Barbados’ tourism sector is in need of a major overhaul.
So says Minister of Tourism and International Transport Senator Lisa Cummins who has maintained that the COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call which Barbados and the rest of the world needed.
“In order for tourism to plan for resilience there has to be a paradigm shift in how we see tourism. The first thing has to be that we have to stop thinking about tourism as simply visitors to our island arriving by the planeload, checking into lush or budget hotels. We have to look at it as a complete value and supply chain that has an entire ecosystem that exists globally and locally.
“We need to have an entirely different conversation and with a changed conversation will come a change in outlook and policy.” Cummins said.
“We are intending to use this downtime where our markets are challenged and they are in lockdown themselves, to build an entirely new, inclusive tourism model that helps us to navigate not just these turbulent times but new turbulent times that may be ahead in a way that allows us to be resilient, build new bridges, create new strategic opportunities for our citizens at all levels to be empowered in order to transform our economy into dynamic enterprises and dynamic structures in a post COVID-19 era.”
The minister explained that tourism had been disrupted long before the global pandemic.
“We’ve had a love-hate relationship with tourism, largely driven by the rejection of the idea that visitor arrivals in countries should be the main determinant of our future. Yet, in 2020 and as recently as just a few days ago, we’re still hearing voices in the public space treating to tourism as if it is something which passed the sell by date 20, if not more, years ago.
“Tourism has been disrupted not since March or February, but globally for many years. We had needed to be disrupted globally for a long time,” Cummins said.
“Narrow conversations about visitor arrivals are exactly what we do not need. That kind of analysis is for a time long past.”
The minister said tourism now requires cross-disciplinary teams and skills development that transcend marketing, hospitality and hotel management.
Cummins disclosed that Government was planning to launch a new virtual marketplace with the aim of taking full advantage of the tourism industry.
She said the virtual initiative would help monetize some of the island’s offerings.
“We are preparing in the ministry to launch a new virtual tourism marketplace that integrates elements of every single sector and creates what we call online commercial real estate.
“With people moving or not, there are revenue options to be earned. When people are exercising on their treadmills and they are in their homes and unable to go outside why are we not using the iconic images of Harrison’s Cave, of Welchman Hall Gully for people to be on running trails. Why are we not using it for gaming? All those are monetization opportunities that are available on a 24/7 basis in a digital economy,” Cummins outlined.