Saturday, April 13, 2024

Tourism needs national effort


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THERE IS NO question that tourism, often said to be our business, is of such critical importance to this country that the economy, as presently constituted, cannot fire on all cylinders if tourism is in trouble.
   Recent statements made on tourism by the Governor of the Central Bank, Dr DeLisle Worrell, must therefore be taken seriously. We make this point because from time to time some of our citizens speak about tourism as if it is an activity designed to benefit the visitor to the exclusion of the local people and social environment.
   Dr Worrell was speaking at the open day celebrations to mark the bank’s 40th anniversary, and necessarily he ventured into the area of the need to earn foreign exchange, which is as the lifeblood of the economy.
   The Governor made the point that this country had to focus on foreign exchange-earning sectors if the country is to reach a growth path of three per cent per year. According to reports, he argued that this level of growth could be accomplished through tourism, international business, agriculture and agro processing and alternative energy.
   The importance of tourism can hardly have a greater endorsement, and it ought to be clear by now that the importance of tourism should raise it out of the arena of political football, and that criticism of the sector should be in the nature of constructive criticism designed to enhance the growth and development of the sector.
   The debate about Four Seasons and about the problems within the Almond Group ought to be treated as providing teachable moments to emphasize to all that Tourism Is Our Business is more  than a slogan.
   If we accept Dr Worrell’s thesis that we need to earn $5 billion or more per year in foreign exchange to run this country, then we may have a clearer perception of the need to maintain current visitor levels, at the very least, and to develop strategies for increasing and enhancing the sector.
   We feel the need to urge an even greater effort on the part of all Barbadians to make the visitor experience so welcoming that repeat visits become as natural as the warmth of our greeting and hospitality.
   As a country, we have to recognize the strength in pulling together with the same goals and objectives in mind, and the national effort in tourism must achieve the highest standards of service excellence by all of us if we are to succeed.
   The managing director then becomes no more important than the front office manager or the man in the street in relation to the visitor, since one bad experience can forever taint the image of the island while the opposite experience can earn this country a lifelong friend and a powerful ambassador.
   The recent NISE survey on service excellence should drive home the point that good service often influences the customer’s preference between companies.
The same is true between countries competing with each other for the international visitor, and if tourism really is our business then we need to do everything in our power to ensure that it remains our business.

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