The Holetown area is in line for a Government “rejuvenation” plan to boost tourism, which Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds suggests must benefit ordinary citizens, not just overseas investors.
Symmonds told the launch of the 42nd annual Holetown festival, which celebrates Barbados’ first European and African settlement 392 years ago, that although the area had become the Caribbean’s most sought after real estate, that it was Government’s role
to ensure Barbadians from all walks of life could benefit.
Symmonds said: “There is a reason why it is referred to as the Platinum Coast and here in Holetown, of course, you are at the centre of the Platinum Coast and that is simply because this is the place that is home to some of the most lucrative and expensive and highly sought after pieces of luxury tourism and investment to be found anywhere in the Caribbean. Because it is so sought after, it is exceptionally valuable in commercial terms.
“Philosophically, I must tell you as far as I am concerned, this tourism thing means nothing if all cannot genuinely say that tourism in Barbados is not a business created by foreigners, run by foreigners for foreigners. It must be about the Barbadian people and if we can come to that point where all of you feel that you are genuine stakeholders in the tourism product then I think we have satisfied ourselves on a mission that is very important in terms of economically enfranchising the communities of this country.”
The tourism minister, who is also the area’s parliamentary representative, then announced that Government is to lead a mission to rejuvenate the island’s first town, under the guidance of the ministry’s Director of Tourism Development, Dr. Kerry Hall.
Symmonds declared: “As we refresh, reimagine and rethink Holetown, to make it the best possible visitor experience that it can be in terms of entertainment, culture, and commercial activity, it must encompass more people who reflect the average Barbadian person.”
He also challenged Barbadians to re-imagine the tourism product, arguing that what made Barbados wealthy was not just real estate, but its history and culture.
He told the large crowd: “That oft times untold story about the role Barbados plays as it fitted itself into the shaping of the global community is what makes this country so sought after and this strip of land here because of its rich history which is so valuable. But to marry that with the culture of the place and to get an even fuller understanding.
“We offer the world world-class entertainers, world-class award-winning musicians, world-class award-winning beers, world-class award-winning rum, world-class award-winning mixologists and chefs.”
According to Symmonds, the Holetown Festival was the perfect opportunity to combine the best of what the area had to offer and present it to the world as a full package.
He said: “All of our studies and all of our research in the Ministry of Tourism and in the Ministry of Culture is pointing us to the fact that yes people want to spend a little time and money on memorabilia to say this is a piece of Barbados that I brought home with me. But what they are really seeking is an opportunity to immerse themselves in an experiential way. To have an experience of what it is to live like a Bajan. What we do in our communities, they want to learn, those things that we take for granted, they want to take part in an understand and be a part of. And as we evolve as a tourism product, we need to help them be able to do this.
“My ministry is ready to place itself at the disposal of the festival committee. We want to elevate this festival to the next level. It is time that the festival benefits from the technical expertise of the Barbados Tourism Authority which is staffed by professionals… it is time that the festival also benefits as best we can in difficult financial circumstances from some of the financial assistance of the state so that we can life it to the next level.
“You have been tested and tried and placed in the balance and have not been found wanting. Forty years is a long time and you cannot be allowed to fail.”