Since the early part of the year, for a number of reasons, the lack of activity in the northern town of Speightstown has received a significant amount of attention from the news media. In Bajan terms, Speightstown is seen as being somewhere between nearly dead and dead.
At this stage, however, the most important question to ask, and answer, would have to be: Can it still be saved?
Can a worthwhile volume of commercial activity be returned to the historic town?
In recent weeks we have had the opportunity to closely monitor events in Speightstown, and hold the position that it is not too late to save the town. What is clear, however, is that it cannot be left only to the business people who operate there. Their whole-hearted involvement in any plan would be key to its success, but to expect them to do it all is grossly unfair.
While over the years many criticised the all-inclusive nature of Almond Beach Village as not offering nearly as much as a property of its size could to the town, it must now be clear to everyone, in the face of its closure, that the Almond/Speightstown connection was much stronger that some believed.
It is our view that a forward-thinking Government would not fail to recognise the potential benefits of offering some kind of incentive to whoever turns out to be the eventual owner/operator of Almond Beach Village to factor Speightstown into their plans in a most deliberate way.
Speightstown also faces another catch-22 situation, based on our observations. Though not overwhelming, there is still some daily tourist traffic through the town, but apart from its photography-inspiring quaintness, there are not a lot of reasons that compel visitors to stop and spend. That has to be addressed!
Speightstown needs signs and perhaps even “characters/mascots” to invite visitors to stroll though the St. Peter’s Parish Church; to pause in the esplanade to drink a cold Banks Beer or lemonade; to venture to the end of the jetty and rent a fishing rod and a stool, with complementary bait for an hour or two of fishing.
But first, the Government agency responsible has to see the utility of repairing and reopening the jetty. It has been barricaded way too long.
Speightstown may not be the ideal location for the construction of a major Government office complex, but we believe that given the volume of vacant building/office space in the town, Government can play its part by determining how it can relocate services to this part of the island.
If Barbadians, particularly residents of St. Lucy, St. Peter, St. Andrew and St. James, have a reason to visit Speightstown to conduct business there is every likelihood they will also shop. The more they shop the more competitive the town will become, attracting even more business to itself.
The main point of our article is simply this: Life will not return to Speightstown by wishing it, or talking about it. All stakeholders must be prepared to engage creatively in a deliberate programme. Tourists need to have a reason to include Speightstown in their schedule and to be sufficiently wowed when they get there that they want to stop and shop.
For Barbadians, Speightstown has to be seen as a viable option when they are giving consideration to where they will shop. Anything else and Speightstown will not be seen as dying — it will be pronounced dead.