard road," Mr. Sealy maintained.

Local and international journalists also heard that Barbados was hoping for a redesign of the Air Passenger Duty (APD) "so that the numbers coming out of the UK to Barbados, and by extension the entire region would hopefully start to pick back up in a more meaningful way".

While he credited the World Cup 20/20 in May of this year for an increase out of the UK, the Tourism Minister declared: "It tells us that even if we are in challenging economic times, if we can give people a reason to come to Barbados we can still get them to come as challenging as it is.

Emphasising that the country "can’t just roll over and play dead", he said Barbados would continue with initiatives to further propel growth by year-end. These included the (CLOBI) Cup, scheduled to start at month-end and the Barbados Food and Rum and Wine Festival in November. jgill@barbados.gov.bb

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