Outgoing Junior Minister of Tourism Kezia Forde has expressed concern about the island’s tourism product.
The 2013 winner of the Ministry of Tourism’s Annual Speech Competition said that during her reign there were three main areas that brought some concern, based on her own observation, speaking with industry players and listening to reports from visitors.
Issuing a stern warning to tourism officials to stop talking and start doing what needed to be done to improve the product, Forde said she had question marks regarding agritourism, accessible tourism and youth in tourism.
She further called on the private sector to take the lead in making the island more accessible “both physical for the disabled community and lingual to improve communication with our visitors”.
“In terms of physical accessibility, I would like to see the installation of more ramps, elevators where possible, wider doorways to accommodate wheelchair users and bathroom outfitted with support bars just to state a few,” said Forde.
The Combermere student also called for Braille literature and pamphlets, as well as the use of sign language for the visually and audibly impaired.
“For too long we have talked and talked and talked of wanting to get into new source markets and attract new modern types of visitors. But are we really reaching this goal?” questioned Forde, adding that it was time players in the industry learn new languages to attract tourists from places such as Latin America, Russia and China.
She said: “Upgrades like creating company websites in other languages like Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin, and also putting up signage in multiple languages at our establishments helps to make Barbados more attractive and accessible to visitors who are looking and analyzing all the possible options they have when they are vacationing.”
She suggested that students at the tertiary institutions could be intern to assist hotels, car rental companies, tour operators and other players in the industry “in the change to offering visitors more visitor-friendly packages”.
Forde said while many youth know of tourism, they were not aware of the job opportunities “and in some ways are not even aware of the significance of tourism to our economy”.
Commending the Ministry of Tourism for its efforts through various programmes to get youth involved, Forde said more could be done.Thanking organizers for the opportunity to give her suggestions, Forde said: “I ask that you not only hear them, but implement them.”