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Commentary: Tourism Matters: What sort of message are we sending?
Published on June 9, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Adrian Loveridge

Should we, as a sector or in fact a nation, be overly concerned that the ministry of tourism has not had a functional website for months?

In this time when both foreign and local investment is absolutely critical to upgrading existing plant and product, what sort of message are we sending when a default statement “This site is temporarily unavailable” is the response that greets potential users of the portal.

Adrian Loveridge has spent 46 years in the tourism industry across 67 countries, as a travel agent, tour director, tour operator and for the last 24 years as a small hotel owner on Barbados. He served as a director of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, and as chairman of the Marketing Committee. He also served as a director of the Barbados Tourism Authority and is a frequent writer on tourism issues
For those non-nationals not familiar with how things work on Barbados it could also be the first point of reference and a vital source of information, including contact details for the minister, parliamentary and permanent secretary together with other heads of department that may facilitate any possible investor’s plans. It should also provide important links to other agencies, both public and private to help facilitate seamless access to enable informed decision making.

Frankly, from a prospective overseas investment perspective you are currently forced to plough through a multitude of websites. And that’s even assuming you actually know the names of the many agencies involved, which is highly unlikely unless you have intimate local knowledge.

If there was ever a legitimate call for a single ‘one-stop-shop’ then this is a prime example.

Yes! We all know government is cash strapped, but what, in the scheme of things, with a sector generating nearly $2 billion annually and the taxes that provides, does it cost to maintain a website?

And if it cannot be done internally, then outsource the task. There must be hundreds of tech-savvy single parents with all the required expertise out there who would warmly welcome the opportunity of home based additional revenue.

It is also absolutely vital that ‘we’ portray the destination as a vibrant player in an internationally competitive arena, where just about everybody is attempting to eat our lunch, let alone breakfast and dinner as well.

The danger is that, if ‘we’ make it far too difficult, complicated and confusing to invest in existing and new tourism ventures, any available capital will find a much more user friendly home elsewhere.

Few reasonable people expect government to do everything, but it must at least provide a transparent template to foster economic growth and channel interested parties in a direction that ensures the best chance of success.

Following a number of what can only be described as recent frustrating consumer experiences, I have been advocating that every manager, or in this particular case, our national policymakers becomes a ‘customer’ for a day and imagine that they are investing their own personal funds in a tourism project.

I am absolutely convinced that this would help transform the way business is conducted in Barbados in the future. At first hand they would witness the mountain of barriers and impediments deterring entrepreneurial spirit that anyone faint-hearted and without the tenacity of a bulldog is simply overwhelmed to the point of failure or overcome by a state of lassitude.
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Derrice Deane:

I am a Caribbean national living outside of the Caribbean. Although I am no major investor, I agree with the Mr. Loveridge. Throughout the Caribbean there is little, if any attention paid to what might be considered 'minor details." The first excuse is lack of funds. As the writer points out, what would it cost to give a student or an unemployed Mom or Dad with the training or expertise a small monthly stipend to maintain the site? When will creative thinking outside the box, without red tape, take hold? There is much to be learned from those we often consider less educated or less sophisticated. Let'a get back to basics and keep Barbados - and indeed the entire Region - out of the doldrums!


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