Former tourism minister Richard Sealy has slammed the Government’s management of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) over the “outrageous” absence of an official at its helm.
Sealy said he could not understand how, at a time when the country’s tourism industry had been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the main entity responsible for marketing tourism has gone without a leader.
The post of CEO has remained vacant since the resignation of William Billy Griffith over a year ago.
Said Sealy: “William Billy Griffith in October, 2019, resigned as the CEO of BTMI. He gave three months notice and in the letter he actually said he gave the notice so a successor could be put in place. This is now almost January 2021, and his successor is yet to be positioned.”
He revealed that while a number of people had been earmarked for the position including Cheryl Garner, Robert Chase and Petra Roach, no one had been appointed to the post.
Sealy insisted that now was not the time for the BTMI to be operating without a leader, as this was one of the most critical times in the history of Barbados’ tourism sector.
He said: “Just make up your mind and put unquestioned executive leadership responsible for the tourism’s marketing arm. Right now is not the time to have… you went from an acting [CEO] to a temporary one and now you have an interim one.
“Pick who you want…there are people there. You can make your mind up and let the organization settle down.”
Sealy was speaking at the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) Astor B Watts Memorial Lunchtime Lecture on the topic, Exploring Barbados’ Relationship with the IMF.
“It is really ridiculous that even in the best of times, given the importance of tourism in this country that you would leave a position like that vacant,” said Sealy. “Outrageous!”
Sealy, who served as Minister of Tourism and International Transport from 2010 to 2018 and Deputy Prime Minister, said that despite the effects of the pandemic, tourism had proven to be resilient.
And while he agreed that there was a need for Barbados to diversify its economy, he promised that the tourism sector would bounce back.
He added: “We have to be realistic about this discussion about moving away from tourism. I think that tourism has proven that it can be resilient. Countries like Vietnam, Colombia, Rwanda, all countries that were war-torn, ravaged and in some cases, even pandemics, and they have bounced back to see incredible levels of investment. Tourism is very resilient. It will come back, not it might come back.”
The DLP tourism minister praised the Barbados Welcome Stamp initiative, saying it was a step in the right direction. (RB)