Disrespectful and Unpatriotic.
That is how the People’s Democratic Party (PdP) has described Government’s decision to place the management of Harrison’s Cave in the hands of a Jamaican firm, without a suitable explanation.
The party’s spokesperson on tourism Scott Weatherhead suggests that Government should have permitted citizens to own shares in Caves Barbados, the entity which runs the Harrison’s Cave, while the country’s best tourism minds manage its operations.
So concerned is the PdP about the issue, they called a press conference in the Opposition offices at the Parliament Buildings where Weatherhead and other key officials lambasted Government for its decision-making on the matter.
According to him, the PdP’s investigations indicated that five Barbadian-owned tour companies submitted proposals and met all the requirements to secure the contract. All these proposals were rejected by Government in favor of the Jamaican firm and the opposition spokesman questioned Government’s motives in the absence of clarity from Tourism Minister Kerrie Symmonds.
“We would like the Government of Barbados to come to the public with clean hands on this issue. We would like to know if this Government has in fact appointed a foreign entity to lease or manage our national treasure, Harrison’s Cave,” demanded Weatherhead.
He declared: “Appointing a foreign company to lease, manage or operate our premier tourism product offering, Harrison’s Cave, would be as ridiculous and unpatriotic as the Government of France granting a German company a contract to manage the Eiffel Tower. It would be as ridiculous as the British Government granting a lease of Stonehenge to a French company or the Egyptian Government issuing a contract to a foreign company to manage the great Pyramid of Giza.”
Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds last month revealed Government went through a proper tendering process and determined the Jamaican firm was the best candidate.
In response, Weatherhead suggested that recent comments by the Tourism Minister advocating the protection of local tourism stakeholders were hypocritical.
Instead, he called on Government to rethink its initial decision and instead list Caves Barbados on the Barbados Stock Exchange, allowing citizens to invest in it.
“Appoint an independent board comprised of the heads of the local tour operators, with Government retaining a single seat on that board. Allow this entity to be managed by experienced people in the local tourism industry to the benefit and profit of all Barbadians, not just to some foreign entity and not to the detriment of the Government… This is the way all Barbadians will truly benefit from this national treasure,” he suggested.
If properly managed, he said, the project could yield tremendous profits for taxpayers. Under management of Government or a foreign company, the venture would continue to struggle, Weatherhead said.
“We want a cruise tourism sector that facilitates a broader base of participation by the citizens of this country from all walks of life as stakeholders. Not foreigners, buying up our local tours and taking over our tourism business. We call on the Minister to be transparent in this matter and we call on Government to expose all of the details of this to the people of Barbados. There are better ways to go about this thing,” he said.
Meanwhile, efforts to reach the Minister of Tourism and International Transport for comment were unsuccessful.