Government’s persistent “hodgepodge” treatment of the sector it believes will pull Barbados out of recession has been slammed by the Opposition Barbados Labour Party.
And Shadow Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Santia Bradshaw, believes newly announced measures intended to help the industry will do nothing major to engineer a meaningful recovery.
She voiced her concerns last night in the House of Assembly during debate on the 2013 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals.
The St. Michael South East MP also said that having failed repeatedly to live up to promises that a tourism master plan would be produced, Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Richard Sealy, should resign if he did not produce such a plan by next month.
Bradshaw, speaking in the context of austerity measures announced by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler and a growth strategy hinged largely on tourism, said Government had embarked on a course in tourism that was not led by a strategic plan or a clear strategy.
“I say … enough is enough… Too often we are hearing in this Chamber serious matters that are being taken too lightly by the current administration,” she said.
“Not enough attention is being paid to charting a different direction for the sector… It is not enough to come to this country with a budget and simply cast aspersions on the BLP. It is not enough to blame … the international recession because when you look at the other countries in the Caribbean they are performing better than Barbados.”
Bradshaw said after being elected in 2008, Government could have done more to ensure the island was promoted and marketed effectively but that “instead what we have had is a hodgepodge of policies over the past six years… There is no clearly thought out or properly executed plan of action in the sector”.
She used the administration’s response to the Air Passenger Duty threat as an example of this, noting that neighbouring St. Lucia was more proactive in the early stages of the imposition and was now attracting more British tourists than Barbados.
Speaking in the context of a recently outlined plan to offer British visitors special APD vouchers to negate the tax imposition, Bradshaw said: “The fact remains that it is not simply good enough that Barbados is responding once again in a tardy manner.”
“The fact is that time is certainly of the essence. We in Barbados are in a really difficult position.”
The BLP spokesman also said plans for St. Lawrence Gap and other initiatives within the tourism 10-point plan were badly conceptualised and lacking cohesion.
“What the current Administration fails to tell the public of Barbados and address is the issue of the noise pollution affecting the hotel operators in St. Lawrence Gap,” the MP stated.
She also had no confidence that the additional $100 million from the Inter American Development Bank earmarked for the Barbados Tourism Authority to use for marketing and promotion would materialise in a timely manner, which meant the island would “totter along” through the upcoming winter season.
“So it is critical that we hear more as to where we are as it relates to the disbursement of these monies,” she said.
“The choices that are being made by consumers are completely different to the choices that may have been made before… People are making decisions based on the cost and also the experience.
“I think that we have to take a critical look at how we bring our tourists to Barbados… What I find that the current administration constantly … they don’t want to tell us the full facts about what is happening.”
There was also a wider need for clarity in the overall context of an economic recovery plan for Barbados, Bradshaw told the Lower House.
“Overall I believe that we are in no better a position … under the DLP representation of this Budget. Certainly the people in the tourism sector may gain some relief from the Value Added Tax on accommodation being reduced but without the significant inputs to the operating costs being addressed the issue of the operating costs will remain.”
“I cannot support the budgetary proposals before this chamber. We are seeing the declines in our source markets, we are seeing the impact on the people of this country… I know that the concerns which I face daily have not been addressed by this budgetary proposal,” she added. (SC)