EDITORIAL: Make City inviting, even after sunset
Martin Ince is absolutely right. Bridgetown is often not a very inviting place. And he is not the first, or second, or third person to say so in recent years, but the context within which he made the statement makes it that much more relevant.
Barbadians have been getting bad news in relation to the economy for so many years now that it has become the expected thing. So when a major practitioner in the tourism industry – and not a politician – tells us we can expect bumper numbers of cruise ship passengers for the next two years, and that already the projection for 2017 “looks good”, we have to take note.
But Ince, the chief executive officer of Foster & Ince Cruise World, left no doubt that we are in danger of shooting ourselves in the foot if we do not take urgent steps to clean up our capital city and breathe new life into it.
Bridgetown is dirty!
Not just from the mounds of garbage that can be left uncollected too long after the close of business, or the poor disposal habits of those who sell fruits and vegetables from the sidewalks, stalls and commercial buildings, or the growing number of vagrants and bottle collectors who empty the contents of garbage bins onto the sidewalks, but also the overgrown lots, unkempt buildings, derelict structures, broken walls and so much more.
There is the added disincentive of a city that is so poorly lit at night where, except for Broad Street and Swan Street, any thoughts of window shopping as a pastime quickly evaporate.
In fact, we would go so far as to suggest that had it not been for the two bus terminals at opposite ends of Bridgetown, it would be a ghost town after sunset. Heaven help us if one of the cost-cutting measures of the Transport Board is to consolidate the operations of these two terminals.
So far, investments like the Wickham-Lewis Boardwalk and upgraded sidewalks and the pedestrianisation of Swan Street have not, in our opinion, paid the kinds of dividends that should have resulted. We suspect Bridgetown needs a new joint private/public sector revitalisation initiative.
There has to be a fresh set of incentives to encourage businesses such as bars and restaurants that would extend the life of The City beyond 6 p.m., which, in turn, would serve to encourage retail businesses to remain open longer.
The City also needs some sidewalk cafés and ice cream parlour-type operations, and the dockside leisure activities offered by ventures such as Jolly Roger and MC Buccaneer need to be lifted to a higher standard and extended to new players.
The residents of Bridgetown also have to be included in any revitalisation effort. All the plans and money we have set aside for decades to improve depressed neighbourhoods have to be dusted off and implemented. These residents can provide a viable market for any stepped up activity in The City.
If we make Bridgetown inviting and viable for Barbadians, it will be more than enough to satisfy the desires of both our cruise and long-stay visitors. It has been done elsewhere where resources are less and attractions are fewer, so let’s get on with the job.