The tourism sector here is not hoarding money.
That was the emphatic position of Chairperson of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Roseanne Myers as she firmly dismissed claims that private sector tourism officials were secretly stashing away large amounts of foreign exchange while the island continued to struggle with low international reserves.
Far from hoarding, the sector was fighting to keep revenue in line with the increased visitor arrivals, Myers yesterday told a trade forum themed Beyond The Border: A Practical Approach to Economic Sustainability, at the Radisson Aquatica Resort.
She said those making the accusation were simply afraid that the economy could get even worse.
“When I hear sometimes some very worrying comments about for example, the tourism sector hoarding money, we have to just recognize when people get a little bit afraid they start to point fingers and try to find these silver bullet solutions. Nobody is hoarding money,” the BHTA head said.
Myers did not point fingers, and it was not immediately clear to whom she was referring, although a former Central Bank senior economist recently accused the hotel sector of shipping critical foreign exchange out of the country, although she made no claims of hoarding.
Speaking during a panel discussion on Improving Economic Performance Through Enhanced Tourism Competitiveness, Managing Director of Antilles Economics Stacia Howard sought to make a connection between the record tourist arrivals of just over 632,000 last year and the drop in foreign exchange reserves, which stood at a 14-year low of 10.3 weeks of import cover at the end of December 2016.
The issue of hoarding by the tourism private sector also has been the subject of discussion from time to time by commenters on the blogs.
In further defending the sector, Myers said tourism businesses had withstood “the very dark and deep” recession which began in 2008, while keeping their commitments.
“We paid every salary we had to pay, we had our expenses to pay in the sector, we have now come into a situation where you have seen better numbers but your revenues are now starting to come under pressure.
“There is no magic, and I have to say there is no hoarding of money. We need to look at the facts and not be distracted and start to find boogiemen where there are no boogiemen. We have a serious problem with debt, we have our revenue is not enough to cover our increased debt, and unless we get both sides of the equation sorted out we are not going to get out of the hole that we are in,” she warned.