Two prominent UWI professors have expressed disappointment at the low levels of research being carried out on the region’s bread-and-butter tourism industry and the lack of students pursuing tourism-related studies as a regional conference opened today.
Professor Justin Robinson, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the UWI Cave Hill Campus Deputy Principal of that campus Professor Winston Moore addressed the opening of the 4th Caribbean International Tourism Conference at the UWI School for Graduate Studies and Research under the theme Navigating the Destination of the Future.
Professor Moore said given the importance of the sector to the region’s economies he was expecting more research, adding that it was even more disappointing when compared to the level of study being done in other regions.
“There is a significant space for us to do a lot more research on our Caribbean economies,” said Moore.
He said statistics from the World Bank estimated that the region raked in $1,878 billion in revenue in 2017, and for that reason alone Barbados and the rest of the region should have a “large amount of research being done”.
He said: “If you do a Google search for the words tourism and Caribbean you would obtain just 403,000 results,” adding that out of that there were only 30,000 Google search results for the Bahamas, 66,000 for Jamaica and only 34,000 for Barbados.
“In East Asia, I obtained 934,000 hits, Europe two million hits and the US, 1.72 million. And for specific destinations in Europe, the numbers are even larger – for France, I obtained 1.2 million and Italy 748,000.
“So the Caribbean tourism is a very important part of our regional economies but we are not doing as much research on our Caribbean product.”
Professor Moore insisted that by carrying out research in several areas policymakers and industry officials could be in a better position to make more informed decisions and do better planning.
He said he was pleased to see that a number of research papers on Caribbean tourism were to come out of this year’s conference, but singled out festival and heritage tourism and other niche areas where the research was lacking.
The UWI lecturer pointed to the need for further research on climate change and its impact on the industry, explaining that this would present opportunities for the region to build resilience in relation to transportation, energy and coastal infrastructures.
Professor Moore: “More importantly, however, is the need to foster the culture of taking the impact of climate change seriously.
“This means that we have to inform our political decisions on the research that is being undertaken in the region and this has to inform policy formulation and be incorporated into legislative requirements and be an integral part of our institutional practices.”
Professor Robinson declared that Barbadians need to come to terms with the fact that tourism will continue to be the lifeblood of the economy.
A director of the Central Bank for the past 12 years, Professor Robinson said he has had “a front seat view” of how critical tourism and its direct services are to the local economy, adding that “any slow down or pause in tourism has an immediate and negative effect on all of the macroeconomic variables that are important to Barbados”.
He said: “Despite that, I have a sense that many parts of our society have not yet made their peace, so to speak, with tourism. But I certainly want to use this opportunity to really affirm the importance of tourism to the Barbados economy.
“Sometimes I hear discussions about something that could be in place of tourism. That is certainly impractical and in the realm of fantasy.
“Our discussion has to be around industries and tourism, that we can have other sectors to help tourism along the way.”
Expressing disappointment at the number of Barbadians undertaking tourism-related studies at the UWI, the social studies faculty pointed out that of almost 3,000 students in his faculty, fewer than 30 could be found in a tourism programme at any point.
Professor Robinson said: “Maybe even more disappointing is that if you don’t want to do a full degree in tourism the number of students who are taking tourism electives along the way is again disappointingly small.
“I think it’s part of that phenomenon where we haven’t really as a society made peace with the sector that drives our quality of living.”