A newly launched initiative by the state-run Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA), which encourages wider use and consumption of Barbadian rum among locals and visitors, has attracted stern criticism from President of the Barbados Road Safety Association Sharmane Roland-Bowen.
The initiative, launched earlier this week at the historic Sunbury Plantation and dubbed Barbados Sugar and Rum Season, also seeks to sensitize owners of restaurants, bars and nightclubs to the story of rum and its value to the economy, as well as to enhance the island’s cultural heritage and culinary tourism product.
However, an incensed Roland-Bowen complained Thursday that the new programme flies directly in the face of her organization’s efforts to stop people from drinking and driving.
In fact, she argued that it was a promotion of drink driving on the part of the tourism authorities, despite the fact that there was still no specific legislation to deter such, or any breathalyzer testing in place.
“We are inviting tourists to our country to part take in our rum that we say is so good, yet they [the authorities] are not providing any provision to keep them safe on our roads and that is not right,” Roland-Bowen told Barbados TODAY.
“It is wrong. Are we inviting them to get injured and get killed on our roads? It is wrong,” she insisted.
“We have a high number of tourists that come here and are accustomed to safety in their country and we are bringing them here into our country where we are promoting all this alcohol drinking and driving, because that is more or less what I see. We are promoting drinking and driving in Barbados because if we are not doing something about it we are with it and all for it. This is wrong,” the road safety advocate added.
Just last month the BRSA launched its War on Drunk Driving campaign in the hope of reducing alcohol consumption by vehicle operators. And while she did not have any statistical evidence to present, Roland-Bowen was convinced that alcohol consumption was a factor in many instances.
She had also revealed findings of a recent survey carried out among a small group of tourists which indicated that more than half of them did not feel safe on the island’s roads. However, she said based on those results none appeared to be put off by the likelihood of the island introducing breathalyzer testing and the accompanying legislation.
“What are they waiting for, for more people to die and more blood to be shed on our roads? It is wrong, it is wrong,” said Roland-Bowen at the time.
As part of the campaign, the BRSA has written to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Minister of Transport & Works Michael Lashley, Minister of Health John Boyce and Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite as the first targets of an official lobbying effort.
Today, Roland-Bowen said Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy would be next in line, in light of the launch of the Barbados Sugar and Rum Season.