Barbados stands to benefit substantially from carving out specific niches in the tourism industry.
Independent Senator Sir Trevor Carmichael, made this observation today in the Senate while making a presentation of the Appropriation Bill 2014-2015.
In lending his support to the debate, Sir Trevor, who has been involved in the creation of the country’s Tourism Master Plan, said faith-based or religious tourism was a niche that was “so strong that we have the ability to do wonders”.
“Tourism with religious or spiritual theme is now recognised as one of the fastest growing areas of tourism. The World Tourism Association estimates that 300 to 500 million persons visit the world’s important religious sites every year. In the case of Americans who travel overseas for religious reasons, the US travel office indicates that over one million nationals currently travel yearly on religious visits. These are staggering figures. “Over 50,000 churches in the USA have religious programmes. Religious tourism currently generates US$50 billion in revenue with approximately 300 million persons. Young people make up 1/3 of the travellers. Relious tourism is recession proof and the fastest growing sector,” he said.
“I suggest that we in Barbados have great opportunities. The opportunities are obvious, we have so many denominations. We have so much history surrounding the churches that can make an important part of a visit. There are already elements which can foster this niche. Gospelfest and the Barbados Tourism Authority officials are already liaising. There is so much dance and drama going on in the local churches. We have the Flame Awards. Religious tourism integrates with the community. It can be everywhere. It can be in the hotels, homes or the villas and integrates the community in a pleasant way,” he added.
Sir Trevor, who has been a pioneer in the international financial services sector, also identified accessable tourism (which caters to physically challenged persons) and culinary tourism as two other niches that can redound to the financial benefit of the country.