Notes From a Native Son: The Addiction to Tourism is one Reason Why we Cannot Get Out of our Economic Mess

Hal Austin

Hal Austin

As we as a nation dig deeper and deeper in the economic sinking sand that somehow we have found ourselves in, there is a growing demand fore tourism to come to the rescue. The truth is that it is wishful thinking: at the top end, the requirements of the high net-worth traveller are not met in Barbados, as we have a single-minded idea that passes for a policy. There is no adequate two and three star hotels which would meet the needs of people travelling from down the islands and those coming from Europe and North America to see relatives and friends, but who need the privacy of their own accommodation. Further, there is no public evidence of a comprehensive tourism and leisure policy over and above the clear need to just get tourists to spend their money as if it was going out of fashion. At the top end, people do not only require top class accommodation, boutique and five-star hotels, and decent private accommodation, but also need an acceptable level of leisure activities to occupy their time during the day when they are out of the water and at night, other than the Caribbean cliché of listening to local singers or watching limbo dancers perform.

Macroeconomics of Tourism:
According to the United Nations, the world population is expected to grow from the current 6.5billion to 9 billion by 2050. Most of this growth will take place in less developed countries, with China and India more than doubling the rest of the world. In population terms only, the future is Asian. But this is not all. At present the world population grows by about 1.1 per cent, with six countries accounting for more than half this growth – India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria and the US. By the mid-century, India will become the most populous nation on earth with a population four times that of the United States, outstripping China whose population will start declining from about 2025, due largely to the one-child policy. China’s working population will reach about one billion by 2015, then steadily decline. Most developed economies will see a fall in population as deaths outstrip births, with the exceptions being Australia, the US, Canada and the UK, all of which will continue to see a substantial rise in replacements through growth in immigrant populations.

Remarkably, by 2050, the global working population will expand by about 50 per cent and it is predicted that the United States will be the only currently developed economy in the ten of the world’s most populous nations. The Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia will be two of the new additions.  In terms of the re-shaping of the world economy, instead of labour chasing work – with immigration from poor to wealthier nations as at present – work will follow labour, with a massive increase in outsourcing from the developed to the developing, low-cost world, sometimes over different time zones. In effect, it will simply be an escalation of the present trend towards outsourcing from Europe and North America to Asia and Eastern Europe, only on a grander scale, with manufacturing based on a “follow the sun” basis – with different nations in different time zones taking responsibility for different aspects of component manufacture and assembly. But the global shift is not just going to be one of population growth. It will also be a period of enormous economic growth for the better managed of the developing economies, and in particular China and India. (There are things to say about the two different developmental models, which will be discussed at another time).

In August 2005, Business Week magazine ran a feature on Chindia in which it stated: “For the past two decades, China has been growing at an astounding 9.5 per cent per year, and India by 6 per cent. Given their young populations, high savings, and the sheer amount of catching up they still have to do, most economists figure China and ~India possess the fundamentals to keep growing in the 7 to 8 percent range for decades.” Indian growth has declined to just above five per cent and China has settled at 7.5 per cent. The article went on to predict that India would move ahead of Germany and be third place on the table of global economies within 30 years and that China would overtake the United States by 2050. It already has according to some economists. Over the same period, the US economy will continue to grow by 3 to 4 per cent annually and Japan by much the same. Interestingly, Italy’s population growth peaked six years ago, Japan’s and Germany’s are predicted to peak by 2010, Spain’s by 2020 and the French, with one of the highest birth rates in Europe (mainly North African), by 2035. Demographics will also play an important part in tourism planning. Within a decade and a half, India, China and several Asian countries – which account for about a third of the global population – will have 20 per cent more males than females. This will not only influence the kinds of leisure provisions offered by countries hoping to attract them as travellers, but it will also impact on alcohol abuse, street violence, wider crime, mass unrest and even war. In that time, China will have about 20 million more men of marriageable age than women, India will have 28 million, while nations such as Pakistan, Taiwan and Indonesia will also have millions of mature young men without any chance of getting a partner. The natural male to female ratio is 07 boys to 100 females, which evens out because more boys die as babies and toddlers from illnesses. China has a ratio of 120 boys to 100 girls. It is a criminological fact that single men have a higher propensity to commit crime than married men.

