Over the past several years, Barbados has failed to capitalise on the lucrative advantages of heritage tourism.
And if Professor Sir Henry Fraser had his way, more investment would be made to develop this aspect of the island’s tourism product, which he said had great potential to significantly increase the industry’s profits.
On Monday during a webinar to mark the 70th anniversary of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Fraser said that multiple studies across the world showed that tourists travelling for heritage reasons spent significantly more time and money than the average visitor and he was concerned that Barbados’ rich culture and heritage were not seen as worthy of build-out.
This fact was being ignored “at our peril”, he said.
“It is so important the economic advantages of heritage tourism . . . and yet for 20 years we (Barbados National Trust) have been preaching this and we are still not accepting its potential. Let’s say a little bit about the cultural heritage, the built heritage. These things are so important . . .”
Fraser said he was also concerned that the tourism product was not pushed through the consulates, as other countries did, adding that there was room for improvement in the way the product was marketed.
“You cannot go to Paris without walking away with a trophy of the Eiffel Tower, you cannot go to New York without something of the Statue of Liberty . . .,” he said.
He was also concerned that Barbados did not put value to a number of historic structures and either left them abandoned or sought to demolish them.
“We have a world famous lighthouse – the South Point lighthouse- which has been abandoned as a site for storing huge piles of rocks by the Ministry of Transport and Works. I can’t think of a country in which the most important single structure is treated as if it was a garbage can. We ought to be ashamed. It is the most obvious, a no brainer for heritage development.
“Every tourist in Christ Church and all those South Coast hotels, they all see that lighthouse and they all go there and we are doing nothing. We are ignoring the plans that we, the Barbados National Trust, have put forward to Government.”
The former president of the Trust said he was also disappointed that Government did nothing to develop the derelict buildings with historic architecture in Bridgetown and its Garrison when it became a UNESCO world heritage site 11 years ago.
“We will lose that inscription but it won’t matter because we never utilised it. The data suggests that sites, cities or countries, which are given UNESCO world heritage status have between a 30 and 40 per cent increase in tourism visitation and again we (the Trust) have been preaching that but it has not been registered.”
The professor added that there was great economic potential where the old Glendairy prison, which was destroyed by fire in 2005, is concerned.
“Glendairy prison is an absolute no-brainer. There are well over 100 prison museums in the world . . . We could have the most outstanding, interesting, fascinating, morbidly curious visitor site in the Caribbean at Glendairy prison. . . It is sitting there at no cost to Government. All they have to do is to long lease it to a private enterprise.”
Barbados also had potential in medical tourism, said Fraser, as it had a history of being considered a health spa.
“Barbados is entirely, all over the island is a spa with those magnificent breezes. We have ignored the fact that it was a spa, considered a spa and would still be considered a spa with a perfect year-round temperature . . . But medical and wellness tourism is again a no-brainer.
“We (the Trust) have had two major proposals for state-of-the-art hospitals that fell through . . . a state-of-the-art hospital in Barbados would be an unbelievable source of income coming in.”
He added that thousands of people travel for surgery and medical treatments across the world. (SZB)