Porters operating at Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) are being assured that their jobs are safe despite the change of Government following the May 24 general election.
Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds has made it clear that there are no plans to get rid of porters, commonly referred to here as red caps.
“For those who drool with anticipation that there will be no more red caps and that they will be replaced by trollies and that there will be concessions for another millionaire to make money out of this cause, that isn’t happening under this watch. It is not on the cards,” Symmonds told the official opening ceremony yesterday of a new state-of-the-art Barbados Tourism Product Authority welcome booth just outside the arrivals hall at the GAIA.
Shelly Williams, businesswoman and wife of local business mogul Ralph Bizzy Williams, had taken over the porter services late last year, launching Platinum Airport Porter Baggage Service as she sought to improve that experience at the airport.
More than 40 red caps had complained bitterly at the start of this year about what they called mistreatment by GAIA officials, who later apologized.
Symmonds told key tourism industry officials “the time has come to make a definitive decision on the future and fate” of those workers, adding that in order to make the airport experience as wholesome as possible the red caps were necessary and would be staying put.
Without elaborating, the minister charged that there were suggestions that the red caps were not needed because they were no longer seen in other parts of the world. However, he made it clear that Barbados “benefits from them being here” and this would not change under the Mia Mottley-led administration.
“Barbados can stand out as being distinct in terms of the welcoming environment precisely because of the fact that we don’t see them in Miami,” he said, adding that the experience at some airports without the red caps was one of “hostility and dread”.
He also reiterated that Government would meet with airport workers to listen to their concerns and challenges and come up with possible solutions.
Pointing to other related developments in the tourism sector, Symmonds said the country was now positioned to speed up the processing of arriving guests, with the automated passport kiosks due to come on stream soon.
He also announced that GAIA was on its way to becoming fully accessible for the disabled “in the not too distant future”, adding that “every step will be taken to making that happen”.
In that regard, the newly appointed minister said his ministry would engage all key tourism stakeholders in the coming months “so that people understand that we will come to a point where every new tourism investment in Barbados must make provision for persons with disability”.
“It cause me a tremendous amount of pain to discover, during my first couple of weeks of my being minister, that there were people who come here and feel that they were unable to experience parts of Barbados because of the fact that it is not sufficiently accommodating and so they send off their families and wish life was different for them,” he said.