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Heritage and culture tourism ‘more than monuments and events’

11/12/2009

BARBADOS should use the George Washington House as a key driver in developing a larger niche in the Heritage and Culture tourism business.

This challenge to the island’s tourism planners has come from Keith Stokes, Executive Director of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce who is on an official visit to Barbados.

Newport and Bristol are two of Rhode Island’s most historic communities having the greatest concentration of America’s heritage sites.

Newport is a premier Heritage and Culture tourism destination in the USA attracting more than three million visitors annually.

Presenting a lecture following a tour of the Bush Hill, St. Michael property, Stokes said that he was impressed with what he had seen of George Washington House which was restored in the late 1990s.

Washington, who became the first US Pre-sident, visited Barbados in 1751 and the house where he resided is named after him.

“You have done a fantastic job (in restoring this property), the display is very attractive,”.

“But I think that George Washington House is a wonderful starting point in interpreting the history of Barbados,” he said.

Stating that like Newport, Barbados has rich colonial history given its involvement as a trading centre linking London and some British ports with Africa, and the wealth created, Stokes insisted that there is a story to be told. “George Washington House is also a wonderful starting point in creating this universally recognised story of not just the history of George Washington here in Barbados but the emergence of the Americas in the trading system”.

Stokes reasoned that heritage tourism is more than the historic monuments and the celebration of historic events. “It is also about the celebration and preservation of history of the people and their culture, customs, food and religion,” he stated.

He suggested that in packaging a heritage and cultural tourism programme Barbados should like Newport have people acting out scenes, “tell the story in an interactive way, creating a new environment to engage people”.

However, the American official pointed out that people travelling to cultural and heritage destinations tend to spend more than the traditional visitor looking for sun, sea and entertainment.

“Heritage and cultural tourism is a great business model in expanding tourism,” he remarked while also saying that this segment of the tourism industry must be relevant to present day demands of visitors.(JB)

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