Government was this afternoon challenged to bring new ideas to the table to revive the tourism sector.
It came from St. Michael South East MP Santia Bradshaw in her first address in the House of Assembly during the 2013-2014 Estimates Debate.
In her contribution, the Shadow Minister for Tourism told the House of Assembly that the challenges facing the country with regard to tourism were no different from those facing other destinations that were doing considerably better.
Jamaica, she noted, had taken over the top spot as the leading destination in the region, … that had previously been enjoyed by Barbados, while St. Lucia had emerged as the rising new honeymoon destination and Coco Reef in Trinidad was now the leading hotel, with no mention of Barbados in the top five of these mixes.
Furthermore, she said Buccament Bay Spa and Hotel in St. Vincent was now the leading new hotel, nudging out many others in the top five, but none of which were from Barbados.
“Even as we listen to these debates, the impression is often given that other destinations are facing the same issues, other destinations are therefore not growing, and we in Barbados are somehow facing peculiar circumstances that enable us not to be able to rise above the challenges that others are facing.”
The World Travel and Tourism Council website, she said, had projected growth of 2.5/2.7 per cent per year in Barbados compared to 5.5 for Bahamas, noting that in arrivals Barbados was only ahead of Montserrat in the Caribbean list of those who report to the Caribbean Tourism Organisation.
These destinations were faced with the same air passenger duty as Barbados, but yet were doing better, she stated, arguing that the island had now fallen below acceptable levels.
“It is startling to know that Barbados has fallen below the grade of what we have come to expect… The figures are even more startling when we look at the cruise industry, because we’ve seen during summer period April to December 2012, cruise calls have fallen by 29.5 per cent.
“The Minister of Tourism has indicated that this has been attributed to the cruise ships shifting to other destinations and a renewed focus on Mediterranean region by some of the major cruise companies. I agree there has been a shift in the Caribbean as a particular destination…
“But what I do not accept is that when you look at the position of other territories in the region as it relates to their cruise industry statistics, who have all faced the same external factors, who are not affected by air passenger tax in this situation, you find that Barbados recorded a decline of 2.1 per cent between January to August 2012.
“But you will also find that Jamaica grew 33.9 per cent, Bahamas has grown by 8.8 per cent in cruise arrivals and St. Lucia by 7.5 per cent, and St. Martin, 10.9 per cent and Curacao, 19.9 per cent, and most remarkable of all, Martinique by 262.5 per cent.”
Despite promises of capital projects like the cruise pier, the Pierhead Marina and the cargo shed, Bradshaw noted that these were not likely to get underway until in the first instance, July, in others by the last quarter of the year. Meanwhile, she said, she expected unemployment to rise while waiting for these project to bring in returns job-wise, by 2014 or 2015 at the earliest.
In light of this, the new Opposition MP challenged Government to come up with new ideas for tourism.
“We have not heard how the Barbados Tourism Authority with its $101 million proposes to pay its creditors on the international market the more than $36 million that is owed… We need to know whether the $101 million will be able to get the job done…
“There are several opportunities for this country and I want to say to the Democratic Labour Party, it is important that we take advantage of our world inscription, that we incentivise our businesses across this country both in the hotel industry, in the restaurant industry, the small operators, the small tour operators to be able to incentivise them to see Barbados as their own, to be part of the tourism industry that we want to be able to generate growth in this economy.” (LB)