The trouble with sound-bite reporting in the newspapers, broadcast media (and yes, blogs too) is that, of necessity, journalists have to reduce two-hour speeches to a few paragraphs – and they often get it wrong. The speaker later discovers that he or she wasn’t understood at all, or that an out of context phrase is wrongly chosen to represent their entire message.
Let’s hope that is the case with the recent Nation News articles quoting Barbados Tourism Authority chairman Ralph Taylor and board member Adrian Loveridge.
On the good side, whether they were accurately quoted or not, the articles may act as a catalyst to discussion about a real plan for our #1 industry.
It is unbelievable but true that after 15 years of BLP government, Barbados has no master plan for tourism, and no master plan for development.
(AS an aside, the previous Tourism Minister Noel Lynch is substantially richer than when he came into (ahem) “public service”. Too bad the job didn’t pay on the basis of results achieved. You know… like the real world.)
What Did Taylor And Loveridge Say?
According to a sound bite in The Nation News, Ralph Taylor addressed the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association’s annual general meeting and said…
(Barbados should) “earmark what is left of its existing coastline” for tourism development.
“This creates an opportunity to target American hotel brands, regional, indigenous and local brands capable of attracting the United States consumer… That will help to drive additional marketing muscle, create greater awareness to American consumers and would help to increase airlift from the USA.”
Taylor said Barbados could learn from Cuba, which has “earmarked every square foot of its coastline for tourism development and has clearly recognised that tourism is its best economic resource”.
Then Adrian Loveridge is reported in a second Nation News article as saying…
He supported a call by Taylor at the annual general meeting of the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association for Barbados to “earmark what is left of its existing coastline” for tourism development.
Many Were Outraged… But Missed The Context Of Both Men’s Comments
On its own, the phrase “earmark what is left of its existing coastline for tourism development” brings to mind the horrendous situation on much of the West Coast where the sun is blotted from the sky by condos. Even when developers reluctantly leave a tiny little path to the beach that they call “access”, there is no place to park. (And don’t get me going about how the St. Charles developers strategically blocked off their beach so it is effectively private. Crawl under the jetty to access it and the security guards are all over you in a second.)
But is that what Ralph Taylor and Adrian Loveridge really mean? I don’t think so!
Adrian goes on to say the following in his Nation News interview (Ha… the Nation News interviewing Adrian Loveridge… how times do change!) Anyway, here is what Adrian says…
However, he said construction had to be pleasing to the eye, had to make allowances for green areas and recreational areas, and must not block out views of the sea.
He complained that the West Coast was turning into a “concrete coast” with huge condominiums blotting out the view of the sea.
“People do not want to come to Barbados and see every inch of the coastline under concrete,” he told the WEEKEND NATION. “They want to see some green areas, areas for recreation, jogging and so on.”
Loveridge Disagrees With Some Of Taylor’s Comments
We at Barbados Free Press fought long and hard when the previous government tried to push the Caribbean Splash waterpark slated for the Graeme Hall watershed, but we are not against water parks or tourist traps er… “tourist attractions” in general as long as they are properly situated and operate in the most environmentally responsible manner. Barbados needs more than sun and sand and we have to be much better than our Caribbean competition because we are at the very end of the North American flight routes and are more expensive to get to.
Barbados will never be a “mass destination” like Florida or the Bahamas. We are simply too far away from the major market areas – so we have to focus our tourism product on those market sectors where we can realize the best success. Young families with children will always love Disney World, and they will always want a cheaper destination. Barbados cannot compete in that market.
Mr. Taylor thinks that a water park is just the thing for Barbados, but we’ll have to disagree on that one. We don’t want to re-hash the whole waterpark discussion here, but there are dozens of abandoned or non-operational water parks in North America and dozens for sale. They don’t usually sell them if they’re making money, you know!
So… if Mr. Taylor can find an investor to build an environmentally responsible water park in Barbados – no problem. Just don’t ask taxpayers to fund such a risky proposition.
As far as major hotel brands go… I think we need them. But the whole thing must be done with a NATIONAL PLAN – not willy-nilly as we have seen for the last 15 years.
Adrian Loveridge has his own thoughts about some of what Mr. Taylor said, and he posted them on Barbados Free Press.
Here’s what Adrian had to say…
I think maybe (Ralph Taylor) was reflecting his personal views, because I certainly do not share the theme and waterpark philosophy, nor does it fit in with our tourism profile.
I really feel we have to go back to the basics of tourism and understand WHY visitors come back!
Its down to the level of service they receive, the surroundings, a feeling of safety and security and well being.
Get those basics right and almost everything else will follow.
We also have to look VERY carefully at our rapidly ageing target market.
5 years from now, what will they want to do?
10 years from now, again what will they want do?
Bearing this in mind, if I had the choice of turning Graeme Hall into a National Botanical Gardens or building a waterpark, guess which I would choose?
We have drifted, as the late Peter Morgan, so accurately described it, without a tourism rudder for nearly fifteen years.
Its time now, to stop, seriously consider and evolve a 10 to 20 year plan of EXACTLY where our tourism product is going.
… Adrian Loveridge post on Barbados Free Press
Barbados Free Press