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Commentary: Tourism Matters: A critical factor in developing tourism
Published on July 4, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Adrian Loveridge

I must admit that after hearing the phrase memorandum of understanding (MoU) after the still to be fully explained 3S SRL (road widening project), then more recently the companies associated with the Barbados Sandals development, CPH Property Holdings and Grand Cass Management, not of course forgetting the Cahill saga, it is perhaps no wonder that many of us have developed a natural concern over these arrangements. It seems they are an extraordinary easy vehicle for elected governments to keep the populace and taxpayers in at least partial darkness.

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
Much discussed Airbnb have signed a number of MoU’s and one of the most recent was with the World Bank, which largely, in the words of a recent TravelMole article, “effectively washed its hands of tourism in the couple of decades ago after it assisted countries to develop high density mass tourism as a condition of aid in the 1970s and 1980s”.

Destinations that attracted World Bank treatment then included Tunisia, Bali, Morocco, Kenya and The Gambia. The bank still has some US$4 billion of hotel investments left over from their “heavy-duty tourism development years”.

It now appears it is changing its objectives and, together, Airbnb and the World Bank will examine ways in which emerging destinations use new technology and platforms that include Airbnb “to create economic opportunities for communities that have not traditionally benefited from tourism and hospitality”.

Initially, pilot projects will begin with India and Sri Lanka, but I sincerely hope that combined efforts will not be restricted to the giants in tourism and small developing states like Barbados and elsewhere within the Caribbean.

Resulting from the just concluded ‘Tourism Knowledge Exchange 2017: Delivering on Inclusion through Tourism’ the consensus was that “sustainable tourism is no longer a niche market but as a core contributor to the sustainable development goals (SDGs)”.

Personally I view this as a critical factor in our next step in further developing tourism on Barbados. Frankly we have so much more to do if we have any real hope of maintaining a desirable, often called iconic destination. I hope that Airbnb will use this amazing opportunity to play its part in making our myriad of accommodation offerings and the destination more sustainable.

Over the years I have lobbied, seemingly in vain, to develop rural tourism and create ‘centres’ of employment outside the traditional beach, city and urban areas. I still feel there is an untapped significant market for a small group of Plantation Inns, rather like St Kitts and Nevis have developed so well. And whether these are created and put into use by a single owner or owners or undertaken by a group of likeminded Airbnb type co-operative partners, each vested with a financial interest, it really does not matter.

Airbnb, with its overall size and influence could also play a much more significant part in areas like re-cycling and help us become a model of sustainability.

At least to me, this would negate the views in some quarters that tax avoidance and regulation are not the main concerns, but that they really want to be a responsible committed tourism partner.
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