As Dr Andrea den Boer points out in her book, The Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus Male Population, the highpoint of male crime is between the ages of 15-35 and if you have huge numbers of men of these ages hanging around without employment and not in education and no chance of settling down, the prospects are terrifying. Further, there are two other important developments. First, in Western countries, the birth rate for boys is falling, due to women giving birth at a later age and older women tend to give birth to more girls than boys and, according to the American Medical Association, exposure to pesticides damages a father’s ability to produce sperm with the Y-chromosomes necessary to produce boys. Also, with more women going to university than men social preferences will further alienate the genders. By 2030, as many men will be travelling to new countries as tourists in order to meet partners or for recreational sex as for the scenic beauty of the host country, which will again influence leisure provisions.

Apart from the self-deluding idea of Barbados as a centre of tourism excellence – it is not – there is no clear evidence of any real official understanding of the economics and sociology of tourism. In terms of the new leisure class, the vast majority of people who travel are hard workers who save up during the year in order to live a lifestyle they see on television, read in magazines and aspire to for one or two weeks of the year. They are not the mega-rich, they want to have a good time for their money, not ripped with over-charging, treated with courtesy and respect, then get on a plane and return home. In other words, they are normal people like you and I and just want to be treated as such.

There is a long chorus of disapproval from black visitors to the island, in the main Barbadians returning on short visits and foreign born people of Barbadian heritage, who constantly complain of the way they are treated. Some of us have even witnessed some of the bad manners that have become normalised by some of those working in the tourism sector. Bogus claims to being NISE in theory, when the reality is somewhat different do not go unnoticed. In terms of economics, there is a clear need for a publicly accessible impact analysis, detailing the over-dependence of the economy on tourism, its contribution to taxes and job creation (including quality jobs), its profitability and its impact on the environment. We also need to look at the quality of jobs, and how these contribute to a wider diversified economy indirectly through internal travelling, shop and roadside purchases, etc.

Tourists are also a natural and free marketing team for Barbadian rum, falernum and beer; they should be encourage to spread the word about Barbadian cuisine.
I also think one idea we can adopt from Hong Kong is a highly proactive garment industry, supplying travellers with quality suits, dresses, shirts and hand made shoes, which in the UK could cost anything from £1500 a pair to £5000. Further, by having the computerised measurements of the customer suppliers can continue to market to them via the internet and postal system. Then there are the little tricks of marketing: sending anniversary cards to couples who come to the island to marry, to children who celebrate their birthdays on the island, and just to say hello to people on the approach to the anniversary of their previous visit just hinting or reminding them of the good times they had  (or nudging them to re-visit the island).

There is a pressing need for a leisure infrastructure in Barbados, ranging from safe and decent cinemas, sports and leisure centres, theatres, high-class restaurants and fitness gyms. Not only is there the lack of a publicly accessible strategy, but one of the many overseas holiday home owners in Barbados is former tennis player David Lloyd, the man whose name has become synonymous with leisure centres in Barbados. Given that he has an affection for Barbados – he has bought a home – there is no real reason why he could not be invited to act as a consultant on the development of a network of leisure right across the island, from St John to Christ Church, to St Andrew and St Lucy. With any luck, he may even be invited to become a partner in any such enterprise and to solicit other keen investors.

In fact, all this can be done strategic all across Caricom, treating the entire regional member states as a single tourist destination. For example, there is no reason why some tourists who have an interest in the environment could not spend a week in Dominica, and a week in Barbados. Such an arrangement, which can be designed and promoted by private travel companies, will give the best of the Caribbean Experience to the traveller. Another example is heritage tourism, not of the kind we currently promote, but one that reflects nearly 400 years of history: our domestic history, from cooking on a fire hearth right through each stage to the gas bottle system we now have; I will like to see a heritage walk along the old train lines.

