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LEFT OF CENTRE:Need for enabling environment

Wayne Capaldi

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Whilst we acknowledge and laud Government’s backing for the sector through increased financial support to the Barbados Tourism Authority and price support for the industry that has been allocated to us through the Tourism Industry Relief Fund (TIRF), the raw fact is that at the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association (BHTA), we define support in a more holistic manner  than perhaps Government does.Yes, these inputs  are necessary at this time, but the entire environment in which we operate needs  to be thoroughly analysed and when  we do that analysis, our Government  is certainly  found wanting.The reality is that whilst for many years industry practitioners have argued for a more favourable operating environment in the form of reductions in input cost to the sector, found primarily in the duties and taxes imposed, such reductions are not the be-all and end-all of Government support.These are precarious and uncertain times and even these reductions will not suffice. These inputs  go to the heart of the industry and affect  the overall long-term viability of this vital sector, particularly  the accommodation component.They also influence in great measure investor attractiveness and affect investor confidence, but there is certainly much more to the Government support than even what is implied and exhibited in actions of this kind.It is our opinion that never has there been a more propitious time  for Government to demonstrate their fullest commitment to the long-term sustainability of tourism in Barbados than the present.Tourism in our country is overdue for a substantial overhaul; what better time to do so than in a period of downturn?Now is the time that we need to put into action our vision for development  for the next two  to three decades.A vision and a plan that must be led by Government, but one  in which the private sector plays a significant role.      Government must  set the tone and demonstrate the political will to radically alter the  way business is done  in the public sector.There is a pressing need to create a business environment that is more congenial to facilitating investment, a true investor-friendly climate that limits  red tape and places the investor and potential investor at the centre  of the action where tourism development  is concerned.This new National Tourism Policy direction must inform the creation of a national tourism strategic plan that  is focused on setting achievable targets  for growth and development and driven of course  by the allocation  of the necessary resource base.The areas that should be targeted in this novel approach include our total human resource component, the economic performance of the industry, the enabling environment in which we operate, and our overall product base.If as a country we are able to accomplish this, we should emerge from the present crisis better  prepared to take our place in the world of travel and tourism and certainly more equipped to handle future external shocks.If Government can do these things in short measure, then we can truly say that they are doing all they can  to support the sector at this time.