Tourism officials are using the downtime caused by COVID-19 to strategise on ways to reposition brand Barbados so that this destination remains top of mind in the island’s major source markets.
Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Kerrie Symmonds made this disclosure during a recent Travel Pulse Canada Facebook live interview with host John Kirk.
During the discussion, the Minister shared plans to improve the island’s hotel stock, the island’s product offerings and the cruise industry.
“The Barbados Tourism and Marketing Inc. is looking at a repositioning of the Barbados brand. We have taken conscious decision to use this period as a period where we can do a reassessment of our industry, the way in which we have done business historically and traditionally, and where we can identify substantial improvements to make early steps towards implementing that,” Mr. Symmonds said, stressing it was imperative to keep Barbados “top of mind across all the major source markets.”
The Tourism Minister also revealed that government had “set aside about 20 to 30 million dollars”, noting that there would be a “blending of financing with private sector” to recapitalize the Small Hotel Redevelopment Fund.
“That Small Hotels’ fund would really enable a lot of the hotels to refresh themselves and use this down period as a period in which they do some reconstruction and upgrades,” he explained.
Minister Symmonds added that a Tourism Recovery Task Force had been established to not only focus on the hotels but also on the product side of the industry.
“The first two weeks of this down period was spend working through a blue print which was now being rolled out and it looks effectively at everything in Barbados, the attractions, the restaurants, the hotels and the way in which other areas of the economy link into tourism such as the cultural sector, agricultural sector and the sporting sector,” he said.
The Tourism Minister added that the recovery plan would be extended to the cruise sector. He said Barbados was one of the few countries in the world which accommodated cruise ships during the COVID-19 pandemic by repatriating crew and passengers as well as the berthing of vessels.
The Minister indicated he hoped this would enhance relations between the island and the international cruise sector.
“It has helped us to develop a warm kinship and fraternity with that sector, we were perhaps their greatest friend. We are looking at a way we can now work with them so when there is a recovery period we can be at the centre piece of that recovery.”
Minister Symmonds further alluded to including the Eastern Caribbean in any good fortune, as he divulged a desire to create a summer cruise itinerary for the region.
“So that instead of the Mediterranean being the only place for major cruise activity out of Europe, we would want to think that now we can have a relook at the southeast Caribbean and have Barbados at the centre piece of that itinerary,” he said.
On concluding the interview, Minister Symmonds told travel agents watching, “Barbados is using this period to formulate big plans and to bounce back, and not just to come back by ourselves but as part of a stronger and more prepared Caribbean region, and a safer Caribbean region.”
He said the island was willing to share information on standards and spearhead any effort to possibly introduce a pre-molecular test in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean as one way to keep the region COVID free.
“If we can get it put together, [it] would be done on entry into the island so you know you’re coming onto island where you know there’s no disease…. We are obviously anxious to re-open ourselves to business, but it has to be done in a way that’s safe for the visiting public and also the local public,” Minister Symmonds stated.