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EDITORIAL: Embracing tourism

rhondathompson, [email protected]

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The decision by some Bridgetown retailers to absorb the recent increase in VAT is a laudable one since it ensures that Government policy is carried through while at the same time the consumer is given a welcome respite in the face of ever increasing rise in prices and in the cost of living.
It is, however, only a temporary ease and one anticipates that once the year has ended and the Christmas splurging has been done, the increase will flow through the customers who will then experience in their pockets the impact of the increase. This may have the effect of dampening some sales in the New Year and thereby reducing Government’s intake of VAT which might put some of the anticipated revenue uptake at risk.
Yet such are the vagaries of human response that one is never sure how the general population is likely to react to economic measures handed down in Budgets, which are naturally designed to achieve stated objectives. Indeed, the study of consumer behaviour which resides most closely in the discipline of psychology has become in recent times a study of economics itself since all economic forecasting must of necessity take this factor into account.
As our tourism season is about to lift off, we raise this point because it matters to us as a small developing country that we, too, must be thoughtful of how we market our country abroad and at home to visitors.
Tourism and services have now become our major breadbasket in that we draw the largest chunk of our foreign exchange earnings from these two sectors, and just as Bridgetown stores have to ensure that they so market themselves that they continue to attract customers, so too must this island continue to so market itself that we compete successfully against the worldwide competition to attract tourists in what has become a tight market, aggravated by the international recession.
It has to be made clear that the external marketing must be matched by a welcoming attitude by those of us who may come into contact with tourists visiting our shores.
We do not need to be servile in order to render proper service, nor do we need to genuflect to every passing visitor to make him or her feel welcome.
Yet as we embark on the opening phases of another tourist season, we must be the more acutely conscious that it ensures to the benefit of our island if our visitors regard us as a friendly people and see our island as a peaceful and safe place to spend their vacations.
Tourism really is our business and we must be realistic about the chances of further  economic growth if our main foreign exchange earner is hamstrung by unwelcoming local attitudes, for in that case all the external marketing will not help us if the product does not live up to the marketing of the Barbados Tourism Authority.  
And we must not be in any doubt that the mix of factors which go into making for a successful product includes the attractiveness of the physical landscape, the salubrious nature of our climate and the political stability of our island; but of greatest importance will be the way we react to and treat our visitors once they are here.
Simply by being NISE to each other and to visitors alike, each and every Barbadian can do his or her bit to help the national effort to pull together at this critical economic juncture.  
By doing so we will be safeguarding thousands of jobs, protecting our standard of living, and helping in the national effort at rebalancing the economy.