EDITORIAL: Guests bearing hope
ANYONE WHO HAS LIVED in North America for any length of time knows that after summer and autumn, temperatures dip into the 60s and for most people bundling up in warm clothing is a necessity. By contrast, after winter when temperatures rise to the same 60s, it is not unusual to see persons walking around in shorts.
When it comes to Barbados’ tourism we have been suffering through a “winter” of arrivals for so long that even the slightest hint of improvement would seem like reason to celebrate. In fact, any Barbadian who visits one of our beaches or happens to drive by one must feel some sense of warmth at the sight. Our beaches are once again populated with tourists and if the anecdotal evidence from these locations is anything to go by it is no slight thaw from our long winter.
This, coupled with the reprieve from stifling energy prices, offers more than a ray of hope that Barbados could be at the start of an economic recovery. Just this week chief executive officer of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. William Griffith provided some statistics that should be a source of hope.
Long stay arrivals last December, he disclosed, rose by 20 per cent over the previous December, allowing the island to record its best December since the year of Cricket World Cup in 2007.
January, Mr Gollop added, was even better – the highest number of arrivals in 15 years – with 56 132 tourists turning up. Our tourism officials are now predicting at least a five per cent growth in long stay arrivals this year.
Given the fact that for Barbadians good news has been a scarce commodity for so long we ought to celebrate this success in the most important sector of our economy. But at the same time we ought to have learnt something from the experience of the last six or so years. Tourism is a most fickle industry – susceptible to even the slightest bumps in our source markets or at home.
And for the younger generation of Barbadians who have grown up in times of plenty, the challenges they have witnessed in their households in the recent past should also serve as a warning that any hurt suffered in this vital sector quickly becomes an all-encompassing national pain.
Therefore, those among us who would so easily engage in acts of violence and crime that can quickly scare away our guests must be made to feel uncomfortable. It is well accepted that very few crimes occur without the knowledge of persons other than the perpetrators, either before, during or after the act, and these people should make it their business to ensure that the guilty never get away.
There are those who would so quickly retort that there is crime in the cities and countries from which our guests arrive, and they would be accurate. In fact, in many cases our crime situation would be comparatively negligible, but the reality is that while a series of circumstances may tie an individual to living in a particular location, the choices and incentives for alternative vacation destinations are many.
And while we are working on keeping our island safe for our guests and ourselves, we also need to pay greater attention to the quality of service we deliver, particularly in the hospitality sector across this country.