As we have celebrated World Tourism Day, at a time when international and domestic tourism activity has been severely impacted by the vagaries of COVID-19, it is useful to take the time to reflect.
Let us reflect on what tourism is – “the act of persons travelling for pleasure or business, most often away from their normal area of residence” – however; in reflecting and giving consideration to the evolution of tourism, recognition must be made of the leaps and bounds that have been made in this sector globally, and certainly in Barbados.
Barbados has always been known for its beaches, and continues to be, but over the years, there has been growing interest and development of our cultural heritage – from our religion to architecture, from our rum to horticulture. The components of Barbados’ tourism offering have grown in diversity and, so too have the source markets from which our visitors are drawn. Whether travelling via air or sea, we have, over the years, welcomed visitors in increasing numbers from across the globe.
Of course the appeal of Barbados hinges heavily on our people. Our capacity to open our arms to all and share the warmth of the Barbadian spirit with the entirety of visitors, regardless of who they are.
Recognition must be given to every Barbadian for playing their part, for while it is not always recognised, the impact on the visitor experience is felt across every point of contact.
In much the same way, the benefits gleaned from tourism spread far and wide throughout our society, impacting on virtually every household and citizen.
In reflecting, it is natural to also ask, “Where are we going?” Especially so at a time when there is so much uncertainty.
Tourism has gone through crises before and recovered, as it shall also from this current crisis. In planning for our recovery we must seize the opportunities that arise to build an enhanced visitor experience and form more strategic and sustainable linkages.
The opportunity is before us to retool and upgrade the skills of our people – to develop enhanced leaders, to develop new skills that will appeal to a changing traveling demographic while continuing to provide first-class experiences to our numerous repeat guests.
As tourism has changed, so has just about everything in the world in which we live, with much of the change in the past couple decades being driven by technological change. The opportunity is before us to embrace technology to a greater extent and employ it in our operations for greater efficiency and an expanded guest experience.
We are seeing the use of Quick Response (QR) codes at restaurants instead of the traditional menus folders. What other ways can we incorporate technology into our operations?
I want to encourage all persons and businesses across Barbados to ask how technology can make our lives and businesses more comfortable and efficient and grasp the moment.
Opportunities to improve the value chain with agriculture, the cultural industries and others also need to be explored and advanced. There is no turning back the clock as changes in our operating environment, both locally and globally, necessitate new ways of thinking and acting.
We must reinvent ourselves and emerge from our current situation with a renewed vigour and a heightened sense of urgency as the rest of the world also emerges from this crisis.
Over the past few months there has been a level of collaboration and consultation among the players within Barbados’ tourism industry that has been a source of encouragement.
This has been among the members of the BHTA themselves, as well as between the members and other stakeholder organisations’ representatives.
While there have been numerous issues to address, much of the effort has been focused on the preservation of lives and livelihoods, as we know that businesses are only as good as the people who make up the teams.
On behalf of all persons involved in the tourism industry, I want to want to extend tremendous gratitude to all those who have worked over the past few months and continue to do so, in the fight against and in managing COVID on the island – to the Government and all of its agencies, to the front-line and essential services workers and to every Barbadian who continues to cooperate and adhere to the protocols.
To all of the teams within the tourism industry, a huge thank you to each and every one of you for the roles you have played. I look forward to the roles you will continue to play as Barbados responds in a transformative manner to the re-engagement of visitors in increased numbers in the future. As the saying goes, tough times do not last but tough people do.
Remember – Diamonds are formed under pressure!