TOURISM MATTERS: Harness our potential
Not that I needed any more persuasion, but after participating in the recent Road Runner event (during the now concluded Tourism Week) it reminded me there is still vast untapped potential in tourism that could help return our economy to a much needed healthy and viable state.
As some of our larger commercial enterprises continue to downsize, right size or whatever the current buzz word describing the current job losses, I remain convinced that it is our small and micro businesses that offer the greatest opportunity to grow employment and economic growth.
The second stop on the day was a company called Glass Creations at Pelican Craft Centre, which in addition to an exciting selection of handmade customised trophies and glassware, had the simple idea of turning used empty spirit bottles into attractive drinking mugs. Not only contributing to our waste disposal and recycling efforts, but providing a unique souvenir that will remind any visitor of their time in Barbados.
My immediate thought was to highlight our various rum brands and place these for sale at the air and seaport duty-free stores, rum visitor centres and attractions like St. Nicholas Abbey.
Later on that same morning we visited Magnolia Chocolatier, a Worthing, Christ Church-based small business hand-making a whole range of chocolate products using almost exclusively local ingredients.
Of course these are only two simple examples, but if this concept can be replicated across the island, with help given to increase marketing and awareness, who knows where it would lead to.
If every one of our small and micro businesses employed just one extra person, whether in production or delivery, what would the overall effect be on our current unemployment figures? Tax creating rather than benefit consuming has to be the preferred alternative.
I am sure that there are many other worthy examples of these two enterprises out there, and it is not beyond us to find an improved way to ensure they are given the exposure they need, perhaps in the way of co-operative marketing where costs can be reduced and shared. Our national tourism marketing agency can also use their extensive resources to point visitors in the right direction.
With various social media platforms it has become increasingly easier to spread the word. When our amazing website lady posted the Road Runner event on our Facebook page, an amazing 6 185 people viewed it over a 48 hour period.
The secondary benefit is that we are at the same time reducing imports and our reliance on foreign exchange which has to be advantageous during the present financially troubling times.
I would finally also like to make a plea to our banking and financial institutions to help these small and micro businesses improve their ability to create an online payment platform, to make it easier for customers to use their credit and debit cards at individual merchants. Overwhelmingly this is the preferred method of payment and we should not deter small businesses expanding due to their size.
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