Players in the tourism industry came in for some criticism in the Senate today and were challenged to step up their game to meet and even surpass Jamaican hotel brand Sandals.
Urging them to end their “mendicancy”, Government Senator Verla DePeiza called on hotels to follow Sandals’ lead now that they have been offered similar concessions.
“We need to have our hotel players step up their game, use Sandals as their benchmark. I challenge you to surpass Sandals in whatever you have to offer,” she urged as debate resumed this morning in the Upper House on the 2015/2016 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure
“We have to step out of the industrial mendicancy. We are always talking about mendicancy at the level of the working class but I am not afraid to say that I see it replicated in the business class, and most particularly in the hotel industry. And I am prepared to take the licks for that because if you quarrel for a lot and you get a lot, we expect a lot from you.”
The Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) recently complained that despite being told they could get concessions, hoteliers were having a hard time accessing them.
In her contribution, DePeiza said Sandals could teach local hoteliers a lot, as far as increasing quality of service and product and employment were concerned.
“Our domestic hoteliers, having argued for similar financial treatment, now have to approach with similar business acumen and take on their own advertising in the way that Sandals does – with full, in your face, up front advertising,” she said.
“The advent of Sandals has also seen the increase in employment in the sector by 38.1 per cent . . . This can be replicated by our local product if they do the things that Sandals does. You all have the same concessions, get up and do the same work.”
Pointing to the in-depth training potential employees at that hotel had to undergo, the Government Senator added: “What we have as a country now is an entire skills set that we can use to our benefit . . . Understand that it is not only about capital investment but it is about investment in people.”
Using most of her time to discuss the issue of tourism, DePeiza also highlighted the importance of making Bridgetown fully accessible for disabled visitors.
She contended that doing so would “open up a whole other cadre of visitor to Barbados”.
“Because you are wheel-chair bound, because you use a cane, because you use a guide dog, does not mean you are unable to travel. And we need to break away from our myopic vision of what a tourist looks like and start building out our tourism product,” DePeiza urged.
Turning her attention to the lack of attractions and other businesses open for cruise visitors who sail into Barbados on Sundays, the Senator urged the authorities to devote time, resources and effort to correcting that problem.
She insisted that Barbados had to offer more than just sea, sand and sun.
“Our aim is to attract new people and get them coming back and if all we show them is the beach, which they can get in St Maarten, which they can get if they go the right place in America, what makes them come back?” she questioned.
“We need to show them the things that are inherently us. We need to have Pelican [Village] open on a Sunday when the cruise liners are here. We need to have our other local attractions open on a Sunday when the cruise liners are here. We need to have our shops and Bridgetown open on a Sunday when the cruise liners are here. It does not make business sense to have thousands of persons come to our shores to sit on the beach.”
DePeiza said she hoped some effort would be made to work with the business community to show them the financial benefit of being open when these thousands of tourists are in the country.