EDITORIAL: Let’s hearken unto Sir Lloyd
Few Barbadians are more acutely aware of the importance of tourism to the national well-being than former Prime Minister Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford, who also held the portfolio of Minister of Finance, as well as Minister of Tourism. We must therefore take seriously his strong comments on the need for greater and quickened effort by Government in bringing tourists from China here.
It is common ground between the two major political parties that tourism is a major plank in our economic platform and that the more tourists to the island the better – all the more now, given the challenges of our traditional markets, together with the spectre of a dying cruise industry.
Plus, the hurdles being officially placed in the path of our international business sector have the potential of decreasing the number of those who would be tourists to Barbados.
The more international companies we have registered here and doing business, the more business tourists we will be welcoming at our airport. Tourism means more foreign exchange, more jobs and more taxes paid into our national treasury.
Public debate on these types of issues by men and women learned in the topics are generally good for the public interest. Apart from his long and distinguished career as a politician, Sir Lloyd had earned a high reputation as an intellectual and academic whose capacity for things of the mind was matched by an obdurateness for sticking to his guns once he had given deep thought to a matter and had expressed himself publicly.
He is, as usual, forthright in his comments. He says that it is taking too long for us to exploit the opportunities for travel between China and Barbados for our national benefit. And he is also asking for some money to be spent on developing a Chinese market and wooing the Chinese people to our shores. He reminds us that we have spent significant sums to get one Englishman or one American, but as he alleges, we haven’t spent one cent on a Chinese.
Sir Lloyd’s frustration is understandable, since as this island’s Ambassador to China he is accredited to a country often said to be the world’s second largest economy, and he is able to appreciate what increased traffic could mean for us.
It is not common for a diplomat to be speaking on matters of this sort where policy and execution might merge or collide, but the public interest is protected, for it has been reinforced that the appointment of an ambassador will die in the water unless finance is put behind a campaign of education and promotion to broaden that catchment area from which we will draw more tourists.
We have started training our people to speak Chinese by providing courses at the Barbados Community College and the University of the West Indies, and we have been sending some of our bright and enterprising young people to study in China.
It is therefore all the more surprising then that Sir Lloyd finds it necessary to complain there has been a lack of follow-up in the kinds of things that would enable him and his staff in Beijing to do more than just merely “laying the groundwork” for attracting Chinese tourists.
We applaud Sir Lloyd’s frank comments, and proffer that they require the most urgent attention.