We have often promoted Barbados as a paradise in our efforts to entice tourists to visit these shores.
With the sugar industry long overthrown as king, tourism has been the mainstay of the local economy and responsible in large measure for much of Barbados’ post-Independence development. In plain language, the industry is not something with which to trifle, and must be passionately and proudly protected.
Within the last 48 hours we had the unfortunate situation of two British visitors being attacked and robbed while enjoying a piece of paradise on the Richard Haynes Boardwalk in Hastings, Christ Church. This was surely not the way to treat our guests. But, alas, a Barbadian imbecile with no thought to the image which this island must project and protect, sought to do harm not only to our guests, but also to the island that has at least provided him with institutional homes for the majority of his 53 years.
But out of the incident has brought to the fore two details worthy of mention. Firstly, those patriotic Barbadians whose names –– Kevin Payne, Joseph Grazette, Nico Hudson and Jabari Worrell –– are worthy of mentioning, are examples of citizens who recognize the importance of protecting our tourism product. We are sure that such individuals are in the majority in the country. But one criminal buffoon with selfish motive can often cause more harm than the good deeds of 100 law-abiding citizens.
We are pleased that the acts of these young men have received such wide publicity. The message must always go forward that such unsavoury incidents are the exception and not the rule in Barbados. Crime perpetrated against fellow Barbadians is always reprehensible, but that committed
against persons who have no obligation to spend time and money here is particularly abhorrent.
From time to time, whether in Barbados or other Caribbean jurisdictions, repeated attacks on tourists are frequently accompanied by negative travel advisories from the victims’ country of origin. Barbados has been fortunate that despite the occasional incidents such as what occurred with Dana Chowdhry and Jena Elhusainie, the reputation of the island as a safe and accommodating destination has never really been tarnished. The Hudsons, Paynes, Grazettes and Worrells that abound in Barbados contribute significantly to this reputation.
The second detail on which authorities must focus is the need to be proactive. Too often, we react to crime rather than examine the possibilities
of its occurrence and seek to put systems in place to discourage or decrease its occurrence.
The issue of lighting was raised as one of the strategies that could be implemented on the Richard Haynes Boardwalk as a deterrent for would-be criminals. Of course, lighting alone will not deter idiots from seeking to bring disgrace to their country, but it is a start and a measure worthy of swift implementation.
Instead, our propensity to procrastinate has prevented this corrective measure from being implemented. We understand that representation from hoteliers and restaurateurs for proper lighting has been made to various agencies, including but not limited to the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., Barbados Tourism Product Authority, the Coastal Zone Management Unit, the Royal Barbados Police Force, the Ministry of Tourism and the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association. We are told that these requests have been made for many years with no action being taken. We understand that too much lighting in the area might prove detrimental to turtles, and therefore none has been installed. Yes, turtles, the ones that crawl and lay eggs in the sand. Whether this is truth or fiction, surely our educated planners can come up with a system to ensure that some of the foreign exchange generated by our heavy-spending turtles be used to find the means to create safer conditions on the South Coast for our visitors.
The point is, that whether it be accommodating nesting turtles, grinning hyenas or mating skunks, these should not take precedence over heeding the calls of those in the industry seeking to bring enhanced safety to our important product. In the next few days we are likely to see site visits to the South Coast, hear pretty speeches, receive public assurances –– ad nauseam –– in our best reactive way.
This is an industry Barbados knows well. It cannot and should not be too difficult for our head honchos to observe all the areas that tourists are likely to frequent, and put systems in place to curb such distasteful occurrences.
But we must act with dispatch at all times because there is always an element out there oblivious to the consequences of his or her criminality.