Barbados and Ghana both played fundamental roles in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the time has now arrived for the two countries to forge closer links with each other, tourism representatives from the two countries have agreed.
The consensus was reached as officials of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) met their Ghanaian counterparts at a reception at Champers Restaurant yesterday evening.
Historians believe the bulk of Barbadians’ ancestors were enslaved people captured and transported across the Middle Passage from the then British colony of the Gold Coast, which became independent Ghana in 1957.
Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Tourism Authority Akwesi Agyaman said interest in Africa among other countries in the world had grown since his country held its series of events commemorating the 400th anniversary of the start of the trans-Atlantic slave trade over the past year.
He said: “We have just come off a successful Year of Return 2019 commemorating the arrival of the first documented African slaves in Virginia from Ghana in 1619.
“Four hundred years later, we felt it right to comemmorate the activity.
“It is not something we are proud of but it happened, and we celebrated the resilience of the African spirit, because not many people can go through what we went through and produce presidents, scientists and musicians of such a high calibre, so Africans have a lot to be proud of.
“I must also say that at first we thought it would be just a ‘Ghana thing’, but little did we know it was going to be a global campaign for the African diaspora and we have seen a surge in conversation around Africa across all continents.”
Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds underscored the importance of Barbados and Ghana forging closer links at this time given their role in shaping world history over the past 400 years.
Symmonds said: “Ghana was the major point of departure, while Barbados was often the first arrival point for the slaves in the New World.
“So these two countries were at the epicentre of the reshaping of capital that made today’s world possible.
“It is unfortunate that for nearly 400 years, although we have existed as part of the community of nations, Barbados and Ghana have not been able to evolve a manner of living and working together to have focused developmental opportunities for our people, and I am glad to be part of a Government reaching across the Atlantic as this is an idea and ideal whose time has come.”
Symmonds said the two countries were presently working towards an air services agreement, after which they would determine which charter services would be used to transport passengers between them.
The time had come for Barbados to make the tourism industry a year-round one rather than concentrating the bulk of efforts on the winter season, the Minister declared.
Symmonds said: “We have boxed ourselves into a corner where Barbados is considered a warm weather getaway, but we are much more than that.
“It makes no sense economically for us to work full steam seven or eight months a year, then come to a point when we go into a state of decline after winter.
“No economy in the world has a major industry that only works seven months a year; we need to make sure tourism becomes a year round thing, so we have to look at places like Ghana where people will want to dip into the repertoire of experiences, heritage and culture that blend our two countries.”