During the next few days, Barbados will be the centre of attention by travel agents from around the world. For the third successive year, the BTA will be hosting a “Mega Fam” where they have invited travel agents and operators from all of our major source markets to visit and experience the destination and the product.
This is a golden opportunity for hoteliers and other tourism partners to meet and interact with a subset of agents who can potentially influence a lot of future business for the island. It is also another opportunity for us as Barbadians to show how important tourism is to us by extending every courtesy possible to these agents and ensuring that their experience here on the island is a positive one.
My question is: What are the stories that we are going to tell while we have this captive audience?
As I look into the future, there are a couple of things that I consider to be of the upmost importance. Already I am seeing signs of what could be an active cruise season; one of the things that I believe we should work harder at is trying to influence more of the cruise and stay business.
This is quite different from a cruise conversion programme. By being the starting point for some of the Caribbean cruises, Barbados is well poised to influence persons to arrive a few days ahead of their cruise and stay a few days afterwards and use cruising to boost our land based tourism.
Another important agenda item should be that of our festival tourism. There is a mini-carnival planned for Friday, but as we interact with these agents, we should emphasise the fact that Crop-Over is our major festival, but not the only one. This can get them to start thinking early of the 2014 Reggae Festival, 2014 Gospel Festival, the 2014 Holders Season of Opera, just to name a few.
Sports tourism would be my third message. Over time, we have worked on various sporting initiatives. We have the Sir Garfield Sobers annual cricket and golf tournaments, we have polo, which is growing in interest.
This year we also have new sporting events like Cycle Barbados that is expected to take place in October and I know that Ronald “Suki” King is planning an invitational draughts tournament to take place in October. However, there are more that we cannot mention.
Having this captive audience in our country is a tremendous opportunity and we must make good use of it. The festivals and sporting initiatives are particularly exciting for me as they have the most potential to help us move towards a year-round tourism product instead of this seasonal tourism product, which we have had for so many years.
* Tourism is our business, let us play our part.