Former Tourism Minister Richard Sealy has lambasted the Government for producing a six-page document on the important tourism sector, accusing the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration of “not being serious about the vital industry”.
“I am hurt by Government’s position generally as it relates to managing tourism. Their heads are in the clouds and their feet are firmly planted in the air. We are in a pandemic and everybody is taking this thing seriously except Barbados,” he said at a Democratic Labour Party (DLP) political meeting at Thorpes Cottage, St George on Monday night.
Sealy, a minister in the last DLP administration, said he was especially put off by the fact that no substantial document on the industry has come from the Mia Mottley-led Government.
“What hurts me is when I can see that The Bahamas, a country serious about tourism, can put together a plan for dealing with post-COVID times – The Bahamas Tourism Readiness and Recovery: Plan for Re-entry into The Tourism Market – which was done in May 2020. They have put together 111 pages in May. What has Barbados done?”
“Here is October 2020. Six months later we get all of six pages in a COVID plan, Product Development Short-Term Plan: Doing Tourism Differently in a COVID-19 Environment. If you see the foolishness that they have put together in six pages. This could not come on my desk when I was your Minister of Tourism. They would have to send it back.”
Sealy insisted that there was a comprehensive plan developed during his tenure, which ended in May 2018 when the DLP lost the general election.
“We did a Tourism Master Plan and it was 11 volumes, almost 1 000 pages. We had serious tourism thinkers then. The terms of reference Tony Arthur drafted for me were 75 pages alone. He is a mighty tourism thinker who is still around. Get him to help you, Miss Mottley. This is serious business. Tourism is what keeps us,” he said, further advising that the Prime Minister replace Senator Lisa Cummins as Minister of Tourism.
“Get a serious Minister. You haven’t had a serious one since 2018. Tourism is too serious to have curse birds and people obsessed with social media likes. You have people there who can do a better job – Colin Jordan or Ian Gooding-Edghill, or go in the Senate for Rudy Grant. You have people who have relationships in the sector; people who know the sector.”
Quoting from the six-page document, Sealy lamented that the plan was not innovative. He said most of the initiatives were things done or talked about before.
“I am seeing Breadfruit and Black Belly Lamb Festival [which] Haynesley Benn and myself spoke about 10 years ago. Then a revival of Festive Friday on a smaller scale throughout various communities; we were doing that 12 years ago. Heritage tours and re-enactments with Alison Sealy-Smith; we were doing that with Trevor Marshall ever since,” he said.
The DLP stalwart said past tourism ministers would have rejected such a plan.
“They could not have brought this to Bree [Sir Harold] St John, they couldn’t even have taken it to Noel Barney Lynch. They surely couldn’t take it to Peter Morgan or Wes Hall. It is foolishness; making a total mockery of everything. It says a lot about how priority is accorded.”
Highlighting the recent deal Government made with Jamaican tour company Chukka Caribbean Adventures to operate Harrison’s Cave, Sealy said the workers should be the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) main concern.
“Workers in tourism are waiting on their representative in the union, Toni Moore. It is the largest division in the BWU and they are suffering the most during this COVID crisis. What is her position? Caves of Barbados is being handed over to a foreign entity and not a word from the general secretary of the Workers’ Union. The workers of Caves of Barbados are being severed as we speak,” he said.
“When I was Minister of Tourism, we received proposals from two local entities on a three-year lease. I told the Board to look at it and let me see if I can take something sensible to Cabinet. I remember [St Thomas MP] Cynthia Forde asking parliamentary questions, because we were having discussions and that had upset her. She hasn’t tabled any parliamentary questions now and the Cave gone.”