Barbados Tourism Authority stumbling on sports tourism

Personal relationships, political patronage appointments hurting the BTA?

The following was submitted to Barbados Free Press through one of the thousands of free “here today, gone tomorrow” European proxy services. BFP’s readers are intelligent enough to question anything they read on the internet and in newspapers large and small. They also know that anonymous articles should be taken with a good dose of salt.

This anonymous article says that personal relationships and political patronage appointments are negatively impacting the performance of the Barbados Tourism Authority. That makes an “office fight” into a national concern when the mainstay of our economy is under pressure.

We’ll be happy to print any response from Minister Sealy (photo above), the BTA or anyone mentioned in the story…

Lip service and just a lot of long talk!

by Concerned Citizen who makes a living from sports tourism

That is what some stake holders in tourism are saying is being served up by the Barbados Tourism Authority when it comes to servicing a niche identified by the DLP Government as being critical to the long term sustainability of the tourism sector – sports tourism.

The BTA recently advertised in the local press for a sports consultant to join its team. This raised the question as to what had happened to the person who had run that department for the past year, Hayden Coppin.

I had met with Coppin on a number of occasions to discuss a sporting venture and was very impressed with his knowledge and dedication.

He gave no impression that he was leaving and in fact said he quite enjoyed his job where he felt he was making a contribution to Barbados.

Hayden Coppin: Forced out

I was therefore surprised to see the advertisement and shocked when checks with some “friends” in the BTA suggested that he was forced out by CEO, David Rice.

The sources further suggested that it was a purely personal decision by Rice, who never liked or wanted Coppin at the BTA, a view he expressed to many at the BTA, even marginal line staff!

But what really have me fuming is that the BTA and government say they are serious about sports tourism, with the Minister speaking  continuously about how important the segment was, but the BTA sports department is now functioning at 2/5th of the capacity they were functioning at a few months ago – when they were also under staff.

It was revealed that not only was Coppin’s contract not renewed for no good reason, the most competent of the two administration officers has resigned in solidarity with Coppin, and the sole marketing executive, has also taken “personal “ leave of several months, also believed to be in support of the former consultant!

This leaves the Sports Tourism Manager, Gregory Armstrong as the man back in charge and it is clear that with less than two years left before he retires, his heart is just not in it, and his level of performance and delivery  is now non-existence  – not that it ever really was of a high standard anyway!

And believe me, I should know as I have had precious little help or support from Armstrong over the years!

Where is Minister Richard Sealy?

It is really amazing that Minister Richard Sealy could sit back and allow this “important” department to be so decimated and at a crucial time when major sporting events are around the corner, especially as it is rumoured that he was the man who brought Coppin to the BTA in the first place, despite not being a party man, due to his experience in management, qualifications and his long association with sports.

It is a fact that the CLOBI Cup and Run Barbados, two of the more important and expensive undertakings by the BTA, will both be held in the next two months or so and the BTA has interjected hundreds of thousands of dollars in both, but they are now to be managed with a skeleton staff of two not so competent staff members!

It is also noteworthy that last year both the CLOBI Cup and Run Barbados experienced their best years ever, with Coppin at the helm of the BTA and it is my understanding that he played a major role on the committees of both events and their success could be linked directly to his presence!

How could a CEO be allowed to force such a person out, who despite getting no support from his boss – was able to win the respect and admiration of all his peers and all who did business with him due to his work ethic, got the job done?

Now the BTA is advertising for a replacement? Rice should come out and say why they didn’t keep the old one, someone who met all the requirements now being asked for and who was getting the job done!!  This is first hand as after getting nowhere prior to his arrival, my project actually got help and happened, with some assistance from the BTA UK office!

And Rice had better remember that what goes around comes around, as his own three year contract expires in the early half of 2012.

Word is that he is not very much liked by the BTA staff, as his management style is abrasive and divisive, with too many “gotcha” moments, seemingly aimed at embarrassing staff.

He does not get along with most of his Directors and managers on a personal level, a point confirmed a short while ago when he got married. It is said that he invited only three senior staff and the then Chairman, and that other Board members and the general staff did not even receive an announcement email or memo! Such disregard!

