As the Barbados economy continues to struggle, the investment and promotion arm of Government, Invest Barbados, is playing its part –– actively seeking out business from the regional and international markets.
Barbados TODAY caught up with a team from the agency at the 17th Annual Society Of Trust And Estate Practitioners (STEP) Caribbean Conference in St Maarten this week.
Business development officer in the research and development division, Alicia Campbell, and her teammate senior business development officer in the investment promotion and facilitation department, Franklyn Marshall, spoke of the importance of such conference.
They said that given the state of the Barbados economy, any conference and opportunity to get new business and investment in the island were more critical now than ever. And while admitting that finances were low, Marshall said now was not the time to stop attending events and seeking out new business.
“It is important that we demonstrate that we are still open for business in Barbados. You might have delegates coming here and don’t see Barbados; then they will ask what is Barbados doing.
“The main fact that we have a presence here, they know that we are still open for business and they have an opportunity to talk to us and find out what we are doing and why we are the destination to do business,” explained Marshall.
While he could not immediately point to any major projects or investments that Invest Barbados had been able to attract in recent times by attending conferences, Marshall said there was always a positive impact, and some contacts would follow up after many years.
“So it is kind of difficult to judge immediately after the conference; but over the years we have had people who visited Barbados long after a conference. So it is always successful and it is always an opportunity to do business later; and each conference is different.”
He said the number of conferences the agency had been able to attend over the years had declined and that was not good for business.
“Recently there has been a reduction in the number of conferences that we attend because of financial constraints. So, generally, in my office you might have had one officer attending two or three conference. Now it is restricted to one; and sometimes none at all,” he said.
“That is just basically because of the economic constraints. We are a statutory corporation and we get funding from Government, and currently the Government is under some financial strain. So it bears on the activities that we can perform,” explained Marshall.
However, he said it was “a must” that Invest Barbados continued to have a presence at the regional and international events that generally attracted investors and provided opportunities for investment in the island.
The STEP Caribbean Conference brought together professionals in the trust and estate business, including lawyers, accountants, financial advisors and insurance and wealth management officials.
“We are a marketing arm of the Government. And how to do you market? You have to go out in the marketplace; otherwise people do not know that you exist. When they come to these conferences and they see and interact with people from the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Bermuda and St Lucia, but they don’t see Barbados, then we are not on the radar,” said Marshall.
“So it is not an option not to come at all. You’ve got . . . to show your face and do the best you can even with limited resources,” he added.
With Invest Barbados open to all types of investments, Marshall said a great focus had been on the tourism industry over the years, with recent interest in medical tourism and renewable energy. People would approach the agency with a feasible idea, and would be assisted by the agency in getting that investment off the ground.
Campbell said the conferences were an opportunity to “promote Barbados as a brand”.
During the wealth and trust management conference, she added, there were a number of opportunities available to Barbados.
“We are here promoting what we have to offer in terms of international trust, wealth management and international business in general,” she said. “It is a good place to network and make contacts.”
Campbell said such events also gave the organization an indication of where it was positioned and how it compared with other promotional agencies across the region.
“So at the same time we are here gathering intelligence, comparing how we are doing and improving ourselves in the market. We want to position Barbados to be the biggest international financial jurisdiction in the Western Hemisphere.
“We can only do that by marketing ourselves and promoting ourselves and bringing investments to our shores,” Campbell noted.