Minister of Tourism and International Transport Kerrie Symmonds is sending a strong warning that there will be no monopolizing of any aspect of the island’s vital tourism industry.
Presenting a resolution for the final report of the National Cruise Development Commission in Parliament on Tuesday, Symmonds said he will not be tolerating any “all is mine mentality” as Government seeks to develop the sector.
In fact, he said Government was moving to broaden the base of participation to include those who wish to enter or grow within the tourism industry.
Symmonds said it was not fair that taxi operators were not benefitting as they should from the cruise industry, pointing out that recent surveys showed that they were only getting about five per cent of the business from cruise passengers, which was being gobbled up by the big players in the tour industry.
“It is philosophically wrong because we will alienate too many of our own people in this country from economic opportunities,” said Symmonds.
“Our duty now must be to make sure that the interventions are strategically done, not to snuff out anybody’s business but to make sure that opportunities are created for new business,” he said.
He said while he congratulated and saluted the entrepreneurship vision of the primary tour operating entity in Barbados, it could not be that it was operating in a way that excluded other players.
Without naming the business, Symmonds said: “This entity is involved in attractions, it is involved in ground transportation, it will be involved in transportation of luggage, it is deeply involved in the air-to-sea transport, it is involved in short excursions, if you want port side entertainment it is involved in that too, [and] it is involved in home porting. This is a mega enterprise. But the reality is that the size of the enterprise alone creates an interesting challenge for the policymaker.”
He said this meant that there was a “consolidation of opportunity” that could not be allowed to go on much longer. He noted that micro and small business operators must be “carried along” on this journey for national development.
“You can’t talk about going into a growth trajectory if the opportunity for growth is consolidated in the hands of too few,” he said.
“We want a cruise tourism sector that reflects a broader base of participation by the citizens of this country from all walks of life as stakeholders. The public’s interest has to be that we want deeper and more meaningful competition in the Barbados economy with respect to cruise tourism and that we want greater access to opportunity for all people from all walks of life in Barbados with respect to having a chance to participate in cruise in this country.”
Symmonds said one of the proposals was to give taxi operators the opportunity to offer “branded tours”, having recognized that some passengers wanted to do independent tours and activities across the island.
The Minister said it was also his intention to introduce legislation to ensure players in the tourism sector adhere to high standards.
He said “strict insurance liability standards” was a major impediment to new entrants in the ground transportation tour industry, and Government would be doing what it could to help taxi operators get up to speed.
“At the Port there is an agreement now to help the taxi operators get the necessary insurances so that the they can form, in the context of a corporative effort, the kind of ground transportation unit we want them to form. We will carry the cost of the insurance commitment for the first year then as the time goes by we scale it down gradually,” said Symmonds.