Describing the new proposed Barbados Tourism Product Authority and the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. as “as crazy a policy as anyone can find at this time”, St Michael North MP Ronald Toppin contended that Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy owed Barbados an apology.
Tourism development in Barbados, said Toppin, was a “knee jerk . . . ad hoc” reaction and reflected “muddled thought [with] no leadership”.
He charged that in 2008, Sealy had told Barbados he would prepare a tourism white paper to precede a masterplan, but that he came two years later and reversed that move to first create a masterplan ahead of the white paper. Again, Toppin said two years hence, Sealy reversed his earlier reversal to proceed with the white paper, and now six years later there was still no way forward for tourism.
“Again the white paper makes no reference to any restructuring of the Barbados Tourism Authority. In fact, what is here today, is here without even the knowledge of the said Barbados Tourism Authority which stands to be affected by it. I am talking at the level of the board . . .
“What is here today is about as crazy a policy as you could ever want to find, Sir, at this time. There can be no justification at this time for chopping the Barbados Tourism Authority in half or splitting it in two . . . .What benefits are to be derived from what is before this chamber today, apart from the fact that it has apparently brought some closure to the staff at the BTA who would have been in a state of suspended animation for six years as a minister was one day going through with restructuring of the BTA, next day was not going to do it anymore and next day was reversing his reversal.”
The constant shift, Toppin stated, only served to confuse investors, some of whom he claimed had come to him indicating a reluctance to put money into the economy under the current government.
If there was dissatisfaction at the level of the BTA, the St Michael North MP, who was formerly responsible for commerce under the Arthur Administration, noted that the first resort would have been to fix the problem at the source.
“If it is being perceived that the BTA has not been carrying out its duties in relation to product development as it ought to, at the level that it ought to, the answer is not to decide that you are going to form a new entity to deal with that problem. You have staff that are supposed to perform, a board that is supposed to review, and ensure that the entity is performing as it should; and if the staff is not performing as it should and the board is not carrying out the necessary [work] then both should go.
“The solution is not to decide to set up new entities at great cost . . . but you can give adequate resources to the currently existing Barbados Tourism Authority, sure up the wing as it were, that is to deal with product development, and you get the same result as if you decide to
form a separate entity altogether to deal with product development.”
He said another option was to pump resources into the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc which already deals with product development and let that arm handle that aspect of operations.