Tourism has a critical role to play in Barbados achieving projected economic growth of between seven and nine per cent in 2022, says Governor of the Central Bank Cleviston Haynes.
Speaking at the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Fourth Quarterly General Meeting on Wednesday, Haynes said while the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) took a significant hit over the past 21 months due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is the bread and butter industry that will determine the return to economic growth.
He said tourism planners must strategize the positioning of the industry to enable it to compete globally and enhance Barbados’ growth prospects. Additionally, Haynes said, they must explore how the island can ensure it is the destination of choice in the Caribbean, as tourist demands change.
Haynes suggested that a repeat clientele, particularly at the upper end of the market, indicates that those who are aware of the island have formed a favourable impression and can therefore be a source of free marketing.
“However, we need to complement these strengths by a number of initiatives, including maintaining a clean and safe environment for locals and tourists alike,” the Central Bank Governor said. “A clean environment defines the pride that we have in ourselves and extends the welcome mat to others. And I am sure that you will also agree that a safe and secure environment will encourage others to come and visit us and to stay for long periods of time.”
Haynes also emphasised the importance of ensuring that the quality of service in and outside of the accommodation environment is consistent and meets international standards.
Stressing that Barbados needs to offer an excellent tourism product at all times, he noted that Government’s Barbados Employment and Sustainable Transformation (BEST) programme, introduced in response to the social and economic impact of COVID-19, offers an opportunity for tourism stakeholders to strengthen and expand their products and services and enhance their competitive edge.
The BEST programme, which went into effect in September last year, has two main components – training and retention of staff on 80 per cent of their salary, and a cap of up to $2 million for investment in the upgrade of their facility.
The Central Bank Governor said a recent count indicates that at least 24 hotels and 21 ancillary services have started to participate in the transformation option in the programme.
Haynes said consideration must be given to how many tourists Barbados can carry sustainably and whether the country can accommodate more than the 700,000 that visit at peak time.
“We must examine this question, in the context of what is our ideal carrier capacity, if we are to avoid the risk of environmental degradation. The debate between the number of tourists and actual spend is central to this question, as capping the number of tourists would necessitate greater added value per tourist in order to sustain economic growth over time,” he said.
“The question to you, therefore, is what activities can we introduce to obtain that increased value added? And my third question is: how can the public and private sector strengthen their alliance to improve outcomes in the sector? The sustained recovery of the tourism sector will require an ongoing partnership between the public and private sectors and within the private sector group.” Meantime, Haynes lamented the lack of participation in the BHTA’s room occupancy survey and the Central Bank’s Balance of Payments survey.
“The new Central Bank Act does allow for penalties where there is a lack of response from persons who are being surveyed for the Balance of Payments. And while we are prepared to impose the fines if necessary, I can assure you that we are more interested in the information than the revenue, as better information improves decision making for the sector and for the economy,” he said.
The Act, passed in Parliament in December 2020, states that anyone who, without justification, fails to provide the Bank with information that it requests to fulfill its mandate shall be fined $10,000 on summary conviction.