Barbados’ tourism has for years been in a “holding pattern”, but current and coming developments are setting this island up for a major leap forward, says a Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) official.
Addressing the annual awards ceremony for workers in the Mango Bay Group, BHTA executive vice-president Sue Springer examined prospects for the year, ranging from increased airline seating capacity, hotel room stock, and entertainment.
“I think it is pretty impressive and it gives us a lot of opportunity,” she said last night at the Island Inn.
“During the past three years we have had a bellyful of negativity, recession, depression, rough economic times. We have all felt it in one way or another and, unfortunately for some, in a number of ways we all wish that over a period of time this would just go away, but it lingered like a pile of rotting garbage, eating away at us like a cancer if we allowed it.”
However, she added: “Within every cloud there is a silver lining and the truth is, one of the best things that can come out of these circumstances is that we can together grow and get better . . . Our industry has been struggling. We have only now begun to see slight growth.”
Springer said new flights and existing ones with increased seating capacity, coming to Barbados this year would result in an additional 35,000 people visiting the island.
“That is an incredible opportunity,” she stressed.
Similarly, Springer outlined a number of multimillion-dollar construction projects that would see new hotels opening and old ones refurbished with expanded room stock.
“With all this construction it will mean that a number of hotels closed over the past five to ten years will actually now become re-operationalized, and that will mean that Barbados will once again get back to the hotel room number of 6,500 rooms as we were over ten years ago,” the BHTA official said.
However, Springer cautioned, those prospects alone would not take Barbados back to position of the region’s top tourist destination.
“We are still falling behind many of our competitors in the region because, although they didn’t have the number of rooms we had, they are on a growth pattern, whereas we have been on a holding pattern,” she said.
Springer advised the packed room of hospitality workers that as the faces of the industry they had a crucial role to play in making a success of Barbados’ resurging tourism.
“If we could grow this industry we would have major investment, foreign exchange, and employment. We could make this island even better for everybody here and for all of the people that we are hosting,” she said.