The tourism industry in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean has a lot celebrate.
So said Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy Wednesday night as he hosted a ministerial reception in honour of delegates to the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) business meetings and State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC).
“As you know, we recently came out of a global recession and it’s heartening to see that Caribbean tourism has come out even stronger and better and the Caribbean as a region is outpacing global growth in tourism at the moment,” he said at the event at Alaya, a private multi-million-dollar villa at Queens Fort, St James. “That’s something that we should feel good about. But it’s not an excuse for us to sit on our laurels.”
The impact of the 2008 global financial crisis on the Caribbean, and specifically on English-speaking Caribbean nations, was deeper than in the rest of Latin America. With the exception of the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti and Suriname which experienced a moderate slowdown from their pre-crisis growth levels, other Caribbean countries registered contraction in growth during 2009.
Sealy noted that SOTIC was very important “because the Caribbean region is heavily dependent on tourism and it looks like even though we are trying to diversify ourselves away from that, we are going to be heavily relying on this people-focused industry.”
“Therefore, it’s important that we engage our young people, it’s important that we engage each other and see how best we can improve and put it on proper foundation, that it can be robust in the face of whatever economic turmoil the world is going through,” he added.
Pointing to the number of high-powered speakers slated for the conference, the Minister of Tourism said Barbados was especially pleased to be hosting the event at this time.
“I myself am looking forward to much of what we have planned. A lot of it is focused on the future. We’re going to have a number of students. Apart from the youth congress which is a feature part of this SOTIC conference, we will have young people from secondary schools and universities who will be taking in all that we have to offer,” he said.
“We will have with us not only David Scowsill, who is with the World Travel and Tourism Council [President and CEO], but we will also have Taleb Rifai who is the Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization. This is the first time that we are going to have both of those gentlemen at a regional tourism conference. It’s not easy to get those diaries to coincide but we got it done, and indeed it speaks to the significance of this event and we in Barbados,” Sealy added.
The conference which is being held under the theme Honouring our Legacy: Defining our Future opens tonight at the Hilton Barbados.