Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today Inc.
I totally understand the predicament that the Government is in, trying to balance the risk of reopening the country and trying to minimize the economic outfall of staying closed. I know what the shutdown period was like for our construction company (and all non-essential services) where we could not earn any revenue but life was still going on so bills had to be paid. We were very thankful when construction was allowed to start back as soon as the shutdown was lifted.
However, as I think of some of my friends and colleagues, there are so many whose businesses rely heavily on tourism and who have not been as fortunate. We have already seen the impact of COVID-19 on the business giants, far less the smaller businesses like the travel agents, tour operators, bars and restaurants, jet ski operators, etc. So the Government made the decision to reopen and to put strict protocols in place to minimize the chance of visitors causing community spread.
Within three weeks, we now have 26 new cases in isolation (including the nine nurses) so rather than being able to advertise Barbados as COVID-19 free, which was a marketing strategy to attract tourists, the very tourists/returning nationals that we opened to have resulted in us losing that status immediately. If tourists are required to quarantine for seven or 14 days, it doesn’t make sense for those coming for short holidays because they will be tempted to break their isolation so that their whole holiday is not wasted, which puts the population in danger. So, before booking their holiday, they should be aware of possible quarantine periods so that they can make informed decisions. No one can complain for lack of information about the protocols.
We are between a rock and a hard place because we need the foreign exchange and we need to protect our citizens. This is where it is important to look at what we have available to us, that is, “what we have in our house” and find innovative ways to use those resources. Perhaps this is where we need a new marketing campaign. Instead of “Come to Barbados which is (was) COVID-free”, we may have to promote “Sending a piece of Barbados to you”.
I have a friend whose company recently built an online marketing and shopping platform for Barbadian businesses to market their products and services in our main tourist markets and to the Diaspora. This was initially intended to be linked to We Gatherin’ but then was to be rolled out beyond 2020 to the wider market. This is the perfect time for businesses to get on board so that they can begin to promote and sell their products and services globally and earn some of the foreign exchange that we have lost from tourism.
Another source of revenue I can think of right away is heritage tourism and genealogy services. Heritage tourism in the UK alone was estimated at £15.4b in 2015 (Heritage and the Economy – Historic England, 2017). Barbados has benefited from heritage tourism over the years, but we have a lot of untapped potential to more effectively market heritage tourism and genealogy services to people connected to Barbados, in a limited way now, and more aggressively as we go forward.
We already have a number of qualified as well as self-taught genealogists here. If we market genealogy research and combine it with an invitation to visit Barbados in 2021, when it may be safer for travel, we can begin to generate revenue now as well as influence travel plans for next year and beyond.
For example, last year in April, a reader of my book Vaucluse, whose ancestors were related to the owners of Vaucluse plantation in the early 1800s (when it was called Yorkshire Hall) connected with me online. Her ancestors had emigrated to Guyana and then moved to Canada years later and settled there. I invited her to come to Barbados, and her mother and brother came as well. They only stayed for a week but were able to visit the plantation house at Vaucluse, graves of their ancestors, the archives and to meet relatives (the Strakers) that they had not known before. As a result, her brother returned at Christmas with his partner and her daughter for another holiday. And all that took little effort. Imagine if we put some marketing dollars behind heritage and genealogy tourism.
We are seeking to bring visitors to Barbados to work for a year which is a great initiative, but it would be wonderful if we were to actively promote the services of our people globally, especially since so much is being done online now. We have web developers, software developers, editors, teachers, doctors and so many other people who can earn foreign exchange by getting global exposure. More than ever, this is the time to diversify and add new revenue streams to the economy.
Most countries in the world are reeling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was really proud that Barbados was seen as one of the countries that dealt with the pandemic successfully. So I am confused as to how we have managed to get our COVID-19 response right where huge countries with vast resources are struggling and we have failed in something as simple as passing an Integrity Bill in the Senate. Perhaps, for some, it was a case of being between a rock and a hard place as well. Nevertheless, we await an explanation of what really transpired and how it will be resolved.
Donna Every is an author, international speaker, and trainer. Visit her website at www.donnaevery.com or email her at [email protected]