The end of 2016 signals the end of an era that threatens to pass by quietly, despite the fact that it is no secret.
After 15 years as chief executive officer of the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association (BHTA), Sue Springer has quit and is expected to rejoin the Elegant Hotel Group next year as a general manager at the Colony Club property.
It is not that she has not been applauded and rewarded for her decades of dedicated service to the BHTA and Barbados tourism in general.
Springer, who has worked in the sector since 1972, was among 50 Barbadians who received the Barbados Jubilee Honour during the country’s 50th anniversary of Independence last month.
Having announced her decision to quit as early as the start of the year, there were plenty of opportunities for her colleagues, at the BHTA at the very least, to share accolades, and no doubt, they have obliged.
“Sue has brought a high level of dedication, passion, and skills to the table over the years, which has served the association well. We are extremely appreciative of the years of service she has provided to the organization and the industry and she will certainly be missed,” then BHTA chairman Sunil Chatrani said at one of the association’s gatherings.
Others have spoken of Springer’s unswerving dedication to the tourism industry, as well as her patience.
To be as successful in the position that she held, and for as long as she did, takes sacrifice, both personal and family, and countless hours of work.
It also takes a unique ability to manage inflated egos of so many who are convinced of their ability to do a better job. For all intents and purposes, it is a thankless job.
However, Springer did it with poise, grace, energy, spirit, commitment and a quiet efficiency that should be held up as a model to everyone.
Still, she has been no pushover, and she stood up to everyone from prime ministers to chief executive officers whenever the situation warranted. Yet, it was always done in a respectful manner.
This is what made Sue Springer such an outstanding ambassador for the BHTA, Barbados and the tourism industry; this is what kept her at the helm of the association for a decade and a half, and this is what, we dare suggest, helped her to keep her sanity in such a dizzying environment.
Not bad for someone who wanted to be a physiotherapist.
In her final report to the BHTA earlier this month, Springer left a final warning to policymakers and decision makers that while the tourism sector had been growing “on the backs of Barbadian entrepreneurs and international investors”, Barbados could not afford to be complacent.
It is a lesson the industry should heed, as one recent incident proved. Increasingly, countries around the world that were not previously involved in tourism are entering the contest to attract visitors.
More and more destinations are offering new, exciting, diverse, attractive and competitive products at more affordable rates than Barbados and the battle for tourists is becoming more intense.
And while the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc is predicting record arrivals this year and in 2017, the amount each tourist spends is falling. Therefore, it would be to our peril if we ignore Springer’s parting words of advice.
At the end of Springer’s final address to the industry at the BHTA’s quarterly luncheon at Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Chatrani invited the entire room of BHTA members to stand and applaud.
It was a fitting way to say thank you to one of tourism’s outstanding servants. With her departure now somewhat buried in the hassles of the Christmas season, we stand and applaud Sue Springer one last time.