I must admit this is one introduction I will personally welcome, having spent years of my youth being educated next to the train line (Belmont), living at various times in Rouens and Storey’s Gap and walking through the train line from Waterford (and having a small book on Barbadian trains written by a Cornishman), it is certainly something I will like to explore. I will also like to see that corner by Culpepper Island taken over and turned in to a small pier/amusement park, rather than see some Irish-Canadian turning one of our traditional areas in to his play thing. There are numerous other ideas for developing a strategic leisure and tourism framework which could, and no doubt would, in the wider interest of all Barbadians.

Analysis and Conclusion:
Part of the romantic justification of tourism, apart from that of earning foreign reserves, is that tourism is a window to the nation’s cultural and social values. This belief is drilled down even more in the sub-themes of tourism studies and their application in to niches such as sports tourism, culinary tourism, environmental/green tourism, and any number of specialism you can imagine. Of course it is not true in whole or in part and is largely a self-satisfying myth. Do people genuinely believe that if European tourists visit the Caribbean they will return home enlightened and treat black Caribbean people with any greater respect or celebrate the joys of West Indian culture? Just look at the way they treat the Notting Hill Carnival. Why should a two-week visit, at most, do what has not happened since 1492? Most British tourism is cultural curiosity, a modern form of social anthropology lite, seeing the natives in their natural habit and on returning home using it as a conversational piece.

Tourism policy is about selling a dream, convincing an ordinary worker that the two or three weeks holiday a year s/he gets can be spent living like the super-rich, or nearly so. Tourism is therefore built on fiction, a romance, divorced from reality. It is therefore the job of the hotels and tourism managers to make the tourist believe s/he is living that dream. It should be remembered, however, that in the UK, our main tourism stream, about 22 per cent of families do not have any savings at all and one-third of adults have less than £500 put aside, according to a study by Mintel, the research firm. As things stand our tourism and leisure policymakers are standing idly by while t he world moves on. But at some point they must wake up and smell the coffee.

30 thoughts on “Notes From a Native Son: The Addiction to Tourism is one Reason Why we Cannot Get Out of our Economic Mess

  1. chezzon bread where do You find the time to write these long drawn out episodes of history and economic. as in this instance this episode could have been written in forty words or less ,,while making a noteworthy point of the need for barbados economy to be diversify with less dependance on tourism.

  2. I hope that Hal does not believe that anything he has mentioned in this piece is new and or earth shuttering.The major problem with our product is that too many square pegs are in round holes. All of the above “innovations’ can be found in marketing plans and studies going back at least thirty or more years. The problem is that political appointees in overseas offices were not even themselves familiar with Bim ! The cleansing we heard about earlier today is long overdue. Those in the Diaspora should not believe that the Caribbean has been standing still. This is not so! The problem is governance and industry leadership; the product has done very well taking into consideration the poor management. For example, the Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival is a world class event by any estimation. Also we have had some very outstanding workers, , for example, an ordinary construction worker rising to the office of Public Relations or some such office at Sandy Lane , which is one of the worlds leading high end properties. Barbadians who started their careers in the industry here have gone on to great heights world wide. the hotel School has produced outstanding workers. The major problem is stupid political interference in the process where party members, both BLP and DLP are put in charge of a billion dollar industry , simply because they had party passports. I can personally attest to the extremely poor job one of the overseas offices did during world cup. I can publicly state that they could not even promote the event at the basic level.

  3. David, Just read about it on Barbados Today. I must admit since Emmanual Joseph misreported (lied) about my ‘hurried exit’ from the BCCI Luncheon and both he and Editor in Chief, Kaymar Jordan refused to ‘print; a retraction, I do not give the ‘publication’ any credibility. I would imagine that the severance date (27th April) is about when they expect to get the new tourism entities, up and running. It will be very interesting to see who the two new Chairman, CEO/Presidents and board members of the Marketing and Product Authorities are.
    Political cronies or proven professionals. we will wait with baited breath!

