Allegations of racism, like the ones levelled against the Sandy Lane Hotel by British rapper Tinie Tempah could have damaging consequences on the country’s image.
This was the assessment of Tourism Minister Senator Lisa Cummins who has refused to attribute blame on an alleged incident that unfolded on the sprawling West Coast property.
But whether true or false, she is distancing ‘brand Barbados’ from any negative perceptions that may have resulted.
“We are not in a position where we could say that the facts are this or the facts are that, because those things would be specific to the hotel. But what we do have to also be concerned about is the perception of Barbados as a destination, because when these things go from the public space to the international, you’re not seeing a single property. You are only seeing where that property is located, and whether true or false, as a destination, we still have to be concerned about image,” she told Barbados TODAY.
Okogwu, a 32-year-old of Nigerian descent, accused Sandy Lane security guards of “racial profiling” when they “aggressively challenged” his presence on the property as he was approaching the gym.
In a lengthy post on Instagram, the Grammy award winner also rapped management for being “incredibly rude” and “condescending”.
“[The security officer] assumed I couldn’t have been a guest despite telling him I was. When I tried to raise this and other issues with management, they were incredibly rude and condescending,” he recalled.
While pledging not to let the ordeal dampen his 32nd birthday celebrations, the artiste identified the ordeal as a timely reminder that “there are still some places where deep down they don’t think you can ever really belong”.
Okogwu then reminded his followers that every human deserves to be treated with respect, and encouraged them not to spend their time “or anything else, where you don’t feel that respect”.
In the midst of a firestorm of criticism from some of the rapper’s Instagram following of over 780 000, Sandy Lane wasted no time in conveying its “wholehearted apologies” to Okogwu for any “misunderstandings” or “disappointment that was caused during his stay”.
“We have welcomed guests to Sandy Lane from all over the world for the last 60 years and every single one of them is special to us,” the resort said in a release on Monday.
“We pride ourselves on going the extra mile to make everyone feel welcome here in Barbados and are so sorry that one of our guests did not feel cared for in that way. Our wholehearted apologies were extended to this guest at the time here at the hotel, for any misunderstanding or disappointment that was caused during their stay,” added the correspondence sent out by Marketing and Public Relations Manager Re-Shana Horton.
The luxurious five-diamond resort also pledged to review the impact of its “significantly enhanced” security presence, which the hotel claims was assembled in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cummins, meanwhile, noted that over the weekend, her Ministry, through the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., had reached out to the rapper “to address any concerns that have been raised”.
She also responded to questions raised on social media about alleged disparities between how tourists of African descent are treated on the island, when compared with their Caucasian counterparts.
“I can’t say that it is something that you see often, but one time if it presents itself is too many,” she told Barbados TODAY.
“I think brand Barbados as you have seen is about anti-discrimination of any kind. That includes anti-discrimination on the basis of gender, sex, religion, sexual orientation . . . . So that is brand Barbados and that is who we represent at all times and in all spaces,” the Tourism Minister stressed.
“So Barbados does take a dim view of anything that does speak to discrimination of any kind, wherever it presents itself at any time.”