NEW YEAR’S MESSAGE FROM BHTA CHAIRMAN STEPHEN AUSTIN
What a year it has been for Barbados.
From the historic General Election in May to our first female Prime Minister, the introduction of Barbados’ Economic and Recovery Plan (BERT), entering into an International Monetary Fund (IMF) Programme, new taxes for the industry, South Coast Sewerage Plant issues, the country’s first credit rating upgrade from Standard & Poors in years . . . the list goes on.
It has indeed been a year for the history books.
As we enter into 2019, we at the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) are quietly optimistic for a number of reasons:
- It is anticipated that this present ‘winter’ period, which ends in April, will be on par with last year’s for our members, with the possibility of an even better performance
- There is high expectation that Ross University’s relocation to Barbados will provide spin off business to our members and Barbadians in general
- The Sandals Beaches property is expected to officially begin construction at Heywoods, St Peter early this year and we anticipate that the development of this state-of-the-art resort will see Barbados becoming the flagship of all the Beaches in the Caribbean
- The country’s foreign reserves are now over $1billion and confidence is returning to our economy.
However, we cannot lose sight of our objectives. We at the BHTA recognize that we have to redouble our efforts, in consultation with Government, in order for our tourism-related businesses to remain competitive.
To this end, in my first address as Chairman of the BHTA last June, I committed to the improvement of a number of areas including:
- Technology and improved data collection
- Membership engagement
- The Sewerage System and Sargassum Seaweed
- The BHTA Education Scholarship Programme
- The Sharing Economy
We have gone full speed ahead in many of these areas and will continue to strengthen our efforts throughout the year. We will also continue our lobbying on behalf of our members in a number of important areas, including sanitation, safety and security, the negotiation of the proposed VAT rate of 15 percent in January 1, 2020, Land Tax rebate and Airline and Room Rate Levies, among others.
In 2019 we also pledge, as an Association, to continue working hand-in-hand with our industry partners and stakeholders in our efforts to promote Barbados regionally and internationally.
With our winter bookings trending on par with last year’s numbers, our members’ biggest concern will be for the summer period, which we will continue to monitor. We have to continue to stay on top of our marketing and promotional efforts as a country, in order to stay competitive and a first choice for travellers from our source markets.
We should never forget as Barbadians that we need to rekindle our Bajan passion and genuinely share our beautiful island with all types of visitors. This leads me to a vision I have for 2019 as seen through the eyes of a visitor.
Barbados 2019 – a visitor’s perspective
Beautiful Barbados, as I look down from the airplane my heart skips a beat and excitement is building as I look forward to a much deserved vacation of rest and relaxation.
I descend the stairs and appreciate the heat of the sun and notice people guiding passengers to the Immigration Hall. I hear steel pan music and see a group performing a local dance. I can feel the rhythm and I smile as this is even better than I imagined.
I am blown away by the service in the airport, as I am able to use a kiosk for speed through Immigration and I am welcomed by Immigration officials. The service of the red caps, as they call them, is impeccable and within an hour, even though several flights landed at the same time, I pass through Customs and I step into my waiting taxi.
The taxi driver chats with me on my way to the hotel and I get some insight on the various places of interest around Barbados. I notice that the streets look clean, the grass well-manicured and I am told by the taxi driver that Barbadians are proud of their country.
I arrive at the hotel and the feeling that I have made the right decision is reinforced as I am greeted by the smiling staff at Reception and take my first sip of a Bajan rum punch. I take a dip in the beautiful turquoise water and a stroll on the beach, where I notice locals and visitors chatting and enjoying various sports.
During my visit, I am encouraged to visit St Lawrence Gap and 2nd Street, Holetown for night entertainment. I feel safe interacting with everyone and even the Police assist me with some much needed directions. I enjoy my visit and decide to do an island tour and visit various attractions. I have so many to choose from that I choose one from the sea, one from the historic perspective and then visit various landmarks around Barbados, I am almost sure that whatever I choose will be enjoyable.
Oistins and Baxter’s Road are my favourites as they feel welcoming, are clean and well organized and, most importantly, have a good Bajan vibe of excitement as both locals and visitors interact. I find the Barbadian people friendly and genuine with a spark of passion and I certainly enjoy interacting with everyone during my visit. I truly believe the Barbadian people make the difference as many now I can call friend.
Everywhere I visit is clean and welcoming and as I return to the airport, I remember the advertisement that first attracted me to visit Barbados and I promise myself that I will visit Barbados again very soon. My next trip will be with my entire family and I will also encourage my friends to visit this beautiful gem of an island called Barbados.
We look to 2019 with a sense of renewed hope and confidence, so this is why I chose to quote this verse from the National Anthem of Barbados:
The Lord has been the people’s guide
For past three hundred years.
With Him still on the people’s side
We have no doubts or fears.
Upward and onward we shall go,
Inspired, exulting, free,
And greater will our nation grow
In strength and unity.
As I take this opportunity to wish all of Barbados a happy and prosperous New Year, let me also, on behalf of the BHTA, extend a big thank-you to all the hard working tourism workers, as well as all those who contribute in any way possible towards the continued success of our tourism industry.
I also extend warm thanks to my fellow directors, our secretariat and our CEO, as well as all members of our association for your support and hard work. Here’s wishing you season’s greetings and a blessed and successful 2019.