Local hotels and restaurants are being chided for their perceived failure to promote local food.
The rebuke comes from Barbados’ ambassador to the United Nations Elizabeth Thompson, who warned that to continue along this path would only rob visitors of the authentic Barbadian experience which they seek, while ceding ground to the shared economy, such as Air BNB.
She contended that there currently exists the notion that tourists want to eat exactly what they have at home and what they are used to. Thompson said this goes against all of the evidence of why Oistins, Gros Islet and numerous other communities of this type, have built a reputation and substantial profits selling local food.
She also argued that for too long rural Barbados has been left out of the tourism product, and making local menus the staple at hotels, would ensure these rural communities finally get their share of the pie.
“Tourists who want a different type of holiday, a less controlled, packaged tourism product are in favour of an authentic, immersive experience with the local community. This is part of the explanation for the popularity of AirBnB and similar accommodation.
“There is a market for this type of tourism and more important, is that is affords the average person and the farmer, a larger piece of the tourism pie. Food and agriculture are the platform on which such immersive experiences are built. And we must encourage these experiences and this market niche just as we have promoted the more formal hotel plant,” said Thompson.
“This is where rural communities come in as being perfectly well-suited to catering to the tourist who does not want the typical hotel package, who wants to understand how the locals live. We must not undervalue or seek to crowd out this sector of the market. Let me also make the point that management of supply and farmers cooperatives can address hotel and restaurant complaints about inconsistency and inadequacy in supply from local farmers.”
The former government minister pointed out that this was an area which could also give impetus to an untapped area of the creative economy, in the form of Caribbean cuisine shows, noting that channels such as food network have grown in popularity in recent years.
“Hotels and restaurants must serve more local foods, fruits and juices. Not only will this reduce our import bill and foreign exchange outflows, but create new revenue streams and markets for small shops, and opportunities to showcase the talents of chefs and mixologists to create menu offerings which are twists on traditional foods; to evolve a new Caribbean cuisine, promote it internationally; to establish a Caribbean food TV network and programming, all with a view to producing agrifoods,” the Barbados ambassador to the UN noted.