Wednesday 8 July, 2020

BHTA outgoing chair: Improve tourism products post-COVID-19

Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, Outgoing Chairman Stephen Austin.

Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, Outgoing Chairman Stephen Austin.

Barbados’ tourism product needs a major overhaul following the COVID-19 pandemic, but one tourism official is calling on local players to get their paydays and stop going through third parties firstly before tourism even opens back up. 

Speaking to over 100 tourism professionals at the annual general meeting of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) via Zoom, the BHTA Immediate Past Chairman Stephen Austin stated that the global crisis highlighted the sector's need to “refocus” its goals and objectives and reexamine the way it conducted business. 

With millions of dollars being owned to Caribbean hotels and resorts by international leisure, travel and tourism companies, Austin called for local hoteliers to call for their payment upfront. 

“Hotels need to join forces and cement what we are doing to ensure that tour operatives know that we want payment in advance. This is critical for us to survive.

"We all know that there are tour operators that owe us funds and we need to find the togetherness to go forward and ensure that before a visitor comes to Barbados that operators send the funds to us,” Austin stated. 

He suggested that instead of going through third parties, Barbados needs to create its own channels for marketing and selling its products regionally and internationally. 

“We should also examine how we create our own direct channel to market our properties and sell our product directly. Over the past few months, this crisis has allowed me to look at life a little different and we tend to be doing things in duplication,” Austin remarked.

Teach Tourism in school from early

Giving his final remarks as chairman of the BHTA, Austin contended that from an early age children should be educated on the tourism sector and the hospitality industry as a possible career choice. 

“Hospitality modules need to be created in our schools so children coming up will know that they have an opportunity in tourism. We cannot just wait until they become teenagers to try and attract them in this industry.”

He also argued that the hoteliers and attractions should use the break to redevelop and improve their products and services. This is a suggestion that was also made by the Prime Minister and the Tourism Minister. He went on to specifically recommended a coordinated development of Oistins and St Lawrence Gap, calling for tourists hubs to be cleaned and repainted to attract locals and tourist alike. 

Austin also called on the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport to reinvent the Barbados Tourism Awards, which celebrate the efforts of those in the tourism sector and highlight the stories of its employees.

And of the BHTA he asked for the launch a Tourism Worker Fund or credit union for tourism employees. 

“I think that is something that will be critical towards assisting our people. It would be an Emergency Fund as well as human resource development. If we had this Fund we would have been able to supplement or assist our tourism workers during this extended period of no work,” he indicated. 

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