Editorial: We beg to differ

There are very few Barbadians who would readily deny that our nation is currently in a state of deep financial crisis. In these plainly undesirable circumstances, we, as a responsible medium, stand ready to support any official initiative that appears to us rationally designed to remedy this state of affairs. The operative word here, however, is “rationally”, and where we perceive that an initiative, no matter how well intentioned, would lead to an unnecessary duplication of scarce resources, whether human or financial, then we are forced, respectfully, to express a contrary opinion.

Into such a category falls, in our view, the recent announcement by the Honourable Ministry of Tourism, Mr Kerry Symmonds, as reported in last Sunday’s edition of the Barbados Advocate, that a national commission has been established “to look at cruise development and to help the sector overcome the challenges it currently faces”.

There can be but little dissent from the proposition that the tourist industry has been and continues to be a significant earner of foreign exchange for this country. And, given the unease of the OECD and others with the operation of the international business sector, it remains for now our one unshakeable source in that regard. To this end, we had no complaint with the division of the old Barbados Tourism Authority into two component entities, the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. and the Barbados Tourism Product Authority, even though we note that one Government Senator recently expressed a contrary view.

We are satisfied that the combined efforts of these two bodies, each with its own Board and management structure, and each headed by a reputable Chief Executive Officer, should prove more than adequate to convince the potential visitor to confirm this destination as his or her choice when contemplating a vacation or cruise abroad.

We thus see no need to add to this current arrangement another body slated to comprise as many as fifteen members to deal with a single aspect of the industry. More over, the subject matter and mode of investigation proposed scarcely inspire any confidence in the committee’s necessity at this time.

According to Mr Symmonds, premising his argument on quoted figures and statistics, if the sector continues on its present trajectory, the country will suffer. Hence, he proposes that aspects of the mandate of the committee will include the identification of opportunities within the cruise industry and the adduction of recommendations to improve the visitor’s onshore experience, to increase visitor spend, to facilitate the long-term competitiveness of the industry and to make local attractions more attractive to visitors. These are to be effected by “carrying out comprehensive consultations with all stakeholders and the wider public”.

With all respect, we differ in our perception as to the need for such a large group effectively to carry out this mission. The consultations might as easily be conducted by public town hall meetings or by citizens’ responses to survey questionnaires. Finally, as to some aspects of the committee’s remit; we suggest that those mentioned are already inextricably interwoven.

Clearly, more alluring sights and other diversions could heighten the onshore experience. This would inevitably lead to an increased spend so long as the visitor perceives that he or she perceives that he or she is getting value for their money and not merely being taken for a ride by the destination. We therefore urge a serious reconsideration of this initiative for the reasons above stated.

Barbados Advocate

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