By Randy Bennett
With two more international tours scheduled to be hosted in the coming months, an executive member of the Barbados Polo Club believes the sport has the potential to help revive the country’s tourism sector and generate significant foreign exchange.
That assertion by Monique Archer follows the conclusion of the international polo series between Barbados and the USA, which climaxed at the Holder’s Hill polo field last weekend.
It was the first polo series on the island since 2019 as the COVID-19 pandemic had initially resulted in the curtailing of sporting activity.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Archer said the just-concluded series, which Barbados won 2-1, was a success and she estimated that the crowd on hand for the final game last Saturday was the largest ever for that particular series.
“We are very happy to have had a very successful first tour with the USA team here and it went really, really well. The BTMI [Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.] assisted with bringing some great entertainment that the visitors and locals certainly loved – the tuk bands and stilt walkers as well as people in Crop Over costumes – it was our biggest crowd ever that we’ve seen at a USA final, so that was phenomenal,” Archer said.
She disclosed that the upcoming Cheshire and Canada tours in February and March, respectively, would benefit Barbados significantly.
Archer added that polo could be a major driver of sports tourism on the island.
“The Cheshire tour is usually our biggest tour. One of the things which makes Barbados unique and draws people here is that we have polo and it’s very unusual to have polo on a small island, especially the quality of the polo that we have, and then when combined with sports like horseracing and golf it just presents a whole package for tourists.
“In these tours alone, people bring their own following and sometimes they will have 20 to 30 people who will come down with them as spectators from England just specifically for the polo, so it does bring people here,” Archer said.
“What we’ve also found as well is that while we did lose a couple of local members, I think probably to COVID and because of the difficulties which the sport has gone through, some Canadians have made Barbados their home for the polo season and are leasing polo horses and are staying here for the season. So that is great for Barbados because they are living here and supporting the economy.”
Archer, who is also a member of the Barbados Polo Club’s sponsorship committee, admitted that some sponsors had taken a back seat for the 2023 season because of the long layoff.
However, she said loyal sponsors such as Diamonds International were continuing to invest in the sport, and that allowed the club to continue to host events.
“We’ve had a good response. Definitely, the help from the BTMI was welcomed. I think they recognised the challenges we were having and recognised the importance of polo as a tourism product for Barbados.
“We did get some hesitation from other sponsors that wanted to wait and see how this season goes before they commit again, but I’m already hearing them say that based on what they are seeing they will be back on board for next year,” Archer said.