A United Nations advance team is expected here early next year to assess the island’s preparation for hosting a major UN conference.
In October, between 3,500 and 4,000 delegates and UN staff from the world body’s nearly 200 member states are due to attend the ninth quadrennial meeting of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
Cicely Walcott, Coordinator for Accommodation and Hospitality for UNCTAD IX, updated hoteliers on the preparations at the quarterly general meeting of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
“A team will be here next month to assess our preparations to date for the meetings, which will be held at multiple venues across the island,” she said.
Walcott encouraged hoteliers to get their house in order to ensure rooms are made available and bookings done seamlessly for the October 18 – 23 conference.
While sessions will be held at multiple locations, it is expected that the Sir Garfield Sobers Sports Complex and the island’s main conference facility, the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (LESC), will be the main venues for the conference.
Walcott told the BHTA there would be a number of pre-meetings before the October 18 start date, which meant that delegates would be on the island for a minimum of seven days.
She encouraged the BHTA members to offer the guests various excursion and tour options to help boost visitor spending.
Walcott also requested that those who were planning to carry out upgrades next year to do so before the conference or postpone them until after.
She said while organizers were expecting all accommodation types to benefit, BHTA members would be given forms so they could indicate the number of rooms they can commit to, the cost and payment schedule for some of those whom Government would not be catering for.
Walcott said: “We are therefore establishing a link directly from the registration page of UNCTAD and linked directly to hotels so delegates can choose freely and make their deposits or payments seamless.
“We will be looking at devising a booking code so we know those are bonafide registrants.”
She added: “We would wish to see if there could be some accommodation during that period to have rates adjusted [downward].”
UNCTAD IX’s organisers are also in the process of working out the logistics for transporting attendees, Walcott told the hoteliers.
She said: “While we may not do a pickup from every hotel we may run a shuttle service, but people who have gone ahead and booked ahead independently there is an opportunity for the car rental sector.”
But as she raise the subject of airlift, Walcott expressed concern that annual events that are usually planned for mid-October could pose challenges for the conference.
She said: “I raise this as well because I want to see that we have adequate airlift.
“We know that there will be a number of events, which normally come around that time and we have reached out to the head of global marketing and Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc..”
She singled out the Barbados Food and Rum Festival, which was held from October 24 to 27 this year and the Spirit of Mega Fam 2019, which was held October 18 to 24.
“These are things that can erode the number of seats available for delegates,” said Walcott, who pointed out that officials were looking at the possibility of using non-traditional routes for connections and getting the American Airline service restored earlier than December.
Walcott also disclosed that authorities were looking at the possibility of visa waivers for some delegates.