Barbadians generally have a positive sentiment towards the tourism industry and tourists and the majority of them support Government granting concessions to the industry.
These were among the major findings in a recent national public sentiment survey, carried out by the Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) on behalf of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA).
The survey, which was conducted between February 25 and March 12, 2022, revealed that a majority of Barbadians had a positive sentiment towards tourism and tourists. They believed there are adequate opportunities for promotion for “ordinary Barbadians” within the industry and they agreed with the prospect of introducing the study of tourism as a discipline in the education system.
However, most Barbadians also believed there was need for more opportunities for ownership, part ownership or shareholding of “ordinary Barbadians” in the bread and butter industry.
Of the more than 1,000 participants in the survey, 75 per cent said they believed the benefit of having tourists at this time was worth the risk while 16 per cent said they were unsure and nine per cent said the risk was not worth it at this time.
Individuals gave an average score of seven out of ten regarding their current sentiment towards the tourism industry, with ten being the most positive score and one being the most negative score.
“Together the data for these two questions suggest that tourists and the tourism industry as a whole continue to occupy a positive place in the minds of most Barbadians – this is in consideration of, and in contrast with some criticisms of tourism that may have been levelled since the beginning of the pandemic, with regard to perceived risks of welcoming visitors, and the continued viability of the industry for Barbados,” said the report.
In relation to opportunities for promotion of “ordinary Barbadians”, 53 per cent of respondents said yes they believed that opportunity existed while 25 per cent said no and 22 per cent were unsure.
Thirty per cent of those surveyed said they believed the tourism industry provides opportunities for part ownership or shareholding for “ordinary Barbadians”, while 44 per cent said they did not think so and 27 per cent said they were unsure.
More than half of the respondents (56 per cent) said they found the idea of owning or operating a business in the tourism industry attractive. Using a scale from one to ten, the respondents rated tourism’s importance to the Barbadian economy at an eight.
Chairman of the BHTA Renee Coppin said the survey was conducted based on some sentiments that were being echoed about the tourism industry during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the tourism executive said she was encouraged that the majority of Barbadians currently feel positive about tourists and tourism.
“We are very mindful of some of the public rhetoric surrounding this industry. We saw during the pandemic the concerns raised that the industry was selfish and following social media we saw what one professional colleague called the ‘armchair warriors’, were very clamorous in their criticism of our sector,” she said.
“Some of these results were very different from the word on the street and so we are mindful as we go forward that our continued emphasis will be on applying science and research to our decision-making,” promised Coppin.
According to the survey, more than half of the respondents (56 per cent) supported the idea of Government giving concessions to tourism businesses, while 25 per cent said they were unsure and 18 per cent said they did not support the idea.
A majority of those surveyed (61 per cent) also supported the idea of Government giving assistance to tourism businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Twenty-two per cent said they did not support it and 17 per cent were unsure.
The survey also suggested that Barbadians were keen on diversification of the economy, with 31 per cent identifying the agriculture sector as one preferred area for diversification. Manufacturing (16 per cent), entertainment (13 per cent), cultural tourism (10 per cent), ecotourism (nine per cent) were also identified as potential areas. Six per cent of the respondents believed the current status quo should be maintained.
Sixty-six per cent of respondents said they believed that more than 50 per cent of earnings from the tourism industry should remain in Barbados, while 22 per cent said between 25 and 50 per cent should remain. Two per cent said 25 per cent or less should remain while 10 per cent was unsure.
Respondents also believed the tourism industry could do more in “giving back”, with 40 per cent saying they believed hoteliers should do so by sponsoring more community work and charities, while 31 per cent said they believed hoteliers could play a bigger role in protecting the environment and some 14 per cent said there could be improved access to beaches.