Barbados has suffered its biggest tourism challenge yet as a result of the ongoing sewage mess on the island’s south coast, with Canada today issuing a travel advisory in light of the worrying issue.
The government in Ottawa, through the Public Health Agency of Canada, issued the safety and security warning this morning, advising its residents to avoid the affected area.
“The south coast of Barbados, between Hastings and St Lawrence areas is experiencing an overflow of raw sewage due to a mechanical breakdown. Avoid the affected area and follow the instructions of local authorities,” the statement on the travel and tourism section of the government’s website stated.
The warning comes at a time when tourism officials here were salivating over the prospects of another record year in 2018, with Canada as a major contributor.
In an administrative report in mid-December last year, Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association Rudy Grant had announced that tourist arrivals from Canada had increased by 9.86 per cent up to October 2017 when compared with the same period in 2016.
And with 533,296 tourists visiting the island during the first ten months of the year, the country was on track to shatter last year’s record 610,000 arrivals, Grant said then.
However, the tourism belt on the south coast has been plagued by the perennial sewage problems dating back more than a year – Director of Gentle Breeze Apartments Jackquelynn Jones said on a Barbados TODAY blog three days ago that it has been happening “for more than three years, probably closer to five” – as raw faeces can often be seen floating on the road, particularly after heavy rainfall.
The leaks, which began sporadically, have reached crisis levels, according to the Barbados Water Authority, and has made it uncomfortable for residents and those traversing the area, as well as businesses and visitors.
And as tourists to the island turn to social media to air their concerns about the issue, many Barbadians have said it is a matter of time before the industry begins to see the effect.
While the Canadian authorities did not advise against travelling to Barbados, but simply to “take normal security precautions in Barbados”, industry officials and practitioners will fear that Canadians will interpreted it as an advisory against travel.
Local authorities will also be keeping an eye on other major markets like the United Kingdom and the United States, in the hope that they will not follow the Canada example.