By Nekaelia Hutchinson
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) — A new tour, which highlights the rich cultural heritage of Barbados, was officially launched on Friday.
Freedom Footprints Tour: The Barbados Story, which came to fruition through a partnership between the Ministry of Tourism and the Barbados Museum and Historical Society (BMHS), caters to a different niche in the tourism product — one that brings into focus the importance of destination heritage.
Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, said the tour’s launch was timely, since it coincides with Tourism Week. He noted that the needs and desires of tourists have evolved and as a consequence, destinations must provide attractions which cater to the sensibilities of the nouveau visitor.
"For some time now, we have been relying heavily on sun, sea and sand, but the market trends are very clear that we are moving away from that. The discerning traveler wants more; wants to experience the culture of a destination; wants to experience the unique aspects of the heritage of the people that populate the destination," the minister explained.
The tour was inspired by a UNESCO/WTO Cultural Heritage Tourism Slave Route Signage Project, a global endeavour that sought to foster economic and human development in territories linked to the slave trade. Sealy indicated that the project was a step in the right direction for this tourism niche and added that the BMHS’ efforts to have Historic Bridgetown and the Garrison Historic Area listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites could also strengthen the island’s offerings.
"If we are going to develop the project we are launching today and we can have that UNESCO rating, as well for Bridgetown, and then at the same time we can look at Pierhead redevelopment…. and then we can still push community tourism; we can literally redefine the whole concept of destination Barbados and the appeal we will have," the minister shared.
Freedom Footprints cannot only be seen as a tourist attraction, rather, the tourism minister sees it as a tool for educating young people and inspiring adults about the role the slave trade has played in Barbados’ past and influencing its present.
"This project has the potential for broadening the stakeholdership in the sector where residents and business practitioners in the community can get involved…I do not only mean standing over a tray and vending, I’m talking about getting involved in understanding fundamentally what’s going on with these sites," he emphasised.
This point was supported by Tourism Development Officer in the Ministry of Tourism, Selma Thompson, who also explained that in addition to heritage-project there are also plans to include additional sites as the tour grows.
"There are seven other sites earmarked for signage in the very near future. We have the Emancipation Statue at Haggatt Hall, Cotton Tower in St Joseph, Sharon Moravian Church in St Thomas, Lowther’s Plantation in Christ Church, Bayleys Plantation, St Philip, the East Coast Road in St Andrew and Codrington College, St John," she pointed out.
There are plans to make information relevant to the tour, such as maps, sites and historical information available online, to include the option of self guided tours.
The present tour, which is led by persons from the BMHS, features visits to sites at The Cage, Bridgetown; Newton Slave Burial Ground, Christ Church; Bourne’s Land, Christ Church; Sweet Bottom (now called Sweetvale), St Joseph and Gun Hill, St George, with stops at Oistins and The Village Bar at Lemon Arbour, St John.
Thompson urged the public to participate in test tours for Freedom Footprints, which will be conducted from January 2011.