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LEFT OF CENTRE: Update cultural/heritage niche

Richard Sealy

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In order to establish a comprehensive plan for the tourism industry, the Ministry of Tourism has developed a White Paper on the Development of Tourism in Barbados which is before the Cabinet for consideration.
The White Paper will set the policy direction for a tourism master plan which will be crafted for the period 2012 to 2021. Our vision is the sustained growth of the industry over the long term. In order to make this possible, Government will make tourism a priority in national policy decisions, foster competitive and responsible business models and practices and increased cooperation between the public and private sectors. We are committed to the success of this vital industry.
In the research document Megatrends Underpinning Tourism To 2020 Analysis Of Key Drivers For Change, Dwyer et al state that the tourism industry is expected to develop on both the supply and the demand side consistently with wider economic, social, cultural, political, technological and environmental trends affecting all countries.
In an increasingly turbulent and rapidly changing world, innovation and development driven by both internal and external circumstances will continue to take place. Inevitably there will arise various external events over which destination managers and individual operators can exercise little control.  
In their summary action agenda for tourism, the authors list several important areas. The areas that I believe are critical for Barbados include: the changing needs of tourists, destination policy planning and development, and sustainability.
As far as the changing needs of the tourist are concerned, Barbados has come to realize that the visitor wants more than sea, sun and sand. We have moved with the tide and are providing the interesting and authentic experiences the visitor craves through our cultural/heritage niche. At the local level, special projects include the colourful and vibrant Friday night Oistins Fish Fry, interpretive museums such as the Cricket Legends Of Barbados and the Arlington Museum, as well as the development of an African Diaspora Heritage Trail (ADHT) marketed as Freedom Footprints: The Barbados Story.
The inscription of Bridgetown And Its Historic Garrison as a World Heritage property will considerably enhance our cultural/heritage offering.  
With regard to destination management, Barbados recognizes that we need to increase productivity and the competitive advantage of the industry.
We are adapting by going back to basics through our National Tourism Host Programme which is now being crafted.
The aim of the programme is to enhance the knowledge base and raise the level of awareness among those employed or associated with the hospitality and tourism sector.  
Ultimately this programme will improve the relationship between the visitor and the Barbadian public and improve the quality of visitors’ experience.  
On the subject of sustainability, Barbados will do everything in its power to ensure that generations far into the future benefit from our main export industry – tourism.
In line with the global trend, Government has made sustainability one of the foremost planks for preserving the island’s future.
There is a paradoxical relationship between the benefits tourism brings to a destination and the debilitating impacts the same tourism sector can deliver if not strategically planned, controlled and managed within the confines of current economic, social and environmental parameters.
• This is an edited version of the presentation Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy made last month at the Institute Of Travel And Tourism Conference held here.