The Ministry of Tourism is embarking on a campaign to help struggling businesses in the sector rebound from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through a marketing campaign dubbed Barbados Uh Come From, authorities are seeking to encourage more locals to visit attractions, restaurants and hotels, and take part in other tourism-related activities, in an effort to support the sector which is among those worst-hit by the pandemic.
On Tuesday, Minister of Tourism Senator Lisa Cummins, other ministry officials and members of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) visited the sprawling Andromeda Botanic Gardens and the popular nearby Seaview Bar in Bathsheba, St Joseph, as they kicked off a series of meet-and-greet sessions.
Officials will be meeting with stakeholders across the island in the coming weeks to “hear their stories and concerns” and become familiar with their product offering in an effort to come up with solutions and better encourage more locals to support those locations.
In addition, the Tourism Minister has hinted at technical assistance for restaurants, attractions and other tourism industry spaces that have not been able to withstand the crisis.
“There are some businesses that remain open. There are some businesses at 10 per cent, 30 per cent, 15 per cent capacity, and we have to consider the impact that will have socially and on the financial wellbeing of those persons who are employed there, so it is not a single issue. It is a significant issue that has multiple levels of repercussions and implications that we have to look at comprehensively,” said Cummins.
“So, we are meeting with the various economic advisory teams, development teams and the business development teams and we are refashioning, within the Ministry, one of the existing commissions to focus on business continuity and business development, to give them empowerment support, and we are working with the various line ministries to see what measures are available to support them,” she added.
Cummins, who was speaking with journalists following a tour of the Andromeda Botanic Gardens, gave the assurance that her Ministry, working in association with the BTMI and other agencies, would employ a multipronged approach “that looks at sustainability, continuity, development, future growth as well as community involvement”.
She said while planning was ongoing and the hope was to fully roll out the marketing campaign in another month, she was hoping to have several interest groups starting tours of attractions within a week.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started affecting the island back in March, several businesses have either closed, placed staff on short weeks, or adjusted their business model as they carry out restructuring.
Cummins said she was hoping that the domestic tourism initiative would help to get frontline tourism workers “back out into the market”.
“We want to make sure that we are able to keep these businesses afloat, to keep Barbadians employed,” the Tourism Minister said, adding that a part of the initiative was to ensure that Barbadians learn more about the local offerings and are able to help sell them.
She said she was aware of the hardship being faced by those in the industry due to a lack of business, as well as the reduced spending power of Barbadians, and the new project would be just one of the ways to breathe new life into the tourism product.
“So, we have to find that balance between sustainability of a business and accessibility to Barbados, and it is in that sweet spot that we are trying to focus our efforts,” she said.
Cummins also said a part of the plan was to deepen linkages with other sectors through “deeper value chain integration”, explaining that in coming weeks she would be meeting with representatives from the manufacturing and agriculture sectors, as well as tertiary institutions to determine what skills will be needed for “the tourism industry of the future”.
She also announced that ministry officials were in the process of developing a virtual reality platform that would allow people who are unable to travel to the destination to still experience various aspects, as well as those who want a preview before coming.
She said a revamped website would also be introduced as part of the marketing efforts.
“COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to see how disruptive technology has been to every single sector, and if we don’t use this opportunity by COVID to look at new innovative means of selling goods and services . . . then we would have learned nothing from a perfectly good crisis,” said Cummins.
“We are going to be delving very deeply into that roll out for the tourism sector so that, by the time we can see COVID-19 in our rear-view mirror, Barbados will be emerging from this pandemic and from these closures with a reenergised, reimagined and 21st century tourism product that is going to be unrivalled by most.”
Operators of the Andromeda Botanic Garden and Seaview Bar welcomed the initiative, saying they were looking forward to increased business as a result of the new efforts. ([email protected])