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BHTA boss buoyant on tourism outlook

by Marlon Madden
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A leading tourism official said today he remains upbeat about the industry’s performance despite a tough year and a number of lingering issues that continue to pose a threat.

He pleaded with Government to act to curb littering, improve timely garbage collection and strengthen safety and security.

Chairman of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Stephen Austin said he was aware new garbage trucks arrived on the island recently and more were scheduled to come “soon”, but said garbage collection was still too slow.

He said: “I am pleading with Government and the sanitation service to do all that is possible to clean up the pile of garbage all around Barbados.”

He pointed out that in some neighbourhoods on the south coast the garbage had not been collected for up to four weeks.

Austin said: “This is not good. People are walking the streets and seeing the garbage really is not good for our tourism product.

“It is especially bad in some areas and in some cases it is reported that the actual garbage cans can’t hold them so it is on the streets now. This is unhealthy and unsightly and we need to fix the national problem. I wonder if it is a case of poor scheduling in some areas,”

Austin pledged the BHTA’s support, saying he remained hopeful that the condition would soon improve and the association would do what it could to help including its annual clean up campaign.

While suggesting that the time had come for a national waste management initiative, Austin also called on Barbadians to stop littering, stating that “if we teach this in schools I believe the children will call out parents and call out adults that litter”.

Austin urged all industry workers to design programmes for their communities to help with the issue of waste management and recycling.

In relation to safety and security, the BHTA official said there has been tremendous progress with the improvements in lighting and CCTV cameras along the tourist belts, but said there continued to be an unacceptable level of visitor harassment and gun related crimes.

Pointing out that the “characters” committing the offences were known, Austin said often when they were released they would return and do the same thing in the same location.

The BHTA official recommended that law enforcement officials find a way to “impede” those individuals by banning them from the locations and providing rehabilitation.

“It is frustrating to have an establishment trying to attract visitors to our island and locals, but they do not feel safe. The BHTA will continue to lobby Government and work with all of our stakeholders,” said Austin.

“We also suggest the need to have a specific tourism taskforce in the entertainment areas of the tourism industry. Until we are serious about it we are going to have no change,” he said, adding that there was a need for more uniformed policemen to be stationed in the St Lawrence Gap area.

Despite those lingering concerns, officials said they were satisfied with several improvements this year that they believed helped to cement the island’s favourable performance thus far.

Austin said he was especially pleased with the upgrades at the GAIA, but said he was eagerly looking forward to the planned expansion and further improvements, as well as a reduction in the waiting time to collect checked luggage.

Chief Executive Officer of the BHTA Rudy Grant said although this year could be considered a tough one with many uncertainties including the Brexit development and US and China trade wars, the local tourism sector performed well.

Delivering his administrative review to the audience, which included Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds, Grant said “as we contemplate the challenges ahead and we reflect on the last quarter performance there is a lot for us to be satisfied about”.

“Our tourism arrival numbers continue to improve. There has been growth in long stay visitor arrivals of [almost] five per cent for the period January to September 2019. We are anticipating that we will continue to perform better in 2020,” said Grant.

Barbados welcomed 522,883 visitors, a 4.2 per cent increase or 21,200 more long-stay tourists for the first nine months of this year, compared to same period last year.

Grant said hoteliers continued to notice “a lot more last-minute bookings, which change the projections in a significantly positive way”.

“While we anticipate that our industry will continue to expand in 2020, we cannot however be complacent, and we must be determined to work even harder.

“Sometimes I know we become frustrated at the pace with which issues seem to progress, but we must never tire,” advised Grant.

With the island scheduled to host a number of events next year in relation to the planned We Gatherin’ 2020 campaign, which should attract a large number of Barbadians from the diaspora, Grant said the BHTA would also be doing what it could to help drive arrival numbers and spend.

“The BHTA has developed a marketing programme called 20 in 2020, where participating members have been requested to offer discount during the 2020 year of at least 20 per cent for direct bookings,” he said, adding that to date 25 members had confirmed their participation.

marlonmadden@barbadostoday.bb

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