Chairman of the Barbados Hotel Tourism Association (BHTA) Sunil Chatrani has issued a stern warning that unless action is taken to revolutionize the tourism industry, the country’s leading money earner would not be sustainable.
And notwithstanding the Barbados Tourism Master Plan 2014 to 2023, Chatrani today called for a new national tourism plan to protect the sector and residents from negative environmental and infrastructural impacts.
The new plan, he suggested, should be easily updated and modified to keep up with the dynamism of the tourism industry and could include fresh discussions on casino gambling; the construction of an offshore island as part of new tourist belts; information on the demography the island wanted to attract over time; improved service and a good mix of accommodation types including high rise structures and more internationally known hotel brands.
Chatrani argued that although the sector continued to be one of the fastest growing and was a major contributor to the economy, more strategic planning was needed in order to ensure it did not end up in trouble.
“By that I mean, where do we think we are going to be in 50 years’ time? It is not really where we want to go, it is where we want to be in 50 years’ time,” he said while speaking as part of a panel on Barbados at 50 and Moving Onward – How Can We Grow for the next 50?
The panel was part of the BHTA’s first quarterly general meeting at the Barbados Hilton resort today.
“The plan is not just about the tourism sector, it is about the other sectors and how it relates to the other sectors. It also has to be a transitional plan. What we need is a plan that will go from political party to political party and for the private sector as well,” he added.
Chatrani emphasized the point by recalling a recent natural gas shortage that affected properties on the west coast and the current drought.
“Look at the current water situation. If we doubled our arrivals to the island tomorrow, are we prepared, are we ready for this? The current water situation . . . no one raises the flag and says, ‘we have an issue here, and what are we doing about it’. So we have a ban and it is only when water runs out at the properties and various services then we are going to start reacting. It is a knee-jerk reaction all the time . . . These are things we have to think about,” said Chatrani.
The tourism leader also cited occasional pile up of garbage, unreliable mobile phone service and traffic congestion along the south and west coasts as issues that should also be addressed in such a plan.
He acknowledged that the issues would not be fixed overnight. However, Chatrani insisted unless there was a strategy it would not be done properly.
“We are going to do it in the wrong manner, we are going to do it in a reactive manner, and that is not a sustainable manner to do this.
“Essentially our tourism product, our tourism sector is not sustainable and we have to start to do something about it,” he stressed.