Though a popular watersport locally, diving in Barbados has failed to rake in large numbers of tourists, according to a local watersports operator.
Andre Miller, marine biologist, and owner of Dive Barbados Blue has expressed that the diving culture in Barbados needs to be aggressively marketed internationally. The local scuba instructor was speaking at Sugar Bay Resort for the launch of the third annual Dive Fest 2019. He pointed out that Barbados was not being recognised as a diving hub.
“We have approximately 1.1 million tourists and most of them are long stay visitors, 600, 000 or so, and the rest are cruise ship passengers. Do you know how many of them dive in Barbados? One to two per cent,” Miller said.
“There is so much growth for diving that we have not yet scratched the surface,” he continued.
The diving operator went on to emphasise that visitors were looking for the ultimate experience and thrill. He contended that with 70 per cent of the island’s watersport activities occurring at Carlisle Bay, there is a need for more protected marine areas. Miller stressed that the diving experience in Barbados is something that is “special and unique” and unlike other destinations.
These comments were supported by Senator Rudy Grant, chief executive officer of the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association (BHTA), who stated that the promotion of marine tourism, especially diving, has not been fully explored.
“This is an activity that can encourage a lot more visitors to come to Barbados and to explore Barbados and to encourage not only divers but the family and friends of divers to come to our destination,” he said, adding, “The marine environment does provide a significant opportunity for us and I don’t think that we have exploited the opportunities that the marine environment resources provide.”
Business Development Consultant for the BHTA, Jacqueline Gill outlined that the objective of Dive Fest was to promote the beauty and excitement of the marine life to locals and visitors and also educate the youth on the importance of the environment.
“It is a conservational diving festival so we seek to educate our youngsters and everyone on the importance of protecting our marine environment,” she said, adding “The main [objective] for Dive Fest is to promote Barbados as a destination for diving and to increase the number of persons who come to Barbados for diving.”
The third edition of Dive Fest will run July 2 to July 7, 2019, with the opening ceremony and screening of Mission Blue at Copacabana kicking off the week of activities. However, there will be minor changes this year, such as the removal of East Coast Day due to the build-up of sargassum. Nevertheless, the week-long festival will feature water awareness programmes, scuba and free diving demonstrations, beach and underwater cleanups, recyclable boat races, turtle tagging, lion fishing and more. (KK)