Lessons from 2020
New Year’s message by Geoffrey Roach, chairman, Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association
“As individuals, as a nation and as a globe, there has probably never been as much anticipation to usher in a new year as there is for 2021. As we bid 2020 farewell we cannot forget all the challenges we have gone through, and we would do ourselves an injustice to do so.
“We grow through what we go through” – and if we do, then 2020 has provided us with many opportunities for growth. It was a year when Barbados’ tourism arrivals plummeted due to the impact of COVID-19 and long-stay arrivals fell to a fraction of normal levels, while cruise arrivals remained at zero since the end of March. Additionally, lay-offs were a norm within the tourism industry as revenues disappeared and businesses were challenged to deal with a myriad of unexpected issues.
“Yet, we remain strong and, like the phoenix, shall rise. We shall rise because we are strong individually and even stronger together.
“2020 dealt us a difficult hand to play but there is the saying: “If you change the way you look at things the things you look at change.”
“The Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) endorses this and urges every Barbadian to change the way they look at things in 2021 and beyond. See this as a new beginning – an opportunity to redefine and reshape who we are as a people, to assess how we take our country forward, and an opportunity to do things in a different way.
“In response to the challenges faced in the year that is now at our backs, there are a number of positive steps that have been taken, which we intend to continue into 2021, and urge all to do the same.
“Barbados has been highlighted as one of the countries that has best managed the vagaries of COVID-19, and while this has been commendably led by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, there has been significant collaboration between multiple agencies and individuals on the protocols that should be applied to Barbados. Has everything always gone smoothly? Not always, but the ability of the players to maintain open and honest dialogue has held us in good stead.
“This same standard of collaboration has occurred on many levels, across several topics and involved many agencies, including Government departments, the labour movement, private enterprise and the BHTA. We look forward to maintaining this into 2021 and beyond to allow us to continue to build on the foundation of recovery that started in 2020.
“Tourism is a people-centric industry – people delivering experiences to people. As such, it is critically important that we look after the welfare of the teams that deliver the Barbados experience. We know that tourism’s recovery will not occur overnight. It will be many months before we are back to the pre-COVID levels of tourism activity.
The reality that accompanies this is that full employment within the tourism industry will not return immediately. As a consequence, we must continue to build on the initiatives that were started during 2020. Let us continue to look after the psycho-social needs of each other, let us continue to support each other financially, wherever possible, and let us continue to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. At times, a few simple words of encouragement can mean so much. Let us remember that “tough times don’t last, tough people do”.
“As we navigate Barbados’ recovery from COVID-19, one of the mechanisms that has been placed at the disposal of the tourism industry by Prime Minister, the Hon. Mia Mottley and her Government, is the Barbados Economic Sustainability and Transformation (BEST) plan. This programme has a number of tenets at its core including the re-engagement of workers to reduce negative social impacts on our society, as well as the transformation of businesses with a view to enhanced operations. One of the very relevant components of the re-engagement of players in the tourism industry is the opportunity for upskilling and developing persons for our re-emergence as a tourism powerhouse.
“2020 has wiped the slate clean across the globe and all tourism destinations will be entering 2021 with the aim of attracting visitors back to their shores as quickly as possible. Barbados’ reputation as a welcoming destination is world renowned. We, however, cannot take this for granted and I encourage everyone, regardless of the role you play in the industry, to seize the opportunities for development that will allow us to, as quickly as possible, recover to where we were pre COVID-19, and to move beyond. Do this to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper as we seek to have every player re-engaged.
“The tentacles of the tourism industry reach far and wide across our landscape and we know that the negative impacts on tourism over the past nine months have been felt far beyond who and what persons often see as the traditional players in tourism.
“As we move into 2021 and beyond, we need as a people to forge stronger linkages between tourism and the value chains that support, and are supported by tourism, including our agricultural sector, the cultural industries, and our cottage industries. At the BHTA we pledge our continued support to the development of these sectors as our success is their success, and their success is ours.
“If ever there has been a time to reflect on and recommit to our national pledge it is now.
“I pledge allegiance to my country Barbados and to my flag, to uphold and defend their honour and by my living to do credit to my nation wherever I go.
Together we will bring this country out of this crisis to be better and stronger, not simply because the world at large is recovering but because, by design, we are charting a path for Barbados.
On behalf of the board of directors and staff of the BHTA, let me wish every Barbadian, whether Barbadian born or Barbadian by choice, a blessed and bright 2021. We look forward to working with all Barbadians in the interest of the growth and success of our country.
Remember: “We grow through what we go through.” (PR)