Barbados’ number one foreign exchange earner could be facing an “extremely disconcerting” future.
That warning from Minister of Tourism and International Transport Richard Sealy who said the current state of affairs is a result of an increasing lack of competitiveness not only in Barbados but other regional countries as well.
Addressing the official opening of the 22nd Inter-American Congress of Ministers of Tourism and High Level Authorities of Tourism at the Hilton Barbados Resort this morning, Sealy cautioned that the region is now “getting a run for its money” from non-traditional, emerging destinations.
And Sealy, who is also acting prime minister, told delegates from the Americas that urgent measures must be put in place to counter the competition coming from the new markets and stem the potential threat to the region’s tourism sustainability.
He expressed deep concern that efforts by the Organisation of American States (OAS) to assist member states in raising their level of competitiveness, through various targeted initiatives, have been seriously compromised.
“The Latin America and Caribbean region is now seriously affected by the worldwide expansion of tourism which sees many new destinations that have emerged, apart from the traditional favourites of Europe and North America,” he declared.
“The outlook of global reports such as the WorldTravel and Tourism Competitiveness Index 2013 and World Economic Global Competitiveness Report 2013 is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, extremely disconcerting for the region when the competitiveness position of our tourism is considered.”
Sealy observed that, with the exception of the United States and Canada which were ranked 6th and 8th respectively in the index, most OAS member states were ranked between 27th and 115th out of the 140 countries.
“This seems to correlate with the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 2013, when more than 60 per cent of OAS member states in the Americas were ranked below the 70th position out of a total of 144 countries,” the minister asserted.
Insisting that Barbados and other regional territories needed to be more competitive, Sealy urged policymakers to examine and define where they stood in relation to the pillars of competitiveness as identified by the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Tourism Competitiveness Index.
The Cabinet minister also told the OAS-sponsored conference that if the region wants to sustain its tourism product, countries must diversify what they were offering visitors.
“The diversification of our product will only be a reality if it is accompanied by the necessary airlift from non-traditional destinations,” noted the acting prime minister.
To demonstrate how Barbados was trying to turn the situation around, Sealy pointed out that the direct service operated by GOL Linhas Aéreasfrom Sao Paulo, Brazil since June 2010, had brought in about 4,641 visitors from that new market last year.
“Our diversification policy has also led the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. to negotiate to expand our air linkages to Bogota, Colombia with Avianca,” said the tourism minister.
The conference, which has as its theme, Tourism Competitiveness: An Essential Component of Sustainability, concludes tomorrow.