Barbados and the rest of the region remain safe for tourists, according to Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Hugh Riley.
Riley said safety and security remained an area that officials here were always focused on addressing, adding that the Caribbean was “still seen by the people who send our visitors here to be a safe place to be”.
“What we are hearing from the experts in the source markets is that the Caribbean is still seen as a safe place to visit.
“There is no crime free place on the planet so there are always going to be efforts to make sure that we secure our borders, that we secure our premises that we make sure that the lives of our citizens as well as our guests are protected everyday and every season. So there is no question that is something of importance to us. But when you look around at some of what is happening around the world it might not shock you to know that the Caribbean is seen as a place to come to and relax,” he stressed.
Riley was responding to questions at a news conference earlier this week where he announced that Barbados would host the State of The Industry Conference at the Hilton Barbados Resort from September 14-16. This will be the third time the event will be held here following successful stagings in 2000 and 2010.
Among other topics to be discussed at the high level three-day conference are issues relating to security, the aviation industry, religious tourism, emerging markets and the menacing Sargassum weed.
Riley said the CTO had “deliberately engaged” the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) in the search for answers about Sargassum.
“We have invited them to come and talk to the Council of Ministers and the Board of Directors, and we have continued to stay engaged with them because the same question that is on their minds is the same question on our mind as well – has Sargassum gone away or will it come back to us, and when it comes back is it going to be seasonal or a year round phenomenon?”
“Tourism is vulnerable to all kinds of external shocks and internal shocks as well,” Riley said.
One of the shocks that the industry faces at present is the potential effect of the vote by Britons to leave the European Union.
Riley told journalists while it was still too early to measure the impact, the industry would rise above the challenge.
“The tourism sector has been over a period of time incredibly vulnerable to all kinds of challenges, both external and internal and Brexit provides its challenges and opportunities. The initial challenge will be visitors from the UK who will find that the tourism product will cost a little bit more,” he predicted.
Meantime, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy said the regional tourism development agency did not anticipate any short-term impact.
“From the discussions with our partners and stakeholders, including the Association of British Travel Agents and operators, we will probably not see any impact in the short term but it will take approximately about two years for the Brexit to begin to be consummated; and in the meantime travel plans and agreements remain intact, ” Sealy said.