The island’s all important tourism industry could be hurt by mob violence similar to the recent incidents in The City, according to Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy.
The minister said he feared the outbreak of unruly behaviour captured on video, which went viral on social media, could tarnish the country’s image as a safe tourist destination.
“Barbados depends heavily on tourism for its economic base and one of the key components of tourism in this region is safety. We speak of it as a brand element. We have had our issues but generally speaking people have had security issues with other regions and come to us because they believe we are safe and secure. This is something that we cannot simply take for granted, we have to shore it up,” Sealy said this morning at the Barbados Defence Force mess hall where he attended the opening of a tourism security workshop.
Sealy contended that the incidents which occurred on back-to-back weekends, created a poor perception of this country’s law and order to prospective visitors.
A street brawl on Wharf Road yesterday – allegedly after a party cruise on the Jolly Roger – was captured on video and shared on social media.
The graphic video of the all out melee captured young men throwing what appeared to be bottles into a crowd while others jumped on top of vehicles to try to escape.
A week earlier, lawmen had been called in restore order after patrons broke down the fence at Pirate’s Cove, Bay Street, during a popular weekend fete.
Sealy said as a heavily dependent tourism economy, Barbadians could not afford to be careless with the country’s image.
“Whatever happens in Barbados could potentially impact our visitors because we do not have a region or an offshore island where tourism is concentrated; larger islands and countries in South America can speak to a tourism region, this is not our reality. Those places actually have tourism police, we can’t talk about setting up tourism police because the island is small and tourism is to be found in every single parish, so therefore we have to take the issue very seriously,” he stressed.
Sealy said while he was concerned about the impact such acts of violence could have on tourist arrivals, he was also concerned about the safety and security of residents.
Therefore, he said it was important that law enforcement officials and security providers were up to the task.
“This is necessary so that they can deal with these issues and rest assured we are working constantly to make sure that our visitors are safe. When I say that I mean both visitors and locals because the other reality about Barbados is that the destination and the nation state are one and the same,” Sealy stressed.