The tourist industry in Barbados is one of the major planks in our economy, accounting for a significant amount of employment and 12 per cent of GDP. To support this industry, the government invests a considerable portion of our national budget on tourism marketing. According to the Estimates of Expenditure 2017-2018, we spent some $181,995,401.00 this year alone.
Over the years, some key players in the industry have kept visitors from meeting the average Barbadian. This has meant the foreign exchange earnings have not fully penetrated our communities. As more and more visitors seek experiences off the beaten path, the UPP embraces policies and programmes toward the enhancement of tourism opportunities in the rural and non-traditional areas of Barbados.
This includes global support for emerging tourism enterprises, and the inclusion of more authentic experiences on visiting journalists and agents programmes, national festivals and other major tourism initiatives. This is known as community based tourism (CBT). Community based tourism takes environmental, social, and cultural stability into account with tourism products being characterized by the participation of the community in their development.
These products are managed and owned by the community, for the community, with the purpose of enabling visitors to increase their awareness and learn about local ways of life. CBT projects offer services such as accommodation, traditional cuisine, and cultural activities. Our visitors get to interact and participate instead of being mere spectators.
This is one way that our visitors can truly experience our culture. A fair trade logic applies. Tourists pay a fair price in exchange for high quality unique experiences within the context of transparency and equality. For travellers, it is a genuine and rich experience. They get to know the local traditions, get involved in cultural activities, and have the opportunity to witness and take part in real lived experiences of Barbadians.
For visitors, perhaps the most rewarding aspects of CBT is the personal link they can forge with their hosts and the chance to see how this fair tourism is empowering them and their communities. Many of our visitors complain that they come for holidays and hardly ever socialize with any locals. CBT is a unique angle on tourism that is quite different from our traditional tourism practices.
The touristic potential within our island and traditions is evident; we have farmers, fishermen, and artisans living in beautiful and well-preserved rural and urban areas around Barbados. We can easily create the infrastructure to host travellers and to set up community-led projects to improve the standard of living and preserve the environment through tourism.
CBT combines natural beauty and the daily life of rural communities, and makes visitors feel welcome while preserving the normal rhythms of the community. Visitors see how persons live, they get to eat and drink the food that locals consume and generally experience the culture of the place for a short time.
Successful CBT projects promote productive and sustainable practices. It helps to diversify the local economy, and the income generated can be re-invested into the community. It will provide jobs for members of the community and also provide the avenue for persons to become entrepreneurs. It should be designed to distribute jobs evenly, from management down to the menial levels.
It introduces visitors to ‘island life’ and preserves the welcoming, relaxed, atmosphere of Barbadian life. In a way, it can help preserve our culture because now young Barbadians can stay in their communities and find jobs living among their elders who will pass on traditions and knowledge of our heritage. The visitors in turn learn to appreciate a different culture.
Naturally, it is kept going by local initiatives and local people and strengthens local organizations. The income derived enhances local quality of life and builds capacity in community organizations. Our people are our greatest resource, therefore it is important to include them in every level of development.
It is not just a matter of local communities concentrating on becoming touristic entrepreneurs. Farmers still want to grow vegetables and breed animals, locals want to live their culture and preserve their traditions, and fishermen just want to fish. CBT is a source of complementary income (on average only 15 per cent) used to improve standards of living and to preserve our culture and ecosystems.