Repeat visitors have played a major part in transforming Barbados from a sugar farm to a first class tourism destination, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart told guests whom he welcomed to Ilaro Court on Wednesday.
Hosting at his official residence scores of people who have visited this island multiple times, some as many as 50, the Prime Minister treated them to a brief history of Independent Barbados –– from 1966 when some 200,000 tons of sugar was produced for export to this year that may not see a yield of more than 10,000 tons.
Stuart pointed out that the reduced sugar export figure, which comes as the nation celebrates its silver jubilee is not a sign of disaster but one of success because other industries have risen to fill the gap, led by tourism.
“We could not have been as successful as we have been, particularly over the last 50 years as an Independent nation, had it not been for people like yourselves, who let slip no opportunity to demonstrate your faith and confidence in Barbados,” he said to persons at the second of four special receptions of appreciation for repeat visitors to the island.
Among these visitors are a couple who got married here in 1966; one lady who has been visiting for 50 years; a couple holding a special connection to the island for 43 years; two other couples who have been coming to the island for over 40 years; and a couple who were here 35 times.
Dr Naomi Ervin and Gay Wharton are the couple with special connection beyond visiting. Dr Ervin is on her 43rd visit to Barbados, where she met and married Barbadian Gay Wharton on the 17th of those times that she came to our shores.
“Year after year you come here and you spend your money with us.
“The result of your loyalty, commitment is that we now have a tourist industry that leads this economy and is the principal earner of its foreign exchange,” Stuart said.
“When we became Independent in 1966 that was not the case,” the Prime Minister explained.
He recalled that in 1966 Barbados produced 175,000 tons of sugar, and the following year produced 204,000 tons.
“In 1966 we were still basically a very large cane farm; but much has happened between 1966 and now.
He said that three weeks ago “when I met sugar officials to discuss our sugar industry, we were not discussing any 175,000 tons of sugar, or 204,000 tons, they were all wondering alike whether it was going to be possible for this country to produce 10,000 of sugar this year”.
“So much has changed. We have modernized our economy, diversified it, and that process of diversification is continuing. We’ve learnt our lessons.”
The Prime Minister told his guests: “Your presence here tonight is a source of great satisfaction for me, and a great source of satisfaction for members of the Cabinet, and for the people of Barbados. You have demonstrated that you walk both by faith and by sight because you kept coming to Barbados
“As I observe the ease with which you interact with our citizens here, I know that we are on to a very good thing. I’m convinced that the future of the tourist industry in Barbados is secure. Thanks to you for having confidence in us.”