The hundreds of thousands of cruise passengers disembarking the ships at the Bridgetown Port annually now have another avenue through which to learn more about Barbados’ rich cultural heritage.
Tourism officials on Monday unveiled a 22-foot long interpretive sign aimed at improving the aesthetics of the location while telling various stories about the island’s sugar product, the Deep Water Harbour, the sugar chutes at the Port, as well as facts about other attractions across the island.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Donna Cadogan said she hoped the signage would play a significant role in increasing visitor spend.
Pointing out that the island welcomed more than 700,000 cruise passengers last year, which was an increase over 2015, she said that segment of the business remained critical.
“The erection of interpretive signage is a step in the right direction in our efforts to enhance cruise visitors’ experiences at the Port and to give our visitors a sense of place. Globally, interpretive signage is being used increasingly to explain the importance of various signs and to provide clear, concise educational messages and content to highlight information of historical value,” said Cadogan.
She said the Ministry of Tourism would soon be “engaging” the Town and Country Planning Department and the Ministry of Transport and Works with the aim of embarking on a major island-wide signage programme for major tourism sites across the country.
“It is our view that interpretive signage can not only enhance the understanding of the culture and historical significance of sites, but can in itself become a drawing card for visitors and can contribute to greater spend at locations, as more time is spent by clients on location perusing signage that is alluring and informative. This has been proven in locations across the globe, and as a mature destination we need to utilize this simple, low-cost, year-round communication strategy more efficiently to further diversify and distinguish our product. Be assured, however, that we are not merely following trends,” said Cadogan.
The decision to erect the colourful and informative signage at the Bridgetown Port came after research was carried out last year by the Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA) to identify areas that were in need of improvement to enhance the cruise tourism product.
Chief executive officer of the BTPA Dr Kerry Hall said initially the idea was to offer tours at the Port to tell visitors about its history and the sugar chutes there, but that plan was shelved after it was found it was not feasible.
“We will continue to ensure that our cruise product gets equal attention as our land-based products,” said Hall, while recognizing that the country did not have a separate cruise port from its container port.
“But just because that is the case it does not mean we cannot do things to improve the aesthetics of the Port.”
Hall said the interpretative sign was only one of the components of an overall improvement programme that the BTPA had planned for the country’s tourism product in association with relevant partners.
She pointed out that besides a mural programme, which has already started, there was new directional signage and officials would also be capitalizing on the skills of students from the language departments of the Barbados Community College and the University of the West Indies to provide additional foreign language services.
“We are also partnering with the cruise terminal to ensure that vendors have a diversity of Barbadian-made items on sale . . . and our seaport office has also been upgraded to include destination videos and other interactive elements. We also continue to improve our cultural welcome. Last, but not least, we are about to release the BTPA app which is going to showcase the total Barbadian experience – both traditional and, most importantly, the untraditional off-the-beaten-track experiences that the modern traveller is looking for,” said Hall.