Businessman and Minister of Housing Denis Kellman is warning his own Government it can no longer ignore the importance of the increasingly lucrative online marketplace, Airbnb, to the Barbados economy.
Kellman, the Member of Parliament for St Lucy, said a disservice was being done to the economy by not measuring the contribution the homestay programme was making to gross domestic product.
“It [Airbnb] is something this Government cannot ignore because it is this Government that has always been pushing community tourism . . . and it is this Government that created a niche in tourism for the masses of people in Barbados by helping to create community tourism and help to drive our tourism product to a higher esteem,” he said while recently opening debate in Parliament on the divestment of three parcels of land in the Arch Hall, St Thomas area for residential development and road access.
The global accommodation facilitator has said that some 1,100 Barbadian homeowners had listed their properties on its website, each earning an average of US$3,900 a year.
Two per cent of long-stay visitors to the island – some 16,000 people – stayed in Airbnb listed properties last year, a company official said recently.
Kellman sees the online community marketplace as an avenue through which ordinary Barbadians can contribute to the tourism sector, in very much the same way they helped grow the sugar industry.
“We should feel proud in the same way the small farmers can make a contribution to the sugar industry when sugar was king, that today we have been able to empower the masses in Barbados to make a contribution to the tourism industry by allowing them to get involved in expansion of the tourism product,” he said, insisting that the programme was making a significant contribution to the economy, and its impact should be properly measured.
“I believe the economy in Barbados is not measured correctly. That is my opinion, for the simple reason we tend to capture what we can see or what we care about, but there are some planners who do not capture those significant things because they regard them as small things. I am saying that community tourism in Barbados cannot be ignored anymore.
“The same way we cannot ignore the contribution of small farmers to the agriculture industry, we cannot ignore the contribution of those players in the tourism industry and their contribution to the economic growth of the country either . . . . We must also plug in that contribution and start measuring it,” he urged.
The Airbnb hosts here last week launched the Barbados Entrepreneurship & Tourism Association to advocate on their behalf.
Founder of the non-profit organization Neeraj Vensimal said it was important for them to have a voice so they could make an input into pending legislation and other developments relating to the tourism sector.