It has been interesting to me to have heard all of [the] opinions during my three-year tenure at the BTA as the chairman of its board, and it has been even more interesting the vitriolic and muscular tone in which these opinions are shared, oft-times at the minister and the chairman in particular.
It led me to ask myself why this would be so? Why would an industry which has been described as one of the most important sectors be constantly derided and pilloried, rather than a united, patriotic stance taken to ensure that the interests of all are protected?
–– Outgoing chairman of the Barbados Tourism Authority, Adrian Elcock, as he addressed the annual general meeting of the Intimate Hotels Of Barbados group last week.
In his speech, Mr Elcock went further to knock the industry’s critics, including “media houses of recent ilk”, which he said seemed to thrive on sensationalism as the basis of a story.
The BTA chairman also singled out politicians –– no doubt on the Opposition side –– who he said were constantly engaged in a game of one-upmanship, as well as “industry partners, and hoteliers in particular, who recognized a long time ago that the more complaining they did, the more likely the Government of the day would buckle and provide concession after concession at a cost to the country that we cannot afford”.
Mr Elcock also pointed to a growing cynicism among our people and a view that when something positive was being said, those commentators must be politically biased.
“We cannot continue on this path,” he said. “This sector is too important to too many families in this island.
“We need to wrap ourselves in the flag of patriotism promoting our country at every opportunity. Technology has allowed more voices to enter discussions, but in the same token it allows those discussions, whether negative or positive to be instantly promoted to countries outside Barbados, also known as “source markets”. So we can no longer say that we don’t all play a part in determining the fortunes of our country because what we say is being heard at some level or the other . . . .”
Enough said, Mr Elcock! But why is it that you tourism people somehow feel you are the only ones who love this beautiful island of ours, Barbados?
Does the fact that criticisms are sometimes voiced really mean that the importance of the sector is lost on anyone, or that critics do not care about the image of our island? Certainly not!
Or, are we simply not allowed to speak as bluntly as Mr Elcock did in his address when he described the soon to be disbanded Barbados Tourism Authority, which he oversaw for the past three years, as “a slothful, wasteful, and inefficient organization in an increasingly dynamic, technologically-driven, and commercial industry”?
Is it a case of what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander? Or, in the media’s case, does the so-called sensationalism only apply to our reports on crime and job cuts in the tourism sector?
We are hopeful that with all the recent utterances by officials about the need for a radical, bold and fresh approach to our tourism planning and marketing, that we will also witness a transformation in attitude at the level of officialdom.
To be equally as blunt as Mr Elcock, the bureaucratic and oppressive mindset of our officials also needs to urgently change as well. Otherwise, it would be like pouring old wine into new wine vessels or running a 767 on Dash 8 wheels.
If we in the media report that 40 tourism jobs have been cut, within the context of national retrenchment, it does not mean that we want our vital tourism industry to fail, or that we have something personal against “the minister or the chairman” for that matter.
And similarly is it with our reporting on crime. That the media highlight the shooting death of a visitor, as was unfortunately the case earlier this year, does not mean that lost on us is the significance of tourism, or the fact that we may have spent between $41 million and $77 million in marketing per year over the past nine years.
We expect much better from our key tourism players who are widely travelled and should know better the ways of the developed world and how they treat frontally to matters of communication.
Certainly, our tourism officials should be able to present a much more enlightened view of such than those who never really get to venture past the gates of Grantley Adams International.
But that every aspect of our lives is affected by the performance of tourism –– from brushing our teeth to drinking a glass of water from our taps –– does not mean that we must wear blinkers and be less than generous with the truth about what is the “lived experience” of the average Barbadian.
Barbados is a beautiful place, but it is not a paradise. And there can be no running away from the fact that our tourism performance these days can best be
described as flat.
That officials would have us sugarcoat things, in support of a fairytale image, is backward, to say the least.
We wish our BTA chairman well as his tenure comes to an end.