Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has responded to the recent public outcry about potholes, saying they were simply one of the inconveniences of life.
During a reception for repeat visitors at his official residence last night, the Prime Minister further downplayed the issue which has been a source of much national debate and consternation, especially among motorists, saying even tourists understood and expected to encounter potholes.
“They don’t behave as though they’ve never seen potholes in the roads in their lives, and they do not behave as though their societies are crime free,” said Stuart as he briefly entered the escalating public debate on the issue.
So concerned has been the Barbados Road Traffic Association about the pothole situation that just yesterday it embarked on an initiative to highlight major potholes as a means of giving advance notice to motorists of these dangerous cracks in the roads. With some motorists already said to be seeking compensation for damage caused to their vehicles, last weekend, Minister of Housing Denis Kellman also found himself in hot water for questioning whether potholes can save lives.
However, before a mostly international audience that included Kellman and other members of his Cabinet, Stuart appeared dismissive of the entire issue.
“They [tourists] understand the real world, and in spite of the fact that from time to time you may have the inconveniences, which are really transitory, the warmth and the hospitality of the people of Barbados is what keeps them coming,” he said.
“That’s the magnet that attracts them to this society,” he added.
Long-stay tourist arrivals shattered the 600,000 mark last year, with the island welcoming a record 610, 000 tourists. It was the second successive record year for Barbados, which attracted 592,000 long stay visitors in 2015 after a difficult period.
So upbeat was Stuart about the industry’s performance, that he challenged tourism officials, led by Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy to set yet another record this year by bringing in an additional 40,000 tourists.
“I therefore confidently expect that at the end of the year 2017 it will be reported to me that we’ve had 650,000 visitors visit Barbados,” the Prime Minister said as he welcomed repeat visitors to the island to a reception at his Ilaro Court residence.
Stuart did not say how the major markets of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and the Caribbean performed. However, Britain has traditionally been Barbados’ premier tourism market.
The Prime Minister hinted to Sealy, who along with industry marketing officials attended the reception, that every effort should be made to have the US or Canada surpass the UK as the number one provider of tourists to Barbados.
“There is nothing wrong with United States or Canada becoming our principal source market, but what that would mean is we get the English to continue to come, but we get more Americans and more Canadians to come, and that will get to the 650,000 that I expect to see in Barbados in 2017,” he said.
It was in mid-December that Sealy announced that the bread and butter industry was performing beyond expectation and was on course to shatter last year’s record of about 592,000 tourists.
Sealy had told a breakfast ceremony to mark the reopening of the Infinity on the Beach hotel in St Lawrence Gap, Christ Church that arrivals for November 2016 were 16 per cent higher than that of November 2015 and the island was on course to receive 620,000 tourists in 2016.