OVER THE WEEKEND, president of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce Industry (BCCI), Eddy Abed, revealed the interest of Bridgetown merchants in providing shuttle buses to get passengers from the Bridgetown Port to the City centre with greater ease.
The objective is to get them to where the shopping is, in an attempt to entice them to spend more.
On the face of it, we cannot find fault with store operators taking action that would boost the number of shoppers and potentially the volume of shopping, but we can’t help but note the fragmented nature of this approach, given the concerns that have been expressed for years in various circles about our failure to fully capitalise on the opportunities cruise tourism presents to the urban business sector.
For years, for example, operators of shops in Pelican Village have been complaining that despite their location literally at the gate of the port, cruise passengers – both walking and driven – bypass their shops, which offer a wide variety of art and craft and food services at affordable prices.
A major part of their complaint is that the beautification of Trevor’s Way on the other side of the four-lane Princess Alice Highway that divides them encourages the visitors to bypass them on their way into The City. We believe more than enough time has passed to allow the relevant authorities to formulate some creative responses to this challenge.
Certainly, if Princess Alice Highway, including the compounds of Trevor’s Way and Pelican Village, was the centre of entertainment, cultural and shopping activities during the days when the Bridgetown Port is busy with cruise vessels, visitors would be less likely to just walk on by.
And it can’t be beyond the capacity of our traffic planners and authorities at the Bridgetown Port to agree on altered traffic flows that would make the crossing of that highway less intimidating. As far as we are concerned, outside of morning and afternoon peak periods a single lane of traffic in either direction would not impede flows.
Additionally, providing access to the harbour’s main gate through the Harbour Industrial Park could eliminate the entire four lanes of traffic directly in front of the Barbados Industrial and Development Corporation during certain hours on the peak cruise days. The end result would be a well controlled pedestrian mall along a significant stretch of Princess Alice Highway.
With such an approach, we posit, Bridgetown merchants might not need to spend money on shuttles. They could divert it to the support of cultural activities that provide an enticement for more passengers to leave the vessels when they dock here.
Of course, we are neither traffic planners nor store operators and may not be as intimately aware as either of the potential pitfalls or drawbacks of our suggestions, but our point is that doing nothing when we have the capacity for creative thinking does not bring the benefits we desire or that the country deserves.
If nothing else, providing activities that occupy the minds of our guests will help to shift their gaze from the not so inviting features of Bridgetown, including its derelict buildings, substandard sidewalks, often overflowing garbage cans and growing prevalence of homeless people and full-time beggars.
This approach also will give business operators in The City the chance to share and implement their ideas for an improved and more inviting capital rather than spouting the constant refrain that suggests they expect the state to drive the activities that benefit their cash registers.