Tourism officials here are counting on visitors who are looking to go back to their roots to grow the island’s visitor numbers.
The Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA) is considering the development of genealogy tourism in the hope of cashing in on the growing segment of the market consisting of tourists with an ancestral connection to their destinations.
Speaking yesterday at the start of the third genealogy marketplace put on by the Department of Archives and the BTPA, Branding and New Product Officer Madge Dalrymple said with tourism accounting for nearly half of the island’s total exports of goods and services, “it is imperative that we do not have a stagnant product”.
Dalrymple said genealogy tourism would help Barbados as it seeks to gain greater inroads into the United States market, in that “Barbados is described as the springboard for demographic movement in the English colonization of the Americas, and it is considered that between seven and ten million Americans can trace their roots to Barbados”.
The event was held as part of the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Barbados-Carolina connection, which honours the historical relationship between Barbados and North and South Carolina in the United States dating back to the sugar revolution in the 17th century.
Historian Morris Greenidge, who was exhibiting at the event, spoke about the deep links that exist between the US states and Barbados, which he said, extended to political circles.
“The first six governors in the Carolinas were actually of Barbadian descent, coming from some of the island’s well known plantation-owning families,” Greenidge said.
The marketplace was also aimed at encouraging visitors to research their ancestral family lines.
According to Dalrymple, “while some of the cases may not go as far back as slavery, we have seen scenarios where people have sought information for three and four generations back, and recently a Barbadian historian living in Charleston [South Carolina] discovered he had an aunt in Barbados, who celebrated her birthday in July this year”.
Visitors to the marketplace, some of whom hailed from North and South Carolina, as well as other parts of the United States, enjoyed a number of cultural performances from the George Lamming Primary School choir, the Haynesville Youth Group and National Independence Festival of Creative Arts performer Brandon Byer-Maloney.
In addition to Greenidge, who displayed his series of books on Barbadian history, exhibitors included Abigail Springer and John Alleyne showing off a collection of antique furniture and appliances that were once commonplace in Barbadian homes.