Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Kerrie Symmonds has officially launched the Barbados Recovery Tourism Task Force, a unit responsible for managing the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, and mapping its transformation.
The Task Force, along with the Barbados Together Continuous E-Learning Programme, was unveiled during an online press conference held by the Minister recently.
Mr. Symmonds praised members of the Task Force for their “very good work”, and noted that they had been on the job since the start of April.
It is chaired by Director of Tourism Development in the Ministry of Tourism, Dr. Kerry Hall, and the deputy chairman is hotelier, Peter Odle.
Minister Symmonds emphasized it was critical to use the downtime caused by COVID-19 “as constructively as possible”. He reminded that he had previously suggested the period should be used to dissect and critically assess the tourism product, as well as to “objectively look for ways to properly reconstruct the sector”.
He outlined: “The Task Force, therefore, has two mandates. One, the management of the COVID-19 crisis, and the second is the transformation of the tourism sector and the tourism industry in Barbados. In that regard, we feel that we have done an adequate amount of service to the opportunity that now presents itself during this downtime.”
The Tourism Task Force comprises four sub-committees:
- Sub-committee 1 is chaired by Mr. Odle, and is responsible for Operations, Sustainability and Finance. It will place special focus on financial issues confronting the tourism sector.
Minister Symmonds added that the sub-committee’s work included examining the challenges within the workforce, and the financial circumstances of hotels, restaurants and attractions.
It will also undertake working with external agencies, some of which owe “a lot of money” to several businesses in Barbados, and have now become “bad debtors”, due to the COVID-19 crisis.
He disclosed that a report produced by Mr. Odle would be presented to the Ministries of Finance and Labour, and to the Cabinet of Barbados.
- Sub-committee 2 is responsible for Human Resource Development, and is chaired by Gail Springer.
Minister Symmonds said this sub-committee has been assigned to develop “a coping mechanism” for people in the sector who have been emotionally and financially impacted by the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic.
He said this committee will implement a training programme designed to help formal and informal tourism players upgrade their skills and achieve their maximum potential.
- Sub-committee 3, which is chaired by Patricia Alfonso-Dass, will deal with Health and Safety. It will focus on building out health, hygiene and safety protocols, while ensuring that “risk is reduced to the point where it is exceptionally managed”.
The Tourism Minister stressed: “The first consideration for reopening the tourism sector in Barbados, therefore, has to be that our workforce is safe and secure.
“Thereafter, we are better able to deal with our visitors and to manage in a structured and phased way the reopening and the re-welcoming of visitors to the island, but until when we get the workforce properly looked after and have a set of safety, health and hygiene protocols in place, that are giving us a degree of certainty, then we cannot get to where we want to get.”
- Sub-committee 4 is headed by Dr. Hall, and is responsible for Research and Development.
“We need to do more quantitative and qualitative analysis. We need to have a structured and better understanding of what our performances are and have been, where our strengths and weaknesses lie, and how we make the appropriate adjustments in a timely manner…, where the revenue is coming from, and what drives that revenue so that tourism spend is better understood, planned, predicted and applied,” Minister Symmonds emphasized.