Barbados will soon be receiving tens of millions of dollars from an international financial institution to fund a major marketing tourism initiative.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler announced today that the arrangement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) fell in line with Barbados’ 2014-2018 country strategy.
He said the initiative will seek to increase airlift and tourist arrivals out of the “growing and exciting” Brazil and South American markets.
“We have been so bold as to venture into the non-traditional markets such as Brazil and South America . . .We could not have gotten this from the Inter-American Development Bank if we weren’t there in the first place,” he said at the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association’s third quarterly general meeting this morning.
Sinckler said that in order to ensure Barbados remained competitive, a systematic and sustained investment in product and services offerings would be essential to improve the quality and standards of the overall tourism product.
“While traditional attractions are vital, their importance declines unless they are sustained by investment that introduces innovative developments that enhance the visitor experience,” he said, adding that Barbados had to organise its public and private sectors to focus investment efforts in an integrated way to improve product competitiveness.
Sinckler lamented that, in recent times, there has been a growing trend of mediocre customer service across the island, particularly in the areas of courtesy, attention to detail and commercial urgency.
“Recent visitor focus groups facilitated by the Ministry of Tourism revealed that the service in Barbados is very inconsistent and varied from being awful to fabulous. Some establishments are truly outstanding when it comes to great customer service, whereas others are simply appalling and go towards the less than competent end of the spectrum,” the minister informed.
He said there was also the longstanding issue of some workers having difficulty differentiating between service and servitude.
“Additionally, there are also repeated complaints over the years from local, regional and African American visitors, who patronise tourist establishments, that they receive an inferior quality of service when compared to their counterparts from North America, Europe or the UK,” Sinckler noted.
He warned stakeholders that these negative attitudes and behaviours were threatening the fabric of the tourism industry.
Sinckler added that the poor service could also be attributed to low employee morale and lack of operational standards to provide guidelines for achieving excellence on a consistent basis; andthe lack of investment made in training and coaching to equip tourism workers with the requisite tools.