Tourism officials are encouraged by Barbados’ efforts as a tourist destination to be more inclusive and tolerant of members of the Lesbian, Gays, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) community.
Pointing to the diversity training initiative, Fresh Hospitality Training that was launched in Barbados last September, Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) Frank Comito said it would be extended to other regional destinations this year.
He insisted that awareness and training were “critical tools in the advocacy” for greater inclusiveness and tolerance of various groups.
“So we are continuing in that vain. There is a reticence by many leaders, but we are starting to see that change as well, particularly with some leadership shown by the Ministry of Tourism,” he said, adding that when the training was done in Barbados words such as acceptance, tolerance and understanding “came up”.
It was in mid-September last year that the pilot project was launched by Virgin Holidays and the CHTA’s Education Foundation, and commenced in October at the PomMarine Hotel and Hospitality Training Institute.
The project seeks to provide diversity training for hotel employees and tourism students and equip the industry with improved service skills.
Responding to questions during a press conference at the Caribbean Travel Marketplace in Montego Bay, St James on Wednesday, CHTA President Affonso-Dass said the matter of inclusiveness and diversity was “on the radar” of the association. She said she was encouraged by what has been taking place so far.
“We are starting more active conversations with governments because at the end of the day, on the books in many of our destinations, there are laws and there are antiquated laws and laws that need changing. We recognize this and so we are trying to speak to it in a number of different ways,” said Affonso-Dass.
“The main thing and the most encouraging for me is the fact that you started that conversation, and there have been indications from a number of ministers across the Caribbean that it is a conversation that they know they need to have,” she said.
Pointing out that people had “basic rights, Affonso-Dass said she was optimistic that Caribbean destinations that were less inclusive would soon change.
“It is more and more a part of our regional conversation and I am encouraged by what I am seeing and all I can say to you is that I am hopeful for the day when we will be truly inclusive and I think it is probably sooner than later,” she said.
Meanwhile, Chief Marketing Officer of the CHTA Matt Cooper acknowledged that the required change would not happen overnight, adding that it would require a “change in the hearts and minds” of the people.
“We realize that it is not a short road. It is not something that we just look at solely for monetary purposes and realizing the potential of the LGBTQ+ market, but it is an advocacy issue, it is an issue that really takes time,” he said. [email protected]