Major plans are in the works for Barbados’ newest tourist attraction.
Rihanna Drive, formerly known as Westbury New Road, St Michael is about to get its very own festival.
The disclosure was made today by the chairman of the Our Diamond – Rihanna Drive Project, Hugh Foster.
Following the official renaming of the childhood district of this country’s most famous citizen, he said more plans were in the pipeline to honour superstar Robyn Rihanna Fenty, including the launch of a Rihanna Drive Festival to be held on the first Saturday in November every year.
Foster said this and other “value for money” ideas would be discussed during a town hall meeting tomorrow with the residents.
“We want to subsume it [the festival] under the Rum and Food Festival so that we would have a more fulsome festival. It will be deeper, it will be stronger and hopefully it would be a pull factor as well because the Rihanna name is there,” he said, adding that residents would be integrally involved and allowed to reap some of the benefits of the activities while empowering themselves.
With the actual details still being worked out, Foster, who is consultant to the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, said it was hoped that Rihanna would be in attendance at the festival, which will be promoted by the Barbados Tourism Marketing Incorporated.
He also told Barbados TODAY that the popular Scrawl Up Crew from Rihanna Drive, which is experienced in organizing and promoting entertainment events, would be approached to assist with the festival.
“Now the Scrawl Up Crew, I am going to be reaching out to them to assist, especially with that Rihanna Drive Festival. These are guys who have proven experience in organizing events, mass events and so on and they are from Rihanna Drive – it is their product. They spawned Rihanna down in there. She is the most famous Barbadian of all time and that is where she came from. So I am hoping to get them involved in the festival. They have already hinted to me that they love the idea and we are going to build from there,” the tourism consultant said.
He noted that the Scrawl Up Crew already had an indigenous event which its members staged every weekend in the area.
“They [Scrawl Up Crew] get together every Sunday morning down there and do what they call ‘the Men’s Fellowship’, but it is not necessarily a religious thing. They do a breakfast, a Bajan thing . . . breadfruit and all that. I was saying to them from day one when I went down there in September that this is something that has possibilities when it relates to getting visitors down here. I said to them, ‘I could see you having [people] come to breakfast on Rihanna Drive,’” Foster added.
He also disclosed that negotiations were underway with the owner to have the house in which Rihanna grew up converted into a museum, a move Foster believes would take the already “very popular” community’s value-added to a whole new level, in the same way that Elvis Presley’s Graceland home, which draws 650,000 visitors annually, has done in the United States.
“I did a cursory check online and found that Rihanna Drive has generated more hits for Barbados than any other event or happening in Barbados, certainly in contemporary history. I am very serious about that. I took a look and the only thing that came close to it was another Rihanna event, her appearing at Crop Over. Barbados was mentioned . . . it was viral, beyond viral,” he said, while unable to provide any specific numbers.
The tourism consultant also told Barbados TODAY that anecdotal information and feedback from taxi operators suggested that on average 3,200 people visited Rihanna Drive every month to interact, take photos or to see Rihanna’s “old” home.
Foster however admitted that due to the number of tour coaches and taxis converging on that road, parking was now a problem.
However, he said, this was being addressed with the provision of new parking bays at the front of the Westbury Cemetery.
“If you don’t have parking, you lessen the opportunity again for driving benefits down in there. There are three shops down in there that sell all kinds of things that visitors would want such as drinks. So what we have done, we have approached the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA), which is in charge of the cemetery, and the manager Roslyn Knight recommended that we take advantage of the bays just before the entrance of the cemetery,” he said, adding that they were currently marking out parking spots there for tour buses and taxis, to be used mainly during the day.
Foster said the tour operators and taxi drivers at the nearby Bridgetown Port had already bought into the idea of the parking bays, which he is hoping would be ready by Monday.
The Our Diamond – Rihanna Drive Project, which was born out of an internal meeting of the Ministry of Tourism two years ago was proposed by Foster with two key objectives in mind:
One is that it would be a fitting honour for Rihanna, who though not yet 30 years old, has become a global icon, a world famous megastar, entrepreneur and a philanthropist, who offers phenomenonal tourism promotion mileage.
And, secondly, it would confirm Rihanna’s childhood address as a booming tourist attraction, a development in which enterprising taxi drivers and tour bus operators led the way.