EDITORIAL: Tourism key to turnaround in the economy
With the economy still the front burner topic of every serious commentator, it is at least heartening to hear that the Top Gear Festival will take place here in May.
This country already has a high profile in Britain and Top Gear is a popular media event which will garner high quality exposure among those who support motor sport.
It is significant that top names in Formula One, like Lewis Hamilton, will be here to take part because that will add a credibility edge; and there will also be world famous presenters and motor sports legends on the island.
We are pleased with this development as one of the kind of positive events which will highlight this country as a place that is attractive to visitors.
Initiatives of this kind may not have been the traditional approach to building up the tourism profile of the island, but recent history has shown that targeting specific niches of activity has been a useful new addition to the arsenal of weapons of inducements used by marketers of our tourism product.
The idea is to show what we have to offer to those who might be members of niche groups.
The same idea was behind the Rihanna concert which would have exposed the island to the immediate travellers coming to the concerts and to the larger television audiences which would have been attracted to television broadcasts of the shows.
There are some who, because of myopic perspectives, are against the promotion of Barbados as a place where high-end tourism flourishes, and yet activities such as Top Gear are aimed, to a very large extent, at those who are fairly “well-heeled”.
But the value of a diverse tourism product such as ours is that it can cater to all segments of the market and, as a result, we promote the west coast as well as the south coast. This policy, which is common to both sides of the political divide, has proved beneficial in the past and we are pleased that there is a similar bipartisan approach to the idea of sports-related tourism of which Top Gear is a prime example.
Tourism, properly marketed, can help us turn around our economy relatively quickly, and the time has come for all of us to also see that there are various ways in which we can market tourism which one politician correctly described as an “invisible export”.
Sometimes we have been short-sighted. We were not exactly enamoured of the notion that foreign medical schools should operate from within our shoes and the calypso Cadaver captures this story. But we must now recognise education as a valuable “export” and an earner of foreign exchange; the more so, if we can attract students from abroad to come to these shores for educational purposes.
We have often said that tourism is our business. It is, but we need to discover and exploit all aspects of our tourism; and that includes medical tourism; educational tourism and of course sports tourism.