The honest intention of this column has never been to be controversial for the sake of it, more to pose questions that perhaps often only need to be asked as a result of poor communication. One of the eight stated tourism DLP objectives contained in the 2008 Manifesto was to restructure the Barbados Tourism Authority. Of course in over five years holding office, it simply did not happen.
Sadly, while I tried to obtain a copy of both party’s 2013 printed Manifestos, our local constituency BLP branch had run out and the DLP office was closed on the day we tried. But I understand that the same objective has been promised again in the second DLP electoral term, with a planned formation of two new organisations, one concentrating on marketing and the other dedicated to developing the product. The question I am therefore asking, with an overwhelming majority during the period 2008-2013, why could the restructuring not be implemented?
During my brief period sitting on the BTA Board of Directors, I remember asking the then Chairman, what was the timescale for re-organisation. Hardly hesitating, he responded ‘six months’, which at the time I thought, was very optimistic.
The administration was re-elected after the 21st February poll, by a tiny majority, with nearly 40 per cent of the eligible electorate choosing not to bother voting at all. Compound this with the widespread alleged vote buying, we are at best left to guess whether if in fact it took place and as a result had any overall effect on the final results. Don’t get me wrong, I am personally in favour of the proposed restructuring. You only have to study the arrival figures, average stay and spend for the last five years to see that it is overly evident that ‘we’ as a destination are not performing to our optimum.
The Minister of Tourism seems to share this view, quoting him in the media verbatim ‘There have been endless complaints about the operation of the BTA from the private sector’. Therefore, we are restructuring to make the entities modern, responsive and private sector orientated. By putting the right people and the right systems in place in terms of the running the organisation, we should see better results’.
I don’t think many private sector tourism partners could disagree with any of these noteworthy intentions. The Minister also stated that the issue will soon go to Parliament ‘to become part of the laws of Barbados’. So when this eventually happens, will any of the Government’s elected members be off the island, on one of the many overseas trips or missions undertaken? Will the Opposition unilaterally agree and vote for the restructuring plan to ensure that it really happens? And then even assuming it has the three required readings in the Lower House, will it be rubber stamped by the Senate?
It was a joy to listen to some of the submissions of the Independent Senators during the recent estimates debate and hear, at least for me, clearly knowledgeable, well researched and pertinent questions being asked on the subject of tourism.
Does this indicate a new chapter in the direction of our tourism industry?