Changes at BTA
By Shawn Cumberbatch
AFTER earning a record $2.4 billion from tourism last year, Government is giving the sector an institutional shake-up in the midst of a 7.7 decline in long-stay visitor arrivals.
The Barbados Tourism Authority’s (BTA) board has been trimmed by seven and separate tourism marketing and product development companies are being created as part of a major restructuring exercise, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy announced yesterday.
BTA chairman, Ralph Taylor, and his deputy, Austin Husbands, have been retained as have Denis Roach, Alvin Jemmott, Michael Yearwood, Stephen Alleyne, and representatives from the Barbados Workers Union, Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, Barbados Association of Retailers, Vendors and Entrepreneurs and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Andrew Cox.
The new directors of the 11-member board are Dr. Kerry Hall, and Government Senator Peter Gilkes, while those not retained from the old board were Sunil Chatrani, Dr Jeannine Comma, David Jean-Marie, Adrian Loveridge, Eric Mapp, Roseanne Myers, Bernard Weatherhead, and Shelly Williams.
Speaking during at the tourism media briefing Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Sealy said the former directors had not been discarded as they had all received invitations to be part of the new tourism product development company. The existing BTA is to be eventually amalgamated into the new marketing company.
“We have adjusted the composition of the board with a view of moving forward toward the restructured arrangements for the public sector. We have not sacked or chased away or fired anyone we are merely inviting them to be part of this exercise as we go forward to have the best institutional arrangements in order to take Barbados’ tourism to the next level,” the minister said.
“The Ministry of Tourism will continue to be responsible for policy and will direct policy at that level. However, the Barbados Tourism Authority as we know it will be adjusted to the point where we will have an entity which is responsible for marketing Barbados exclusively and then another entity that will be responsible for product development. And in so doing we will have two entities that are engaged in two activities that are crucial to the long term survival of our tourism industry,” he told an audience including BTA board members, staff and hoteliers.
The big tourism changes were announced simultaneously with news that even though Caribbean Tourism Organisation statistics showed the island’s tourism revenue was some $2.4 billion in 2008, long-stay arrivals last year dropped by a slight 1.1 per cent with 566 763 visitors vacationing here and there was a 7.7 drop in arrivals so far this year.
At the same time officials are moving to haul back a decline in airlift from key markets including the United Kingdom (UK), United States (US) and Caribbean that had significantly contributed to this drop.
Sealy said year-to-date the main UK market was down 9.2 per cent, US decreased by 14 per cent down, Trinidad and CARICOM “are both down in double digits”, while arrivals from Canada had increased by 11.9 per cent, and Germany 2.1 per cent.
The minister said 2009 “will be a challenging period for tourism in Barbados”, and that officials were “projecting a fall in business no greater than what is being experienced”.
“We are expected to minimise the impact with a number of airline initiatives, and while the impact of these initiatives will take effect during the latter half of the year, these will ensure growth from 2010 and beyond. So we are preparing ourselves very much for the future,” he stated.