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Plans to make travel worth it

ALEX DOWNES, [email protected]

Plans to make travel worth it

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THE NEW ROOM RATE LEVY and Product Development Levy were simply unavoidable for Barbados’ tourism sector, says Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Kerrie Symmonds.

But in the face of a backlash from places like the United Kingdom (UK), he said plans were in place to make travel to Barbados a worthwhile investment with several additions to the tourism product.

“Yes, there will be an increase in price points because of the very difficult circumstances we find ourselves in as a country,” Symmonds said yesterday while speaking at the opening of a new information booth at Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA).

“That is not done by this Government in an effort to be financially hostile to those people who come to our shores.

“That is done because we have no choice but to do everything possible to rescue brand Barbados,” the minister added.

While admitting Government wished there was more focus in the past on ensuring the country did not come to this stage, the reality was that the current Government had to fix it.

From Sunday, both levies increased the cost of vacations to Barbados. The room rate levy charges a rate on hotel rooms (between U$$2.50 and US$10 per night depending on the standard of the hotel), while the other imposes a 2.5 per cent levy on direct tourism services like island tours, party cruises, meals, drinks and dining services, as well as goods and services provided by spas, retreats and marinas.

People in the UK, in particular, were upset about the hotel room tax because though they would have booked and even paid for their holiday months ago, they must still pay it.

Symmonds said in spite of this, the tourism sector would be focused on giving tourists the most bang for their buck.

“I believe, and my staff believe, that if we can offer the best possible value for money, then the Barbados experience will be unforgettable and worth it,” he added.

To ensure Barbados could make this a reality, the minister said the tourism sector was making improvements in a number of areas.

One was the new information booth, located between Customs and the Arrivals exit, after having been located between Immigration and Customs.

Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA) chief executive officer Dr Kerry Hall said the new booth and its location would better allow the BTPA to engage visitors.

In addition to this, Symmonds revealed Cabinet had agreed in principle on the start of automated passport kiosks.

He said these new scanners would work in tandem with Immigration officers to improve the arrival process by an estimated 88 per cent once implemented.

Another plan included making the GAIA the most disabled-friendly airport in the region.

Symmonds said the country would be welcoming more visitors through direct flights from Panama on July 17, and Charlotte, North Carolina, from December 19. (AD)