Barbados could be losing out on thousands of dollars in foreign exchange earnings each month due to the lack of a proper infrastructure to accommodate electronic commerce (e-commerce).
Orlando Newton, business development director of TicketPal said he believed the island’s tourism product was missing out on business and many entrepreneurs were being limited in how much they were able to sell because an e-commerce platform was simply missing.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY recently, Newton said a part of the problem was the way the tax structure was set up.
“E-commerce is not something that is well received in the Caribbean. E-commerce platforms are non-existent,” he said.
“We get calls every day from people asking us how could they get an e-commerce platform. It is even more difficult to get than a bank account. That is something that we are hoping that Barbados banking system can really get to help facilitate the growth of e-commerce here,” said Newton.
Newton is not alone in his call for systems to be put in place that would better facilitate the sales aspects of electronic business.
Lynette Holder, chief executive officer of the Small Business Association (SBA), has been lobbying for the development of an e-commerce platform for members for over half of a decade.
“Yes, as the gentleman indicated it is still a problem,” confirmed Holder.
She quickly pointed out however, that the association was finally “seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel” that would help to solve the problem facing members.
Holder said the SBA had taken the initiative to form “a strategic partnership” with First Citizens Bank “with a view to correcting it” through the signing of a three-year memorandum of understanding.
Among other things, e-commerce consists of the exchange of data to facilitate the financing and payment aspects of business transactions.
“From all the research done and all of the discussions this is one of the areas that we recognize is a challenge for micro and small firms. We are aware that there are some other financial institutions that have some kind of mechanism but it is not enabling enough,” added Holder.
Newton said for some entrepreneurs to sell products overseas they use PayPal, but that was taking a large chunk of their income, adding that having an e-commerce account would be better.
“I don’t see why we, as one of the oldest tourist destinations in the region . . . we are still a little bit behind on the technology that is needed to take us to that next level,” said Newton.
“It is bad for tourism,” he said, “I see some of the tourism activities that they have . . . They have a beautiful website but at the end of the day they don’t have a point of sale. So I am in New York and want to go on a . . . cruise, I have to wait until I get here to get a ticket,” lamented Newton, adding that people could change their minds when they get to the island for many reasons.