TOURISM MATTERS: White paper long in coming but welcome
THE recent media coverage announcing the intention to launch a discussion process that would eventually produce a white paper for tourism development is very welcome and, many would think, long overdue. It is difficult to fathom why it has taken nearly three years to get to this stage.
The Ministry of Tourism’s website explains the intentions and objectives of how and why the white paper will be created.
It also indicates how interested parties could make their views known through various email addresses, a blog and social media sites that include Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and YouTube.
The site also states, “A discussion paper has been prepared to provide an in-depth analysis of current international and national practices and policies as it pertains to tourism development and destination management,” and invites viewers to “please click here” to access the document.
Sadly, a full week after the media launch, none of the links work, with emails being returned “delivery to the following recipients failed”.
“Three town hall meetings will be held to facilitate consultation with the general public on issues of importance to tourism development. The dates and venues of these town hall meets are as follows:”
While the three venues are shown with the provisory ‘TBC’, no dates are indicated.
On reflection and to maintain interest, surely it would have been better to get everything in place and test the response mechanisms first.
Once access is available, I understand that “Barbadian residents and the diaspora” will be able to proffer their suggestions, but there does not appear to be any way that our cherished visitors can contribute.
If this is the case, personally I think it is a mistake. You only have to go to sites like the Barbados Forum on TripAdvisor to see that many visitors have a lot to say about our tourism offerings and much of it is very constructive.
I believe it’s vital that we listen and be seen to be listening to comments made by our customers.
As an example, we recently hosted a small ladies-only group celebrating a special birthday, during which they spent an afternoon at one of our most popular beaches. On their return to the hotel, we asked if they enjoyed their visit and all they could talk about was the number of times that they had been offered cocaine.
Generally, I am not sure whether “we” as a destination monitor and respond to our visitors’ experiences and observations adequately.
Examples include the so-called “Boscobel Gang” and the series of serious attacks that took place over the two years prior to the tragedy on Long Beach in Christ Church.
Some readers may consider these comments negative, but unless there is an effective response to matters of concern, the problems are left to fester and the potential damage to our reputation increases in intensity.
I fully support the ministry’s efforts to devise a meaningful Tourism Master Plan, but let us get it right the first time and ensure that it is truly a comprehensive, all-embracing strategic plan.
Adrian Loveridge is a hotelier of four decades’ standing; email [email protected]