    • Not sure if being ascribed an ethical destination gets bodies on planes but we will take it.
      The Winners

      Ethical Traveler congratulates the countries on our 2014 list of The World’s 10 Best Ethical Destinations. The winners, in alphabetical order (not in order of merit), are:

      • The Bahamas
      • Barbados *
      • Cape Verde*
      • Chile
      • Dominica
      • Latvia *
      • Lithuania *
      • Mauritius *
      • Palau *
      • Uruguay *

      ( * = also appeared on our 2013 list).

    • Early exit

      BTA parts ways with over a dozen employees, including CEO

      Added by Barbados Today on March 27, 2014.

      Saved under Business, Local News

      by Emmanuel Joseph

      and Marlon Madden

      The restructuring exercise at the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) has claimed its first casualties.

      Among the first to go is the CEO and president Urban Cumberbatch, whose surprise departure after a little over year at the helm, and that of acting senior vice-president of marketing Averil Byer officially take effect on April 27.

      Today, they received the separation news, along with 11 other staffers, including Gregory Armstrong, manager of sports; Bernard Philips, manager of planning; Valerie Marshall, manager of product integration; Doriel Jones, marketing officer; Marvo Philips, a supervisor in administration; Angela Wilkinson, sports administrator, along with five others, including a messenger and a maid, according to well placed sources.

      They said news of the early retirements had caught many offguard, including some of the affected senior executives who have been playing a leading role in the marketing of this island’s bread and butter tourism industry.

      It is also understood that the contract of Campbell Rudder, VP in the New York Office, will not be renewed.

      When contacted both Cumberbatch and Byer, who have collectively been at the Authority for over four decades, declined comment, with Byer referring us to the Chairman Adrian Elcock who was said to be tied up in meetings all day.

      Efforts to reach Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy were also unsuccesful.

    • Let us hope BT has an impecable source a la E11. The unions can’t. Be in the middle of negotiating on behalf of employees and this mess is released to the public the losers are the hapless employees.

  4. Tell the Attorney General that the research on marijuana has been done.
    Tell him that it is legal in some places
    Tell him to stop lagging
    Foreign exchange awaits
    Idle lands where cane-fields used to be
    are there for the taking

    No vision: Sufferation

    Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagga–celebrating West Indies

    • You should also tell the AG that it is good news he plans to bring the FOIA and Defamation debate to the House this year but gains are offset by the proposed amendment to the PAC rule which will frustrate Opposition attempts to spot a light on public sector finance.

  5. When contacted both Cumberbatch and Byer, who have collectively been at the Authority for over four decades, declined comment, with Byer referring us to the Chairman Adrian Elcock who was said to be tied up in meetings all day.

    Why are these persons afraid to talk when they should
    Talk gets talk bout here a lot but shit talk -yes -real talk –no
    Talk up Averil Byer
    This Government touching everbody
    This is the TSUNAMI the real one
    We were looking for one from the sea
    Hello this it –THE TSUNAMI –
    Later today more wailing and gnashing of teeth

  6. Later today more wailing and gnashing of teeth
    that more letters will be distributed to more persons in public service
    by today/tomorrow
    Bdos seems to be going down

    I am heading back to me born land

  7. Government needs to be mindful that it is not the private sector.

    Throwing away decades of experience only works when a company is making itself “efficient” to impress new Investors.

    I hope they are replacing the BTA “top guns” with competent experienced Tourism professionals who can hit they ground running.

  8. ‘I hope they are replacing the BTA “top guns” with competent experienced Tourism professionals who can hit they ground running.”
    Is political party considerations the reason why Mr Hugh Foster has been retained?

  9. Exclaimer | March 28, 2014 at 7:12 AM |

    @ Hal,
It would appear that one of our neighbours in the eastern Caribbean has developed an “alternative” tourist model.

    The photos of the groundbreaking of this “alternative” tourist model at:

    have a striking similarity to the photos of the 2011 groundbreaking of the 5 star PURE Beach Resort at:

    Interesting that the St. Kitts project is being promoted in the Middle East, Nigeria, China and Vietnam, and the PURE Beach project was being promoted in Korea.

    A big difference is that the St. Kitts promoters appear to have the backing of the deep pockets of His Highness Sheikh Manea Bin Hasher Al Maktoum, a member of Dubai’s ruling family; while the Canadian/Korean promoters of PURE Beach have no money.

