Share to ensure economic survival
One of the consequences of the harsh nature of our recent economic decline is that it may have brought home to all of us a profound truth that tourism is the lifeblood of our economy and our way of life.
For far too long we have played politics of one kind or other with this industry. Our history of slavery and the spectre of covert or expressed racism, have allowed all kinds of statements inimical to the proper development of the industry to cloud the judgement of men in the street and many in the heights and terraces about the industry.
We ought long ago to have recognised that tourism is an export industry, and that wide-ranging tax and duty-free concessions are needed to cushion the large capital investment and high recurring costs, in what is one of the most challenging ventures into which any entrepreneur can invest.
The Government is right to do business with Mr Butch Stewart’s companies. The declining fortunes of our economy may have driven us to grant certain concessions to lure the brand here, but that is the way of business and there ought not to be any capricious quibble about the matter. Constructive criticism is, of course, always welcome.
Yet, however the decision was arrived at, it is a good one and the Sandals and Beaches brands operated by Mr Stewart’s companies should bring major benefits to tourism.
We also welcome the news that similar concessions will be extended to local hotels and that permanent legislation to that effect will soon be brought to Parliament. Clearly, the penny has dropped.
Some may say the Sandals concessions were originally Sandals specific and that the industry’s lobbying may have shone the light on the Ministry of Tourism.
Be that as it may, that ministry now has pre-eminent duty to so preach its message that the country at large realises that while this country’s “hills and fields beyond recall are now our very own” our economic survival and prosperity require that we share it with our visiting tourists whose foreign exchange helps us to pay our bills in the hard currencies of international trade.
Each one of us must now make it our personal business to support the national tourism effort in every way possible.
We must also stop blowing hot and cold. West Coast development and the creation of golf courses must not any longer be represented as creating “two Barbadoses”.
Not when the jobs of hotel workers are directly created by such investment, and tax revenues from such ventures flow into the Treasury allowing Government to keep NCC and other such workers employed and to pay for the education and health of our people.
We have arrived at a point in our nation’s journey where a frank conversation about tourism must take place with our people, for we now have to develop every lawful activity that will assist in the growth of our tourism industry.
It will mean sharing our patrimony of good beaches, warm sunshine and generally stable society, with our visitors. “Dah beachis mine” but it can be shared with our visitors, for a while, as we render service without servility.
We must now walk in tandem with Government and the industry, on what may be the first steps on the way back for our ailing economy. Tourism is really our business.