The Barbados Tourism Model
Posted: Thursday, November 25, 2010
By Derren Joseph
November 25, 2010
Last Sunday's '60 Minutes' on CBS had an interesting feature on Natural Gas exploration in the United States. Of note was that the equivalent of 2 Saudi Arabia's worth of Natural Gas has been recently 'discovered' in shale deposits in the US. As I watched the feature, I remembered the presentation by BP's Chief Economist Christof Rühl some months ago at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad. He suggested that global demand for oil/gas may have adjusted to a lower level from the previous peak. Increase in supply plus decrease in demand, usually means that price heads in one direction – downwards. This is not good news for gas producers like Trinidad and Tobago.
As we get serious about economic diversification, tourism becomes more and more attractive. One Saturday morning, while running around the savannah with my running group, the Mall Crawlers, I bumped into a senior figure in the local tourism industry. In our chat, she mentioned how impressed she was by the Barbados model of tourism so I decided to pay more attention to our neighbor.
Two weeks ago, the Barbados Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy said that tourism was a $1.2 billion industry for them and that it could no longer be operated on an ad hoc basis. As a result, the recently-reactivated Tourism Advisory Council chaired by Dr Sherma Roberts has been given responsibility for leading the process for the development of a White Paper on Tourism Development. This White Paper will form the basis of a Tourism Master Plan for the island. Dr Roberts is quoted as saying that the White Paper would be a policy document designed to provide the strategic direction for Barbados' tourism development over the next ten years. Elsewhere, it says that the Master Plan would cover the 2012 to 2021 period.
I smiled as I read this as I have previously advocated in this column the need for our tourism stakeholders to retreat and come up with a strategic plan of some sort which could then be put out for wider consultation. We too have "reactivated" a Tourism Standing Committee which could serve as the focal point for strategy formulation given that the committee is comprised of all the main stakeholder groupings. From there, such a strategic plan would benefit from wider input from economists, environmentalists, teachers, cultural groups and others who would and should be able to add value.
The case for a proper plan is compelling. On September 29th, Trinidad and Tobago arrival data from 1995 to 2009 was published in graphical form in another local newspaper. It clearly shows an upward trend from 1995 to 2005. Since peaking in 2005, arrivals have been in decline, and more importantly, so has the economic contribution of tourism to the economy. Given that this decline predates the global economic turmoil, we cannot escape taking a long, hard look in the mirror to discover the internal factors responsible for the decline.
Such a strategic plan would also be a natural step proceeding from the National Tourism Policy adopted by the previous administration and revised by the present one. During the Budget debate in mid September, our Tourism Minister confirmed that the Ministry of Tourism has completed its review of the National Tourism Policy to ensure its alignment with Government's Policy Framework. This Revised Policy was submitted to Cabinet. Minister Griffith revealed that the Revised National Tourism Policy "pursues quality and sustainable growth, and encourages community participation and empowerment". These are principles about which I feel strongly, because without community participation and empowerment, the benefits of tourism will not be felt by the average woman in the average rural community. The previous 53 page, National Tourism Policy mentioned "community" about 17 times by my own count. I am pleased that the revised policy document will entrench these principles even more deeply.
Anyway, when next I see my friend, I will tell her that the Barbadian model may not be that far removed from ours. After speaking about the Revised National Tourism Policy in his Budget contribution, Minister Griffith went on to say that "The next step is the development of the strongest possible Strategic Development Action Plan". He finished the point by saying that the "goal of the Strategic Action Plan is, amongst others, to inspire and accelerate the growth of the tourism industry in a responsible and sustainable manner."
I am not advocating 'analysis paralysis' just that we seriously re-evaluate our approach. We cannot continue doing the same things and expect a different result. My name is Derren Joseph and I love my country. As always, I end by saying that despite our challenges, we are so blessed to live in this beautiful land. Let us continue to have the audacity of hope in the future of our beloved country.
Send page by E-Mail