  10. “In terms of economics, there is a clear need for a publicly accessible impact analysis, detailing the over-dependence of the economy on tourism, its contribution to taxes and job creation (including quality jobs), its profitability and its impact on the environment.”

    There is no need for such an analysis.The current state of the economy and the country is evidence enough.Underemployed constantly assaulting broke tourists as fair game.

    “Tourists are also a natural and free marketing team for Barbadian rum, falernum and beer; they should be encourage to spread the word about Barbadian cuisine.”

    Tourists can only say so much.Its the responsibility of the tourist board to stop snubbing the contribution of low end tourism.Oistins a classic example.Stop thinking every tourist coming here to eat in a 5 star restaurant.Notice how much tourists frequent Chefette on Upper Broad Street ,Cheapside Market and the new budget supermarket on Princess Alice Highway on Saturdays.

    “There is a pressing need for a leisure infrastructure in Barbados, ranging from safe and decent cinemas, sports and leisure centres, theatres, high-class restaurants and fitness gyms. Not only is there the lack of a publicly accessible strategy”

    Bridgetown is very adequate for that from Pelican Village to Bay street and stop fooling ourselves to keep it a retailing haven.Move retailing out and close the streets to vehicular traffic.B’town can be a leisure center.Period.Four Seasons can be a casino for low end gamblers and Ports Charles and Ferdinand can have an upscale variant sandwiched in between.Make town a free wi fi capital with the option of sitting on Broad or Swan Street under an umbrella drinking soursop punch or on the Boardwalk by the Careenage watching a fashion show.

    We are playing the ass.

  11. Addition.We need to make all of our tourist focused activities and amenities 100% disabled compliant.That is a very viable market we overlook.

    • New research on all-inclusive hotels documents poor working conditions

      Created on Friday, 28 March 2014 13:11 | Written by Tourism Concern

      London, UK – Tourism Concern have launched a new report on the impacts of All-inclusive Hotels on working conditions and labour rights in Kenya, Tenerife & Barbados.

      The research, which was supported by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) was undertaken in order to better understand more fully how the all-inclusive model of tourism impacts upon the rights of hotel workers. We undertook field work in three popular holiday destinations (Barbados, Kenya and Tenerife) in order to generate new evidence and understanding about how the all-inclusive holiday model impacts upon pay, working conditions and labour rights of hotel employees in the selected destinations, including comparison with those in other types of hotel.

      The research found that:

      • Workers in all-inclusive hotels were more likely to be on short term contracts which offer fewer benefits and less job security.
      • Prolonged contact with guests is more likely in all-inclusives, which can be stressful.
      • Al-inclusive hotel staff also received significantly less in tips.
      • Staff in all types of hotel are faced with low wages and a range of unfavorable working conditions, from working hours which disrupt home life through to stress and exposure to risk.

      Despite these problems, some progress has been made since Tourism Concern’s published research in 2004: ‘Labour standards, social responsibility and tourism’. This has come about in part as a consequence of collective bargaining, social dialogue and the enforcement of appropriate legislation, including the adoption of international labour standards. Barbados in particular demonstrated a model of social dialogue that appears to have had favourable results and is respected by many of the staff who we interviewed.

      For more details visit

  12. The Barbados Tourism Industry ought and must take a page out of the Dominican Republic tourist book. That is if it desire to ascertain the reason or reasons it has founded success in this new North American market. And we on the other hand, seem to be in need of it badly. Now, I am not being unfaithful to the truth, when I say that the majority of the people that I have spoken to and who are vacationing in the Caribbean, seems to be opting for the Dominican Republic over the more popular destinations in the Caribbean like the Bahamas and Jamaica. And when I ask the reason why, their number one answer is because it is cheaper. A co-worker of mine just related to me that he and his entire family will be attending his brother’s wedding in the Dominican Republic this Summer. Now who in their right mind would have thought that the Dominican Republic out of all places, would have been one of the leading tourist destination in the Caribbean to date?

Leave a comment, join the discussion.