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ON THE LEFT: Tourism product at crossroads

Patricia Affonso-Dass

ON THE LEFT: Tourism product at crossroads

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The tourism product in Barbados is diverse and includes a range of all types of accommodation and a wide variety of restaurants, attractions, and a range of other community-based activities, all of which blend together to create a destination that can be custom tailored to suit the needs of the most discerning visitor requiring the ultimate in luxury and privacy, or independent travellers wanting to immerse themselves in the local life and culture.
From an investment perspective, Barbados provides a highly attractive environment and there is opportunity for development in a range of areas. The primary pieces of legislation that provide benefits and incentives to investment in the tourism and hospitality sector in Barbados are the Tourism Development Act and the Special Development Areas Act. Incentives are offered under these two pieces of legislation for investment in the accommodation sector, restaurants, recreational facilities and services, development of attractions which emphasise the island’s natural, historic and cultural heritage and for the construction of properties in non-coastal areas.
?Provision is made in the act for investors in tourism projects to benefit from write-off of capital expenditure and 150 per cent of interest; there is also exemption from import duty, value added tax and environmental levy on a wide range of items, including furniture, fixtures and equipment as well as building materials, supplies and equity financing.
The Tourism Development Act is currently under review with the aim of making the facilities within it more easily available and the act itself more robust and a number of additional items have recently been added to the list of items exempt of duty and other taxes.
In recent years, Barbados has seen the addition of International Hotel Brands with Radisson, Courtyard by Marriott and Couples Resorts from Jamaica joining the existing Hilton Hotel and Fairmont brands and there has been a real diversification in the accommodation sector, with significant growth in the villa and condominium sector.
?There is still room for additional international brands and a real need for the upgrade of much of the existing accommodation product, as well as for new and innovative projects that offer fresh concepts that are highly differentiated. It is important that any development provide value for money to the end hotel or real estate consumer if the Barbadian resorts are to compete successfully in the competitive global market.
In a tourism environment where global competition is fiercer than ever, where the consumer is demanding new experiences, higher levels of service and more dramatic and realistic experiences and where social media allows the immediate transfer of experiences, images and opinions Barbados is at a crossroads.
Its success will be dependent on how well it trades on the excellent reputation that it has created over the years, reinvents its existing products and adds new and exciting ones, improves its levels of service and facilities and on ensuring the most facilitative environment for tourism development in order to attract the right mix of new projects.
Patricia Affonso-Dass is president of the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association