Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds has flatly contradicted the Central Bank Governor’s declaration of a weak performance by the tourism industry in the last quarter of 2018, when the winter season began.
But the Minister also accepted that depending on what dates were used as the parameter for measuring the performance, there was a possibility of a slight decline.
“I have no idea where the Central Bank Governor got this information,” Symmonds told Barbados TODAY.
Contrary to Haynes’s statement at last month’s news conference, the Minister declared a “bumper year” which had spilled over into January.
Symmonds said: “I personally asked the Governor from whence it came and what he was guided by. He assured me that it would have to be a misrepresentation, but I cannot ascertain what the basis of that would be.”
As he reviewed the economy for 2018 last month, Haynes told journalists that tourism’s sub-par performance was largely responsible for the economy shrinking a further 0.1 per cent to 0.6 per cent over the final three months.
The governor said cruise visitors for the year fell by almost 10 per cent while the rate of growth for tourism had fallen 0.6 per cent.
But Symmonds insisted: “Our end of year figures for December 2018 would indicate that tourism in Barbados would have grown in spite of all the odds.”
He said although the issues surrounding the South Coast sewage spillage had led to four source markets issuing travel advisories against Barbados last February, the industry had still managed to thrive.
During the Test match between England and the West Indies at Kensington Oval it was almost impossible to get a hotel bed in Barbados, he added.
Symmonds told Barbados TODAY: “We overcame that. In terms of cruise tourism I think that was flat, but it certainly was not able to reflect the suggestion that the Governor is making. It was a bumper December and January has continued in the same vein.
“I know that it is an unquestionable fact that out of the United Kingdom we have had the second best ever year of performance on record. Out of the United States we broke all previous records and had the best year ever and in terms of Canada’s long stay arrivals it has been the third best year on record.
“So I am not sure where the statistical data came from or what informed it or what even was the cutoff point.”
But the Minister acknowledged that if October or the start of November was used as a cutoff point, there was a possibility an argument could be made that there appeared to be a decline.
Yet, Symmonds said he was not too concerned about those statistics.
What was much more important, he declared, was the need to get tourists to open their wallets and spend more freely.
He said: “I don’t worry too much about the numbers. I think what we have to look at really and truly is the spend and all that I’ve been saying especially with regards to the cruise sector has been aimed at trying to get the Barbadians who are involved in craft, in vending and watersports activities to get their act together, to up their game.
“It all resonates in terms of spend and this country desperately needs the spend from our tourists if we are going to continue to maintain and sustain the quality of life that we now have.”