A non-governmental organization which promotes a motivated, highly skilled and properly compensated workforce in the tourism industry is calling for decisive action to improve the quality of the tourism product and services here.
The Barbados Association of Tourism Employees (BATE) said a major review of the industry was needed, with all practical recommendations implemented by the next winter season.
BATE President Hal Austin said despite all the committees and private and public sector institutions established to help the sector, there continued to be too much rhetoric but “little action as it relates to the many different levels of our institutional operations”.
Highlighting some of challenges facing the sector, and putting forward a number of recommendations, Austin said the lack of proper lighting in some tourist hotspots, including St Lawrence Gap, Maxwell Coast Road, Speightstown and to a lesser extent, Oistins, needed to be addressed.
“We cannot continue to pay lip service to an industry boasting it’s our number one foreign exchange earner of over $1.2 billion annually and not address the fundamentals of our tourism product,” Austin said.
“A de-bushing programme along our roads still is in need of implementation and execution. Our main highways [on the] west and south coast have to be cleaned by this Crop Over or the next winter tourist season.”
The BATE leader added that while the beaches continued to be a focal point of relaxation and attraction, they remained unkempt, even with full-time staff employed to maintain the coastline.
On Monday, Executive Director and Professor of Strategy at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business Dr Miguel Carrillo warned that Barbados’ position as a tourist destination was “eroding” as it continued to face severe competition from other destinations that were cheaper, but had better customer service.
Austin also highlighted the issue of poor customer service, saying, “our customer service is being held to ransom on the belief that great service is servitude and not a benchmark of product excellence and guests’ satisfaction by our people in the industry”.
“Plants and painting to beautify should be seen as an accepted standard of product excellence and not a five star environmental enhancement,” he added, while also calling for an effective garbage collection system.
“With approximately 15 per cent of the tourism income being spent by Government between the Ministry [of Tourism] and two tourism agencies [Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc and Barbados Tourism Product Authority], can we say we are getting our biggest bang for our buck? We believe that without any political malice or posturing, the industry can be mushroomed with all hands on deck to multiply our land based arrivals by 50 per cent using some of this budget in having more ground troops in our overseas target markets.”
Austin said the National Conservation Commission (NCC) had been sitting on a request for permission for a new tourist attraction for two years, “likewise our efforts at Oistins where we got the support of the vendors to clean up the entire area, involving power washing and pumping the wells was nullified by this entity after three hours on the job”.
“We believe with the efforts of all entities involved in the industry and all hands on deck, a new beginning of achieving higher visitors growth, great customer service, increased repeat visitors and more elated customers . . . balanced with a more valued and beneficial employee sustaining higher wages and longer working hours throughout the summer can add to all of our bottom line,” the BATE president said.