Barbados Tourism Authority’s Austin Husbands: Keep quiet about bad beaches, environmental damage.

UPDATED March 27, 2013

The tourist numbers are tanking – they have been tanking for a long time. Global financial problems are taking a toll, it’s true, but our numbers are especially bad and worse than most in the Caribbean.

Many folks think that a little more advertising will take care of things. That might get us a few more tourists, but that won’t cure the foundational problems that we have with our tourism product.

This article from our own Nevermind Kurt tells it fuh truth! We drove the old tourism economy taxi right into the ground without changing the oil or performing normal maintenance. We just made money with that old taxi until it could go no longer and we didn’t save for a new one. So here we are trying to make our living driving an old rust bucket of a taxi while everyone around us has a shiny new taxi. No contest where the customer will take their money!

Here’s our original article…

“We cannot continue with the Barbados Tourism Authority’s current philosophy of advertising instead of ensuring product quality. We have to change the road we’re on, or there will be nothing left for our children.” …BFP staffer Nevermind Kurt

“Maybe BTA should advertise some derelict properties as well. LOL Sometimes I wonder if we do not realize the damage we do to our island’s reputation Maybe frustration sets in but Barbados must come first CZMU and other agencies have a mandate, but quite often MONEY just is not there. ”

BTA Deputy Director Austin Husbands chides Mullins Bay Blog for posting an expose of destroyed beaches and empty hotels: You probably will not see this in the glossy Barbados tourism literature

Memo to the BTA: Deceiving tourists doesn’t help Barbados in the long run

by Nevermind Kurt (with Marcus)

When I first read Austin Husbands’ astonishing comment on the St. Peter, Barbados Facebook group, I became angry and started to write a slashing rant aimed squarely at the BTA’s Deputy Director. Then I sat back and thought about the tremendous pressures that our tourism industry and every Bajan is facing at this moment. I also thought that Mr. Husbands believes that he and our tourism industry are trapped by circumstance into carrying on with more of the same: concentrating on promotion rather than on product quality. (ie: “We need the tourist money NOW… no time for foundational changes. Advertise MORE!”)

I’m no longer angry at Mr. Husbands. I think he’s wrong in his approach, but I understand where he’s coming from. I understand his generation’s current desperation and exasperation that while the BTA spends tens of millions of dollars advertising and promoting a Perfect Image of Barbados, concerned Bajans and disgruntled visitors are posting photos of the truth online. Has Mr. Husbands ever read TripAdvisor or Carnival Cruise Lines forums? He should… every day.

“We ordinary Bajans and many of our Barbados regulars have a fundamental disagreement with the Mr. Husbands, the BTA and our political leadership about where our tourism industry is taking our country.”

Ordinary Bajans believe that there is no real plan, that it’s all happening willy nilly and that the long term good of Barbados is being shunted aside for short term profits and personal gain at the expense of our children’s future. Irreparable damage is being done – socially and environmentally – yet the vast majority of our tourism “leaders” can only see the next financial quarter. I understand that, but I’m also saying it’s time to get off the road we’re on.

It must be frustrating and exasperating for Mr. Husbands

I feel sorry for Austin Husbands and those who think like him because it is all falling apart and they don’t want to admit that our entire approach to tourism has been so wrong for so long. For the last 20 years we should have spent 50% of our BTA advertising budget on maintaining and developing the quality of our product and that includes ensuring that visitors are safe.

Instead, we talked about quality but took no real action and committed no resources of any consequence to anything that mattered long term. We poured hundreds of millions into nationalizing tourism through Hotels & Resorts and other scams and in the end it was all money down a big hole.

“Over the last decade, we’ve lost hundreds if not thousands of dollars on each tourist who arrived. Can you really understand that? Can you understand the truth of what I’m saying?”

We said “yes” to any condo or water park developer with a couple of million dollars in “consulting fees” and a PowerPoint presentation. We had a hundred plans and schemes. Indian tourists were going to come by their thousands – except they didn’t. Then stem cell tourism was going to be our forte – until it turned out that our “partners” were importing stem cells from murdered babies in the Ukraine. That little foray turned out well, didn’t it?

Then it was the Chinese tourists who would save us. Now it is the Brazilians who are the centre of our attention, and all we hear is a lot of talk about attracting them, but nothing about getting them back for a second visit.

We walled off our Western coast and allowed developers to build groynes in the sea to capture sand for the condominium’s beach. We didn’t care that the groynes destroyed neighbouring beaches up and down the coast just as long as certain privileged hotels had their sand. None of the newspapers asked if there was a correlation between political contributions and permission to build groins, or if any politicians had shares in the projects. The Barbados news media should have asked those questions.

See something wrong? BTA says “Shut the hell up!”

The BTA Deputy Director is of the opinion that Barbadians should keep their mouths shut about the environmental rape of the West Coast and how the environmental damage and wholesale uncontrolled development is killing our tourism product and tourism. Mr. Husbands says there should be no talk, no photos, no discussion and certainly no public criticism while everything goes to hell. The tourists might find out!

We’ve got news for Mr. Husbands: once they come to Barbados, the tourists know. That’s why in recent years the BTA has had to find “new markets” and new customers all the time. Our return rate of tourists is not anywhere near what it used to be.

This is how we got to where we are now – by pretending everything is fine, fine, so fine, until all we have left to sell is a veneer of what Barbados used to be.

Our current philosophy is that we’d rather attract a million new tourists every year for one visit never to return than maintain the quality of product that would attract a steady core of repeat visitors who wouldn’t dream of vacationing anywhere else.

Mr. Husbands, I think you are a fine man and that you love Barbados as much as I do.

