Barbados tourism needs to change to meet changing tastes and increased competition, but the island should not simply abandon everything that made it a leading visitor destination.
Government Senator Verla De Peiza said while there was a need to have an industry product that “has longevity” and appealed to “a much wider group of persons”, moving away from the “high-end tourist model, that is negatively impacted by global changes in economics and financial positions”.
She also believed, however, that sea, sun and sand would remain tourism “drawing cards”, while heritage tourism would lose appeal if Barbadians did not maintain its environment and buildings.
De Peiza, a director of the Barbados Tourism Authority, was contributing to debate on the new white paper on tourism development in the Upper House this afternoon.
She called the document a “most forword thinking” one “not just now but for the foreseeable future in an environment that has proven to be more and more competitive as we go along”.
“What has happened though is that the global environment has changed. First it changed economically, there are less and less persons who are able to travel frivolously, less and less persons whose jobs are secure enough for them to travel long distances, and less and less the ability to travel in terms of what it costs to travel,” she said.
“In that climate the decision to travel to Barbados for most persons is one that requires a lot of thought and it is then incumbent upon us to present a product that is worth the investment because tourism travel has become that, an investment.”
The attorney-at-law said a major factor the new Barbados tourism plan had to pay attention to was the changing tourist, who was no longer a retiree but a younger, more technologically savvy individual who didn’t simply want to sightsee.
“And so Barbados for a long time has languished. We took no note of it because the tourists were coming anyway, but it has become a critical point where we need to do something, … something with a plan,” she sated.
“We now have every opportunity to redress that balance so that they can go back now, not just with experiences but with friends, so that they have legitimate reason to come back again.
“So it is strategic and it is targeted and it is timely. It may well be several years overdue but it is here not a moment too soon, moving us from an ad hoc development where hotels opened and waited for tourists to come, waiting for Government to market the product, (to) understanding that the partnership must work,” De Peiza added. (SC)