As the 2007 Cricket World Cup (CWC) event draws to a close, with the hosting of the final in Barbados on 28th April, it is perhaps now time to analyse in-depth, exactly what economic benefits it has brought to the nine hosting countries.
Much discussion has taken place concerning legacy benefits and infrastructural improvements.
But in the case of Barbados, many projects slated to be ready for the event, simply have not been completed in time to capitalise on anticipated additional visitor numbers.
The widening of the main highway, the rebuilding of Barbados’s second most popular attraction, Oistins Fish Fry, and a new vendors area within walking distance of Kensington Oval, Baxter’s Road are just three examples.
Yes! We now have a new stadium capable of holding 28,000 people, but with thousands of seats totally exposed to the elements and no lighting, it is difficult to envisage what it will be used for to justify the cost of construction.
During the recent West Indies versus England game, I witnessed literally hundreds of fans leave the ground after midday because they could not find shade, even after paying up to US$100 per ticket.
And that’s with about 23,000 of the 28,000 seats being filled.
Many simply will not be prepared to endure the same unrelenting sun for a five day test series.
And what of the anticipated visitor arrival numbers!
As recently as just three weeks ago, Barbadian Minister of Tourism, Noel Lynch was predicting ’90,000’ long stay visitors for the week of the final plus another ’75,000 cruise ship passengers’.
Chief Executive Officer of Barbados Port Inc, Everton Walters, whilst addressing the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association in December ‘estimated about 700 yachts would dock in Barbadian waters’.
Up until this week Freida Nicholls, head of marketing and public relations at the port, said ’30 yachts had been cleared at Willoughby Fort since April 11th and more were expected this week’.
The Government borrowed US$15 million to charter cruise ship Carnival Destiny for a nineteen day period, but has struggled to fill the ship as a floating hotel, while land based accommodation providers have endured one of the worse winter seasons on record.
In an attempt to reduce the massive chartering losses, the Barbados Tourism Authority has been offering Caribbean people, cabins on the Destiny for as little as US$170 per night for two persons.
Of course, any informed tourism player, knew these very speculative figures of ’90,000’ long stay visitors and ’75,000 cruise ship passengers’ were totally unrealistic and some of us have been saying so for months.
But the media and the general public seem to have blinded by the rhetoric and not stopped to question, that even filling all our various land based accommodation options, Barbados is only actually capable of housing about 17,000 persons.
Over the next few weeks, I am sure much finger-pointing will be going on to see exactly what the negative financial implications are.
Let us hope we can learn from our mistakes.