We have this disagreement about the future and the way to get there. I think that your, and the BTA’s, vision of the future is coloured by the day to day pressure to pay the bills and the interest on past debts and mistakes.

We cannot continue with the Barbados Tourism Authority’s current philosophy of advertising instead of ensuring product quality. We have to change the road we’re on, or there will be nothing left for our children.


Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Tourism, Travel, Traveling and Tourism

13 responses to “Barbados Tourism Authority’s Austin Husbands: Keep quiet about bad beaches, environmental damage.

  1. rasta man

    I think your last paragraph should read”Mr Husbands and not Mr Holder”

  2. BFP

    Thank you rasta man,

    We’ve tracked down the source of the error and fixed him good. I think by this time everybody knows that portions of the Internet are powered by gerbils running around in their little wheels handing off messages to each other. In this case a bad Gerbil substituted the word “Holder” for what was written “Husbands”. We’ve found the little devil and we’ve taken away his missus for a week as punishment. You know how gerbils like to cuddle, so that will teach the little fella a good lesson.

    Thanks for helping out!


  3. Done That

    Barbados relies on selling sizzle not the steak and there is only poor quality grizzled steak left. BTA could get away with that big lie until the internet came. After the internet, people could see for themselves. 90+% of all travel bookings in the UK now include some internet research by the traveler (ATAA stats).

    Barbados is running out of naive travellers who believe every glossy vacation brochure. People are aware of the abandoned condo projects, garbage-strewn roads and less than welcoming reception at many shops and venues. I’ve been to Barbados three times and I’ll not be back. There’s no value in Barbados and so many better places to spend a week or two I couldn’t begin to list them here. The new BTA slogan should be “Barbados? More and more people just say no thanks.”

  4. Pingback: Jamaican drug gangs, failed sugar economies and cheap worldwide tourism: Globalization has not been kind to the Caribbean | Barbados Free Press

  5. Having been a past employee of CBC, and therefore privy to their MCTV for an extended period, I can say this about Barbados advertising overseas…

    ** Bahamas & Jamaica – twice every other night, usually during Leno or Letterman

    ** St Lucia – once a month, usually on Centric/BET

    ** Barbados – once a month, usually after Carson Daley/Craig Ferguson (i.e. 2:00 to 4:30 am) {WHEN RATES ARE CHEAPER}

    Who do you think is getting bang for their buck? What destination STILL gets visitors despite a murder rate of at least 1,000 per year? Yet they have no Limited State of Emergency? Wonder why? Look above again and strategise…

  6. ComeHere

    @Done That: a perfect albeit painful assessment. The modern day traveller is well-informed, with unlimited resources to research, review, and compare where to spend their money. Barbados costs are completely out of control; locals know that. What the visitors complain about without fail is the perceived gouging of food and restaurant purchases. The draconian duties still on the books to protect a dying and unproductive few Bajan businesses is the root cause—not oil, not shipping, not the importers. Give the visitors a “Duty Free” card good for X amount of retail food purchases. Better than subsidizing the incompetent BTA. On the subject of what the visitor sees upon arrival, we have dug our own grave. We are trying to be something we are not: exactly what demographic are we seeking with all of these multi-million dollar failed condo projects, the false facade of the GA airport that hides the third world customer service within, the Lime Grove “world class” mall, and those dual monstrosities, St Peters Bay and Port Ferdinand? That is the real reason the cruise ships sailed away: their exit surveys indicated that Barbados was THE most expensive port in the Caribbean, and the WORST for perceived value. Not enough polo playing, Euro trash crooks left to buy all this empty real estate…

  7. Adrian Loveridge

    As many earlier comments, you cannot hide anything anymore including eroding beaches and crime. When you try to as a Government, or representative of, of course our visitors eventually get to know and that when we start to loose any credibility. Its much better to deal with the problem and be seen to be dealing with it.
    Have a look at Long Beach which is overlooked by the Paragon RBDF base
    and explain why some of their men cannot at least assist clearing mountains of seaweed which is feeding the millions of breeding sand flies.

  8. rasta man

    @AL: What ,you really expect the BDF to work for their money????

  9. rasta man

    And again this is the biggest waste of money the Govt has. Remember Gabby “Boots”.Still true today.

  10. Howdy

    @ done that: Something is telling me that you’re the one writing on Tripadvisor. We’ll have to go across and respond to you. It is normal for a propsperous visitor Island should have environmental discussions and the fact that we are such a large pop makes it difficult. Many of the issues embarrass us, but we are trying to solve them. You have not had as much experience in the Caribbean as we have, and Barbados has much less litter on the roads than it used too. Many of the other islands are much wprse. Check yourself and come back, i want to talk with you about what can be done

  11. 184

    Whilst it is very true that littering has declined consciousness have been raised and blue bins abound, the views and atmosphere, the charm, are all being ruined by places like St Peter’s Bay. The Lime mall may be quite nice inside but there is never anybody in there. I cannot believe that such a huge endeavour did not have a proper feasibility study before proceeding. And it looks horrible outside.

  12. yatinkiteasy

    I think the single biggest factor leading to the demise of small hotels (and some large ones), struggling restaurants, idle taxis, unemployed entertainers, etc, is “All Inclusive” resorts and Holidays.
    These guests do not go out of their cocoon, having paid for all meals and drinks, watersports, etc.
    This is not a problem unique to Barbados. Several other Tourist destinations are discovering the cannibalization that The all inclusives are having on the overall tourist product, and its detrimental effects on local businesses that never see the tourists.
    Please read the article on Mojorca, and substitute the word Barbados.
    Wake up BTA!