Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds has pledged the Government’s help for small businesses, entrepreneurs and tourist attractions to rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic.
And he told journalists during a virtual meeting that he is going to Cabinet with a paper detailing how the Government intends to help small businesses survive the crisis.
He said: “There are a couple of things we have to try to avoid being the end result of this crisis. Obviously the totality of when this ends and the way in which it ends is not entirely in our hands, but to the extent that it is possible for us to manage it what I think we have to avoid is what I call a dystopian trend towards misery and squalor and increased poverty across this island and to do that, we have to avoid the erosion of small business.
“Almost every one of our attractions and certainly the vast majority of them operated before COVID-19 on very thin profit margins, in some instances razor thin if there were profit margins at all. We have to avoid the erosion and devastation of entrepreneurship.
“A lot of the players in the tourism sector are not, contrary to popular belief, the very large and well established, easily identified parts of the sector, but they are small operators whether they be taxis, be selling food and beverage, whether they are providing arts and crafts and the end result of this as best as possible has to be that we carve out a plan so that we avoid the erosion of small business and the devastation of entrepreneurship effort in Barbados.
“We then have as a Barbadian people to start to spend a little bit of our time and where possible our money with those attractions so that they do not all sink and disappear.”
The Minister said he did not want to see the consolidation of large businesses in the industry simply because they had easy access to capital.
Despite the tourism industry suffering a huge setback due to COVID-19, Symmonds maintained that it would still continue to be the island’s main driver.
But he acknowledged that the industry would need to be revamped for the future.
Symmonds said: “Tourism will still continue to be the lead sector for the foreseeable future. There is obviously a reality and I would want all Barbadians to be able to agree that never again if we can avoid it, should we find ourselves in a situation where we are so dependent on one particular sector that an entire economy is virtually brought to its knees as a result of circumstances such as these which are really beyond our control.
“For a long period of our history and our evolution we were a monocultural society, whether it was agricultural dependency and then subsequently became a tourism dependency.
“Part of what we are thinking about now and where in fact I am going to Cabinet within the next few days on, is a paper which will demonstrate clearly the need for us to have as part of the way forward, a ministerial-level committee on building out the linkages between the critical sectors of this economy and using tourism in order to take with us the agricultural sector, the manufacturing sector, cultural industries, the sporting aspects of our community.
“Virtually everything that generates money must be plugged into the lead sector and the lead sector, if it is going to lead in a serious way, must now for the first time ever be walking hand in hand with the development of all the other sectors in Barbados.”
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