Barbados has been warned to urgently beef up its building codes and strengthen or rebuild weak infrastructure given the recent super hurricanes that hit the Caribbean.
The advice has come from Anguilla’s Minister of Tourism Cardigan Connor, who is beseeching the Freundel Stuart administration not to disregard lessons from the aftermath of hurricane Irma, which devastated the Leeward island last month.
Connor stressed that while one could never fully prepare for a category 5 hurricane such as Irma, the impact may have been lessened were some of the structures sounder.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s (CTO) State of the Tourism Industry Conference (SOTIC) which continued today at the Grenada Radisson Hotel, the minister pointed out that while Barbados was often spared from hurricanes, a single hit could virtually set a booming tourist economy back several years.
“I think Barbados is very fortunate because percentage says that the country has low chances of being affected by a hurricane. For us in the northern Leeward Islands, percentages are higher especially from August to October but in the mean time we can build better. When we rely heavily on tourism and it is tough because you plan all year for a great winter season but a single hurricane can knock you back and it knocks you quite hard.
“For most of tourist islands if we missed most of the start of next year it is like that whole season is lost,” said Connor, lamenting that Anguilla was riding high on record tourism numbers for 2016 and had even higher aspiration for the 2017 tourist season before the hurricane hit.
“Most hotels already build strong because they can afford to and the money they spend they can get insurance on it. The challenge is for the local person whose pay packet says that there is just enough to get by and most of the times they are looking for a shelter over their heads, they pray that a hurricane doesn’t come.
“We really need those better codes because one of things we have seen is a lot of damage to vehicles and to other homes that were built to proper standards because of flying debris coming from less than sound structures. A lot of damage was actually caused that way so it is not just for the home owner’s safety but also for the safety of others,” he added.
Connor revealed that his country will be able salvage some of the upcoming tourist season as smaller hotels in his country will begin receiving guests by December.
However, the Anguillan Minister of Tourism explained while the devastation was widespread, the small island with a population of 15,000 was putting a positive spin on the disaster.
He contended that the hurricane provided opportunities for the government to better build and expand on infrastructure long overdue for upgrades.
“The ferry terminal was severely damaged and it has been demolished to make way for a new construction and some might say it was about time. A temporary facility is in place to allow travel for residents of Anguilla and architectural plans have already been commissioned for the new facility. The runway expansion is another area which has been long overdue and we now have an opportunity to do this,” Connor stated.