Just a week away from celebrating our 54th year of independence and probably the very last year that any citizen will be recognized for their outstanding national contribution locally, by being granted (Order of Barbados) Knight (KA) or Dame (DA) status, after Government has decided to remove Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and presumably her representative here.
Considering the massive transformational effect tourism has made in the development of the country over the last five decades, some may find it surprising that not a single person within the industry, over that period, has been sufficiently identified and chosen to receive the highest honour, unlike in some other neighbouring islands.
Perhaps it reflects the often expressed general cynicism directed at the sector, that each and every hotelier is a money grabbing, subsidy opportunist, extracting limitless concessions and who expects Government to constantly bail them out, even when even tiniest challenge is put in their way.
While this may be vaguely true for a tiny number of chosen few, as a former small hotelier, operating for over 25 years, I can tell you that perception is so far from reality that it bears absolutely no actual creditability at all, for the vast majority of us.
I graphically recall our very first attempt to bring in ‘duty-free’ a special paint for extreme salt spray exposed surfaces. The duties and charges levied locally were more than twice the cost of the goods and shipping. Despite that, we paid the taxes in full, only to discover when collecting the paint from a ‘secure’ customs bond, that more than a third of the product had been stolen. When then asking if we could amend our duty payment to the revised amount of goods received, we were told NO and that we had to apply for a refund which in the words of the then comptroller, could take up to between one and two years.
After, that early experience, we virtually gave up on even going through the motions of attempting to buy ‘duty-free’ items for the hotel, as the barrage of obstacles placed in our way, were just too tedious and mentally overpowering to surmount.
Returning to the point of this column, I hope that one day that some of the very many dedicated professionals, at every level, will be recognised for their tireless efforts, once again. Not limited to only those promoting Barbados tourism, but fully embracing everyone who provides personal service delivery, to each and every guest.
As and when the pandemic issue is resolved, it is going to be even more critical to the sector’s recovery that ‘we’ provide the very best welcome to both returning and first time visitors. As a country, when we continually fail to value the selfless contribution made by so many, we are losing track and the purpose of what makes tourism and a destination successful.