The state agency charged with the responsibility of marketing Barbados as a tourism destination said it did not expect any major impact on visitor arrivals as a result of the sewage problem on the island’s south coast.
The Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) said at the weekend there was no indication that it was enough of an issue in the major markets to cause a significant dent in tourist arrivals.
“At this stage, we continue to be on track to achieve roughly a six per cent growth on last year for 2016, and at this point in time, we’ve not changed the projections for 2017,” BTMI Senior Director for Support Services Neville Boxill told a joint news conference hosted by the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc and the Barbados Water Authority (BWA).
“The response from the tour operators has indicated that they have not been hearing anything from the consumers. I think that while this issue has been a significant one on social media within Barbados, it has not reached that critical mass internationally where it has become so widespread an issue that it is immediately impacting on our forward bookings.”
Hotels, residents and other businesses along the south coast have complained over the past few weeks about raw sewage flowing on to the roads, and the impact on their operations.
As potential visitors took to social media, including popular travel website TripAdvisor to state they were having second thoughts about coming here, Manager of Gentle Breeze Apartments in Worthing, Christ Church Emily Long told Barbados TODAY last week that a number of guests had cancelled their stay at the property, and those who were planning to visit in the New Year were considering a change of heart.
A British couple due to arrive here on January 10, 2017 for a two-month stay also confirmed to Barbados TODAY they had changed their minds.
However, Boxill said the situation was under control and tourism officials were addressing the concerns raised by the prospective tourists.
“At this stage we don’t plan a mass global marketing drive to address the issue because our understanding from the tour operators is that it is not something that the purchasing consumer is broadly aware of,” he said.
“So, what we are going to do is address it almost on a one-to-one basis with people such as TripAdvisor, letting them know what has happened, what we have done to rectify it and that the problems have been addressed.”
The tourism executive revealed that the smaller hotels were the ones suffering the brunt of the negative impact of the sewage mess, and now that the problem was being resolved, these hotels should advise their potential guests accordingly.
“Our hope is that those smaller hotels that have been affected can, now that we’ve put remedial measures in place, get back in contact with their clientele – some of them who would be repeat clientele in many cases – and let people know that the problems have been solved and that we don’t expect that there’ll be any reoccurrence of the problem certainly in the foreseeable future,” Boxill said.
Worthing Beach was temporarily closed earlier this month as a result of poor water quality, on the heels of the reports of raw sewage flowing into the sea.
The beach has since been reopened after tests conducted by the Environmental Protection Department showed that it was safe.
“We were given the undertaking that the bacteriological levels met WHO [World Health Organization] and the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for recreational waters,” Chief Medical Officer Dr Joy St John told the news conference at which the BWA announced that a $2 million repair programme to the South Coast Sewerage Treatment Plant was underway, and parts that had been ordered were expected to arrive in January.