Finance Minister, Christopher Sinckler (centre)??cutting the ribbon to officially open the Radisson Aquatica Resort in Bridgetown. He is assisted by Vice President of Development, Carlton Hotels Worldwide, Roland Mouly (left) and??Managing Director, Grand Hotel Limited, Atel Nicholas. (A. Miller/BGIS)

Stakeholders in the tourism sector will meet shortly with officials to design the Hotel Innovation Fund.

This disclosure came from Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Christopher Sinckler, last Friday evening, as he addressed those gathered for the official opening of the Radisson Aquatica Resort in Bridgetown; formerly the Grand Barbados Hotel.???? Mr. Sinckler told his audience: "I recently had discussions with the chairman of the National Insurance Board, Dr. Justin Robinson, and he has assured me that very shortly we will be able to bring our sector stakeholders and players in to begin to fashion the Hotel Innovation Fund that we had announced in the Financial Statement and Budgetary proposals of last year.

"The dynamics of it are being put together and the purpose of that Fund is to ensure that we can get low-cost finance to hoteliers, in particular, but other tourism service providers as well…"

He pointed out that Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, recently announced a new initiative for the sector and he further disclosed that a lot more would be done in that regard. "And, hopefully by June we will have a new tourism reinvigoration project launched in Barbados, but we have to discuss that with the stakeholders. It is going to involve issues pertaining to fiscal incentives that the Ministry of Finance is now looking at.

"There are some things which the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association has been asking for for some years and…you are going to be seeing some of them appearing in the package that we are bringing to deal with these matters. But, we want to equally provide resources to the sector to ensure that we have a continued retraining of workers. It is a presentation that has been made to us in the Ministry of Finance over the past two years by the Barbados Employers’ Confederation, in conjunction with the BHTA, and it is one that you should see in that package of measures to lead to the reinvigoration of the sector," he stated.

Mr. Sinckler stressed that it was incumbent upon Government, the private sector and citizens to encourage and facilitate investment, and provide opportunities through tax concessions and waivers, since these things would drive investment in tourism and keep Barbados at the top of its game.

"In many ways we have fallen behind in some of that, particularly, not at the top end of the tourism market where you have the villas, the condominiums and the expensive properties, but in the middle ranges and the lower end of tourism offering in Barbados. Therefore, it is incumbent on the Government of Barbados, working with the BHTA and other stakeholders, to ensure that we reinvigorate that product and ensure that those who come to Barbados, when they leave here, can speak of a product and a service that are of the highest possible standard," he suggested.

The Minister identified product renewal, service quality, marketing and cost reduction as critical to the sector, proffering the view that those areas must be focused on to make the industry the best it could be. He said the Barbados Tourism Authority received $100 million yearly for marketing, but stressed that was not nearly enough to reach potential visitors. He opined that innovative ways such as using social media and mobile technology would have to be employed to reach the market. "Soon we will be discussing a new and reinvigorated marketing strategy for the BTA and all of our agencies overseas," he disclosed.

He added that cost had always been a big issue for the island. "Barbados has never been a low [cost] selling destination and frankly, we don’t want it to be a low [cost] selling destination. We are not a bargain basement destination and we are not promoting it as such. But, we still have to be sensitive that what we want is to receive the best quality of persons coming to Barbados who can spend and create value for those who operate in the sector. In order to do that we have to be competitive…," he underscored.

Mr. Sinckler praised the management of the hotel for bringing it back into service and investing $8 million in the 124-room property. He surmised that such investments would continue to put Barbados "in a place where it is second to none".??


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