Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Oistins ‘at its limit’

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OISTINS HAS BECOME such a magnet for overseas visitors and Barbadians that it is catering to nearly 4 000 patrons on Friday evenings in the heart of the winter tourist season.

But tourism planners have been advised that these figures, while impressive, suggest that this number one tourist attraction located in Christ Church has reached “maximum capacity” and needs attention.

According to tourism researchers who worked on Government’s master plan for the industry, visitors to Oistins on Friday evenings – by far its most popular night – totalled 2 997 in November and 3 782 in March.

It was pointed out that “while all may not be there at the same time, since some will have arrived earlier and left before others arrive, the data nevertheless demonstrate considerable current Friday evening utilisation pressures at Oistins”.

Based on a scenario where Barbados would eventually attract one million stay-over visitors annually, Environmental Planning Group Inc. and HLA Consultants said “the total number of Friday night visitors would range from 4 951 in November to 6 241 in March”, which “represents an increase of between 2 000 for November to 2 500 for March per Friday during high tourist months”.

“Oistins Friday night visits could reach in excess of 5 200 when one million long-stay visitors come to Barbados. Unfortunately, it would be expected that under the current set of utilisation assumptions, the resources at Oistins would be so substantially downgraded that visitors would cease to attend in such large numbers,” they said.

“Thus, it could be concluded that the maximum capacity at Oistins has already been reached since there are already capacity issues on the busy Friday evenings.”

Among the visitor experience challenges now causing concern was traffic congestion, visitor crowding in sections of the food court, and sanitation and sewage management issues.

A number of recommendations were made to fix the challenges highlighted, including:

Crowding/congestion: Extend the area by adding more vendors to the east side of the current area; popularise an additional day(s) to Friday through promotion and staging of events; develop and popularise the fish fry event at other locations; and develop and popularlise other attractions to spread visitors’ demand to a greater extent.

Poor drainage: Implement a drainage plan in order that waste water and rain water does not accumulate or stagnate.

Poor sanitation: Increase the number of washrooms and improve their cleanliness; remove garbage and litter more frequently; and do a general regular clean-up of the surrounding area, especially with respect to long-standing garbage and decaying materials.

Harassment: Educate locals and visitors on acceptable behaviours and their consequences; and given the importance of this resource to the country put more resources in enforcement.

Traffic congestion: Implement a traffic flow plan which utilises alternate routes, develop a park-and-ride system; and develop more pedestrian footpaths.

Lack of guest facilities: Increase the number of seating areas, and general rest areas; and increase numbers of washrooms, their lighting and cleanliness.

Food preparation and safety: Develop, implement and monitor health and safety standards associated with food preparation.

Pedestrian traffic: Provide more spaces for people walking through and circulating.

General presentation and aesthetics: Improve lighting, paint frequently, and build a well-lit, well-designed boardwalk along the waterfront.

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