The Leader of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party told hoteliers this afternoon she felt like a prisoner for not being able to do more for them.
“I feel like a prisoner, because all I can offer you today, is talk and hope. Would it, that I could offer you action. Would it be a different story, that I could stand here this evening and tell you what I intend to do as leader of the Barbados Labour Party, if given the opportunity…
“There must be new arrangements for how we treat to the sector that is literally at the life line of our being, as a people,” Mia Mottley told the annual general meeting of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford.
Mottley, as guest speaker, suggested that if her party had been given the Government in the last general elections, it would have pushed for one million tourists by 2020.
“The most important thing I can give you here today, is my commitment publicly, to be your champion and to be your friend. And I say that because I intend to take direct responsibility in working with the Minister of Tourism and the sector, such that every two weeks, the goals which I have outlined to you today, can be met.
“And why am I telling you this three months after an election, when you have four and half more years to endure it?” she asked rhetorically. Mottley said the commitment to meet with the minister every two weeks was not to make other sectors jealous, but to recognise that unless the country got tourism right, the economic turn around would not be achieved.
“The ability to set the target that is not the 5,000 in 10 years
(she claimed was recorded by the present Government) but that must be, one million land-based tourists by 2020. That is what we would have offered you had we been the Government today,” the Opposition Leader noted.
She reasoned that such an achievement did not have to be the goal of the tourism sector alone, but a national objective.
“A million by 2020 is not a figure plucked from the air; but is a figure that recognises, if simply, we were to increase our average occupancy from 60 per cent to 85 per cent; and at the same time, mobilise capital to facilitate investment to have another 800 rooms completed by 2017/2018, one million by 2020 becomes an absolute realisable goal; and some who know me may say, you are under-reaching,” declared the former deputy prime minister. “Our greatest challenge is to give you back hope and capacity that you can be the best that you can be — and we will do that. We will give you hope and an unflinching spirit.”
Mottley said even as the Opposition set a goal of one million land-based visitors by 2020, the same must be done for cruise. She observed that this figure was the result of her interaction with the tourism stakeholders. The parliamentarian reported too, that resulting from discussions with the Intimate Hotels sub- sector, she had found that promises of an Enhanced Small Hotels Investment Fund, remained just that.
She argued that “everything that we have had to deal with in the last few months was agreed to by Cabinet three years ago, for the most part. Then we understand the nature of the problem that confronts us.” (EJ)