Tourism must pull other sectors out of COVID-19 slump
St Nicholas Abbey in St Peter
Barbados’ tourism industry in a post-COVID-19 environment is expected to undergo “strategic building and repositioning”.
The Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, as well as the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI), are looking to explore new markets and partnerships as international travel and consumer behaviour are expected to change following the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“It is an unrealistic proposition to be able to expect that we are just going to be able to fling open the doors to welcome the United States traveller in the way we might have more easily have done six months ago.
"While we have to be very guarded about certain markets, we have opportunities in other markets. I think on a market by market basis we have to find a way to pick through this darkness in order to see how best we can ensure the survival of the country's interest.” Tourism Minister Kerrie Symmonds made this remark during a Zoom press conference to update local media on the Barbados tourism picture currently.
With 40 per cent of Barbados’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) connected to tourism and 30 per cent of the country’s workforce directly employed by it, the Minister of Tourism emphasized the need to breathe life back into the businesses in the sector especially at tourist attractions and for tour operators.
He contended that the country needs to avoid the erosion of micro and small businesses that were operating on thin profit margins even before the outbreak of COVID-19.
“We must resuscitate the business of this country by working among ourselves as Barbadians and understanding that the attractions of this country are run by Barbadians, they are staffed by Barbadians, the families who are on the breadline right now are Barbadians. Those people who have been laid off are Barbadians.
“We as Barbadian people have to spend our time where possible, [and] our money with those attractions so they do not sink and disappear. What we have to avoid at all cost is the erosion of small business and the devastation of entrepreneurship and people's effort in terms of building a family business in this country,” Symmonds said. He stated that hoteliers and businesses will use and are encouraged to use this “down period” to spruce up businesses and examine the sustainable development plan for the sector to increase its attractiveness internationally.
“Once you have been certified you make yourself more marketable, every property in the world that can say we are green globe certified, we are environmentally certified automatically makes itself more attractive in the rest of the world,” the Minister explained.
Noting that many Bajans believe we cannot put all our eggs in a tourism basket again, Symmonds emphasized that once the tourism sector has been bridged with the other sectors such as culture, environment and manufacturing, it will strengthen the economy. He said it was a failing model to be completely dependent on one sector or one engine - Barbados moved from sugar and agriculture to tourism. But he said that is the past and the fact now is that tourism will have to guide the country out of this crisis this time.
Tourism must be used to pull along the other sectors he stressed. Tourism must be used to help the farmers and manufacturing; the arts, culture, sports and be fused so that as tourism moves along the others will also see growth.
“Once we are able to build the kind of linkages that make sure that tourism is a major source of financial success to the agricultural sector, value-added manufacturing, cultural industries then you are enabling a stronger economy to come about,” he assured.