The blogs can of course be a double edged sword. The anonymity allows, if the contributor wishes, comments to be made without risk of targeted personal attacks and political labelling while still being able to express an opinion, whether constructive or not. Sadly, if you chose not to hide behind the veil of ‘anonymous’ it holds the risk of the messenger being castigated, rather than evaluating any merit in the message itself.
For those of us who hold democracy dear and have personally experienced alternative regimes, it goes with the territory and if it helps maintain responsible freedom of speech then personally I have no problem. A recent blogger, writing under the name of ‘Fisheye’ put forward 16 points to improve our tourism offerings. To me, one especially stood out and that was to allow our visitors to complete the required immigration form online.
Bearing in mind the rapid trend in online transactions, whether for banking, bill payment, shopping, airline or hotel check-in, car rental registration or whatever, it seems a very simple but effective way to capture important marketing information. It may also speed up the collection of this information to allow the Barbados Statistical Service (BSS) to make it publicly available in a timelier manner. It can often take the BSS ages to post arrival information on their website and even then, months like August 2013 are not available at all. Compounding the difficulty in accessing up-to-date information is the fact that the Ministry of Tourism does not currently have a functioning website.
Other ‘Fisheye’ suggestions included the issuing of local driver’s licenses at the Barbados Tourism Authority’s (BTA) airport office and ensuring widespread availability of lower priced SIM cards to save our visitors from expensive roaming charges.
Value-for-money was also mentioned and is probably the most discussed subject amongst our cherished guests. Many simply cannot understand why a piece of locally available fish cannot be cooked, garnished and served in moderate surroundings for around BDS$25-$30. This has been festering concern for almost as long as I remember and is especially pertinent in our current economic dilemma.
Overwhelmingly key players continue pointing towards tourism as being the quickest route to fiscal recovery. It is therefore difficult to comprehend why Government fails to address the problem head-on, with timely implementation of measures that will have a positive effect on lowering prices.
Something has to give, otherwise the private sector will be forced to follow Government’s example of laying-off thousands of employees to cut escalating costs while attempting to stay in business.
Imagine the consequences this would have on service delivery standards, destination reputation, let alone the moral and social implications.
I would like to end this column on a positive note. While staying at Sandals Barbados a few weeks ago, I commented that not a single brand of local rum was being served. I now have it on good authority that this has changed and that our oldest brand is being dispensed. A sincere thank you to all those involved who have helped make this possible. My hope is that it will be the start of the company sourcing a great deal more products locally.