Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy has dismissed as Barbados Labour Party (BLP) “propaganda”, suggestions that visitors to the island are spending less than they did in the past.
Without pointing to any specific allegations, Sealy last night ridiculed the suggestion, telling supporters of the incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP), surveys by the Barbados-based regional tourism development agency, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) had revealed that tourists to Barbados were spending more, not less, while on holiday here.
“I don’t know where this idea that spend is down is coming from. In fact, I know exactly where it is coming from. The Barbados Labour Party is very good at propaganda. They have conjurred up this thing about spend. Utter rubbish,” he said.
“Even by the CTO surveys spending is actually up, but we still have to continue to complete the mission that we promised the people of Barbados. We indicated that we were going to restructure the institutions that govern tourism, not for the sake of restructuring, but in order to see that the stakeholdership can be broader we had to improve the visitor experience in Barbados.”
Earlier today, in his report on the performance of the economy for the first quarter of this year, Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados Cleviston Haynes reported a one per cent decline in tourism value added, compared to a 4.5 per cent expansion during the corresponding period last year.
Haynes also reported that while long-stay arrivals grew by 5.8 per cent last year, visitors from North America were cutting down on the length of their stay.
The 5.8 per cent increase last year helped the country set a third straight record in arrivals, and Sealy said last night the days when the numbers were falling due to the global recession were over.
“We don’t get tourists that come here with a plastic bag in their bags, wearing a pair of slippers with no money. You don’t see tourists on the side of the street. Once you have arrivals they will stay some place, spend money, have to get around and eat,” Sealy told the DLP faithful at a meeting in Arch Hall, St Thomas in support of George Connolly, the party’s candidate seeking to oust the BLP’s Kerrie Symmonds in St James Central.
Minister of Small Business Donville Inniss, who also addressed the meeting, focused on Symmonds’ record of attendance in Parliament.
He charged that the incumbent was “noticeably absent from Parliament and meaningful debates” over the past five years, and urged voters to look beyond the BLP legislator.
“You can rest assured that when it came time for Budget debates, Estimates or items that can be considered to be controversial, that would end up in a lot of public dialogue, Kerrie Symmonds won’t be present in Parliament, and you hardly hear him speak about the people of St James Central,” Inniss argued.
“We need to expose some of these characters that come around politics for
who they really are. I am not the kind to dwell on personal matters because I think that there are a lot of substantive matters to address in Barbados, but in so doing we must be very mindful of those who are going to address these issues and that are going to come to you offering all sorts of things,” he added.
Inniss also defended what he said were difficult decisions taken by the Freundel Stuart-led DLP Government during its tenure, arguing that the “ten years have posed some challenges”, but the administration “stood steadfast to the cause”.
“While other countries were making drastic cuts, while dollars were being devalued, while there was a lot of conflict and unrest, this Democractic Labour Party administration was staying the course. We had to make some changes and adjustments in order to contain the fiscal position of this country because we recognized that we needed to always ensure that we will be always able to take care of the vulnerable in our society,” Inniss said.