FOR WHAT IT IS WORTH: Nurturing our tourism
Two stories reported in the media last week, although with unfortunate origins, give us comfort that Barbados has something special which attracts visitors to our shores. This augurs well for our tourism industry.
The fact that two British visitors were shot while on shore from a cruise ship, immediately said they would visit Barbados again and are in fact here, and an American visitor who had only visited Barbados for a few hours would request that his ashes be scattered at Accra Beach because he had fallen “so in love with the island”, are testimony to this. One wonders why these stories were not “front page” news rather than the finding of marijuana plants and the removal of the fuel subsidy.
However, this “marriage” between Barbados and its visitors has to be nurtured, just like a marriage between husband and wife, and not left unattended. As I’ve said before, we mustn’t treat visitors like ATMs, only interested in their money. We must give them the best experience possible while they are our guests.
We must also cater to all types of tourist. We keep hearing about concentrating on the “high-end market”. Since we’re hardly likely to ask for visitors’ bank statements in advance, how does one define this market? Is it based on whether you are a “Sir” or a “Lady”, “Duchess” or film star, or perhaps where you have booked to stay? The recent incident at Sandy Lane Estate should teach us a lesson in this respect – that things are not always what they seem to be. In fact, I’ve often heard that many so-called “high-end” visitors leave the island owing the “high-end” hotels large sums of money, possibly because certain guests are trusted because of their apparent positions.
Furthermore, I’m offended by Sandals’ head honcho Gordon “Butch” Stewart’s comments that Government’s concessions will allow his company to “lay the base to bring to the island quality visitors who would spend quality money . . .”. What defines a “quality visitor” and how does money differ in quality?
We must treat all our visitors with respect as long as they return this respect. With regard to nurturing them, we need to pay attention to our service quality. This must be consistent. It’s embarrassing when one has a good experience at a restaurant one night and recommends it to visitors, only to find that they experience disgusting service when they visit. I can attest to this since I accompanied a group of visitors to a restaurant recently where dinner took over an hour to arrive, and then two meals were served at a time, so that by the time the last person was served, everyone else had finished. To add insult to injury, one meal was incorrect and so was the bill. Obviously they won’t be visiting that restaurant again, nor will I be recommending it. New restaurants also have to ensure that as they grow in popularity, they increase their staff and/or efficiency commensurately or they will quickly lose their good reputation and perhaps even close down.
All local restaurants would do well to take a leaf out of Chiryl Wiltshire-Newman’s book. In the face of many challenges, her restaurant Champers has moved from strength to strength and her quality of service and fare has never waned. She has demonstrated that consistently superior service is achievable.
I noted recently our increasing noise problem. A few days later I was “treated” to deafening noise until 5:30 a.m., which I was shocked to discover was emanating from a party in my neighbourhood.
If this was emanating from a private home, one can imagine what the case is with nightclubs. Do we expect our visitors to accept this, or the constant loud buzz from the “bulls” of kites left out at night? Why does a kite have to have a “bull” in the first place, the sole purpose of which is to make an irritating noise? The noise problem is so out of hand that an American who has been resident here for many years suggests that Immigration officers distribute earplugs at the airport. Can we afford to let a problem which can be so easily solved by the enforcement of proper legislation undermine the considerable investment in our tourism industry?
l Dr Francess Chandler is a former Independent senator. Email [email protected]