We are now midway through the peak winter tourism season and it is small wonder that the general populous becomes confused or even bemused when trying to monitor exactly how the industry is performing. Especially when there are a number of proclamations emanating from our policymakers, who many may feel should be better informed. Two of these recent utterings really stand out!
The first when a Minister of Government stated in the foreign press that we have had a good start to the season, when in fact December 2013 recorded the lowest long stay visitor arrivals for that month during the last eleven years. Meanwhile, while accepting the numbers are down, the actual Minister of Tourism partially justifying the dismal sector performance by stating ‘value-added’ is up, totally contradicting the Governor of The Central Bank in his latest video report on our economic condition, who clearly revealed that factually, it is down.
If these incidents were rare or isolated, perhaps it could be just brushed off as possible journalistic misquoting, but the latest ones come after a long list of heady predictions that simply have not materialized. Last year these included ‘a resounding success’, ‘upbeat about arrivals’ and ‘extremely strong’, when referring to Crop Over and July. Later in 2013, ‘it is already a November to remember’ and ‘November had been one of the best Barbados had seen in a while’. In reality, both months set new records over the last decade for recording the lowest stay-over visitors for comparable periods. Tourism interests are then left clambering to source accurate information on which to make educated choices and decisions.
And that’s when they are confronted by the next obstacle.
Agencies mandated with the responsibility of collecting and posting up-to-date data often take months to do so, and even then, as in the case of arrivals figures, some months are missed altogether. So when the Leader of the Opposition contacted me and asked if I would speak at one of the current People’s Assembles series there was no hesitation. Because any meaningful road to economic recovery will depend on the ability to make plans and implement policy based on informed knowledge rather than guesswork and speculation.
Purely from a tourism perspective, I watched both the presentation by Ralph Taylor, a former BTA Chairman and Colin Jordan, immediate past President of the BHTA. In their own way critical concerns over the current state of the industry were raised and I liked particularly the way Mr. Jordan dealt with comments made by a serving Minister of Government who charged that hoteliers on Barbados were either ‘begging’ or ‘beggars’. Personally I find even the suggestion grossly repugnant. And it certainly does not fairly reflect the investment dedication and hard work contributed by the vast majority of private sector partners over more than half a century.
Perhaps if there was a comparable commitment made by a single serving Cabinet member and they were spending their own monies these cavalier and deeply offensive comments would not roll off their tongues so easily.