Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today.
by Donna Every
This week, I met a group of visitors from the US who came to the island primarily because of the advertisements that Barbados placed in key publications in the US. They did their research online and found a beautiful five-bedroom villa, negotiated a price, and five couples came down to stay.
Although the price they negotiated for the villa rental was less than the regular price, it was certainly better than having it empty.
Most of them stayed for three weeks as well, so it was still some contribution to the foreign reserves.
Having made the trek from various parts of the US, they all remarked how comfortable and safe they felt in Barbados and were impressed with the way we are handling the COVID-19 crisis.
Once they passed their second PCR test which they had at the villa (I like that touch), they were able to go out and about and patronised several west coast restaurants some nights and had a personal chef come in for two or three nights of the week. They also patronized a wine store and the supermarket to stock up the villa, all going into our coffers.
While most of them were working remotely, they still had time to enjoy the attractions of the island, like the Animal Flower Cave and Hunt’s gardens, while the more adventurous ones went diving in Carlisle Bay. They felt so safe in Barbados and found the people so friendly that several of them are already planning to come back in February for a month and will invite other friends to join them.
One of the visitors who is a tax partner of a firm said that his firm has decided to work remotely until June 2021 and he would love to stay for six months but unfortunately, he has an elderly relative living with them which is probably the only reason they cannot do it.
That is only one person, but I believe that we need not despair in spite of the fact that our regular tourism has been hard hit.
While holiday travel is not being permitted from the UK and other countries, you can still travel for work.
We have already positioned ourselves to take advantage of our reputation as a COVID-safe environment, so we need to guard it fiercely and not become complacent.
We need to do all that we can to ensure that community spread does not occur.
I recently read an article in Inc.com in which Bill Gates predicted seven changes in life after COVID-19. Two of them were that remote meetings would become the norm and that people will choose to live in different places.
Barbados has been quick to capitalise on the fact that many businesses are working remotely and are conducting meetings online and can easily relocate to Barbados.
Kudos to the Government.
I was recently on a Zoom meeting with someone in Bermuda who said that they are doing that as well. We need to be able to stand out.
The Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation’s (BEF) vision is “To make Barbados the Entrepreneurs’ Island by 2020”.
Perhaps now, more than ever, it is a real possibility. Only this week I saw Monif Clarke of Monif C Plus Sizes (and an International Women’s Forum sister) on The Pivot Series operating her business from right here in Barbados and communicating remotely with her team in New York. We have such an opportunity to begin to push that as a country, but all hands have to be on deck.
I know that for many years the Business Facilitation team of the BEF have been advocating for improvements in doing business in Barbados and some improvements have been made, but we still have a way to go.
For example, I was delighted to not only be able to file my PAYE online but pay it using EZ pay for the first time. I was even more happy because it was on the deadline date for filing and I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t filed yet so when I realised that I did not have to leave home to drop a cheque to the Barbados Revenue Authority I was overjoyed.
Even more so because there were times when I dropped payments in the Drop Box before the due date and still saw the payment date on the receipt listed days after I dropped in the cheque, resulting in my account being charged interest for late payment. That’s a story for another time.
I’ve heard people complaining about having to verify their bank account before they can use the Direct Debit facility in EZ pay, but I used a credit card and that worked right away. As the Government moves more transactions online, doing business in Barbados will become so much more efficient.
We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are many examples in the global market that are working, such as cheque deposit via an App and easy online payment systems, for entrepreneurs in particular, who cannot afford the expensive E-commerce offerings of the banks.
Once we work together to implement some of these initiatives, we can position ourselves to be the Entrepreneurs’ Island, encourage entrepreneurs to set up in Barbados and begin to diversify our revenue streams. Now is the time.
Donna Every is an author, trainer, and international speaker. The mission of her business, Arise Consulting Inc., is to help clients to grow by rethinking, refocusing and reinventing their businesses. Visit her website at www.donnaevery.com or email her at [email protected]