Prime Minister Mia Mottley says she is looking to double the island’s tourism revenue to $4 billion within the next five years.
She revealed the target even as she lamented that last year’s industry earnings had fallen slightly from $2.3 billion in 2007 to $2.1 billion.
Addressing tourism workers at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA), the Prime Minister also sought to enlist their support in making Barbados the best for visitor experience.
“If you don’t remember anything else from today, remember four in five, because if we don’t do it, your job, your pensions, my job, my pension, our way of life, the Barbados that we know . . . that’s what’s at stake.
“I’m asking you now today and I’m not too proud to ask, I need your help. I need each and every one of you to help. And I haven’t sent a message as I could have done through the Minister or the Chairman [of GAIA]. I’ve come myself because we need your help and out of this has to be an us…
“I need us to leave in here with a sense that we is we,” she told the workers from all departments at the airport.
Mottley, who met with GAIA workers to hear first-hand their challenges and suggestions for enhancing the service offered to users of the airport, outlined some of the steps that were needed to move the process forward.
“We need to listen. We need to redesign some of the processes that we have because things that worked for us 40 or 50 years ago may not work for us today.”
In this regard, she suggested that the time had come for a dedicated team of hosts to greet passengers.
“All of us must know what is required of each and every one of us and if we do simply what is required of each and every one of us, while doing it with a smile and a pep in our step, then our job becomes easier.”
Mottley, whose Barbados Labour Party took office here following the May 24 general election in which the Democratic Labour Party was swept from power, told her audience that she wished she had inherited a Government that “was flush”, but far from having money, “the reason why we are restructuring debt is because the country is not capable of paying that debt. Straight and simple”.
Mottley explained that the money required for interest payments alone was more than the wages for the entire civil service. Government spends, she said, $780 million in wages and is spending $800 million in interest alone while the principal was close to $1 billion.
However, Mottley, whose Government has already embarked on a process of debt restructuring and has also introduced a $1.2 billion austerity programme, expressed confidence that the situation could be fixed.
She also stressed the importance of protecting the vulnerable by creating a platform to empower people through education while at the same time giving them access to money to start businesses through trust loans.
Other priorities, the Prime Minister
said, were protecting the beaches, fixing the roads and cleaning the gullies, financing the productive sectors such as tourism and international business and protecting Barbados’ foreign policy.