After being at loggerheads for months, representatives of some of Barbados’ most critical sectors are now singing from the same hymn sheet.
The Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA), the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS), the Intimate Hotels of Barbados, as well as Government today put aside their differences to agree to, and sign a memorandum of understanding that paves the way for the purchasing of local produce and the granting of Government concessions to hotels, similar to those given to the Sandals group.
The signing of the MOU this afternoon at the office of the Ministry of Industry at Reef Road, Fontabelle, St. Michael came hours after a meeting in which the parties reached consensus.
Minister of Industry Donville Inniss, who presided over the discussions, described them as frank and even heated at times.
However, he said it showed a level of maturity and patriotism.
“I think the lines of communication are fully open now. There’s a commitment from all parties to work closer together to identify at the earliest opportunity what’s available locally and what are the requirements of the hotel sector and to work closely to ensure that they can be met before one goes and procures externally,” minister Inniss said.
“I think the decision to extend the concessions to include the food and beverage industry to all creates opportunities for our manufacturing and our agricultural sectors to expand their share of the market. No one said it would be an easy road. Coming out of the memorandum [we’ve committed] to working closer together.”
Asked when the hotels would be able to access concessions, the minister stated: “It would now be a matter of addressing the amendments to the Tourism Development Act in Parliament, which should occur this month. Parliament resumes on October 21 so I’m advised after that we are all ready to go from there on.”
BHTA president Sunil Chatrani said his association always intended to sign the agreement but did not believe it should have been a prerequisite to accessing concessions, since the process could have taken some time.
However, he said he was happy they have finally been able to reach this stage.
“I am grateful to minister Donville Inniss for facilitating this meeting . . . and for allowing us to get to this stage where we are now happy with the terms and conditions of the MOU,” said the BHTA boss.
Similar sentiments were expressed by chief executive officer of the BAS James Paul, who assured farmers that their interests would be represented.
He said, “It’s an opportunity that, first of all, we need to exploit. We’ve had very useful discussions with Sandals and I want to say that in terms of the BHTA, we have had very useful discussions with them also. There are opportunities that are there and certainly we recognize that there will be challenges but I think that what is important is that at least we have a demonstration of commitment to the local productive sectors.”
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