It is also understood that Rice is not liked by many members of the current government/cabinet either, with some saying he behaves as though he is the most knowledgeable person alive, and is considered arrogant and aloof.

Political Patronage Appointment

Thing is, the word is that Rice only got the position because Minister Sealy wanted to fulfill his promise of a Bajan heading the BTA  and the other key fact of his sister being the then high profile Dem, Marylyn Rice-Bowen, who interceded on his behalf!

Barbados’ overall tourism arrival numbers may be up, but this is not the result of Rice being at the BTA as there isn’t a single initiative that can be linked directly to him – not even the Rihanna concert which he and Chairman Adrian Elcock seemed hell bent for taking all the press and credit.

There are many hardworking staff members at the BTA, both in Barbados and overseas, who feel oppressed by this man and who would be in a position to do a much better job with more support and leadership coming from the top.

Unfortunately they all seems to be shell shocked from years of political tampering and interference and believe that if the Minister is aware of what is going on – and he must be – what is the sense of complaining , as the Minister surely isn’t doing anything about it!!

From: – A concerned citizen who makes a living from sports tourism

BFP Editor’s Note

Again, if anyone wishes to comment on the article or provide their perspective, BFP will be happy to print their words with equal prominence.

This article was printed exactly as received with the addition of the following titles and subtitles added by BFP for visual breaks, and as a reflection of the author’s content.

Barbados Tourism Authority stumbling on sports tourism
Personal relationships, political patronage appointments hurting the BTA?
Hayden Coppin: Forced out
Where is Minister Richard Sealy?
Political Patronage Appointment


Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Politics, Sports

9 responses to “Barbados Tourism Authority stumbling on sports tourism

  1. Arthur Wobig...Myrtle Beach, SC, USA

    This is slightly off topic, but I think worthy of comment. I am a 20yr owner of a timeshare at the Divi Heritage in St. James. Over the years Divi has let the property go down hill to the point where it is barely habitable. They told us this year that they have no intention of doing anything to resolve this problem and if we didn’t like it we could go elsewhere. We will go elsewhere, and it won’t be Barbadoes. Not a very good picture of your hospitality. Just wanted to vent and your paper seems to care. Thanks.

  2. 47

    I don’t know how Coppin was appointed nor do I care. What I do know is that while he was at the BTA things in sports got done and before things were at a snails pace unless cricket was involved.

    I am a runner and for sure Run Barbados last year was one of the best organized in a long time.

    I too was surprised to see the advertisement for a sports consultant, but I just assumed he had moved on.

    Let’s hope that the writer’s “sources” are incorrect as I would hate to think that a personal dislike or agenda would have forced him out if he was performing – and the Minister take no stand.

    Maybe the writer has a grouse with David Rice and is using this as a scape goat to air some dirty laundry, for they do seem to have a lot of inside information….if accurate!

  3. Anonymous

    I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss this letter, for it is a fact that a few months ago an email that was more like a petition, circulated to many involved in sports tourism seeking support in having Coppin reinstated at the BTA, after his contract was not extended because of a personal vendetta by David Rice.

    The writer asked for all who had benefited from Coppin being at the BTA to email Minister Sealy on his behalf.
    I for one had certainly contacted the Minister, for as two small ventures I was involved with in England had benefited greatly from Coppin, even though being minor sport involving cycling and equestrian.

    I was very thankful for his help as I had tried without success to see the CEO for weeks.

    Though not by any means a friend, I went even further and telephoned Coppin to offer my support and tell him about my effort to contact the Minister.

    While thanking me, he had said not to bother with contacting the Minister as the BTA was behind him as he would not return there. He would not say more and I guessed he may have been restricted by some sort of confidentiality agreement or something.

    All of this to say that there is at least some truth to this story.

    I did meet David Rice at a function soon after and he did appear arrogant and dismissive and it was clear to all observers that from the interaction with his staff, that there was no warmth.


  4. rasta man

    Went to school with him and it was the same even then. You know what happens when you get what you do not expect.

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  6. hackoday

    doesn’t matter sports tourism, historical tourism, religious tourism, health tourism: all different flavours of the same failure sandwich. It is all over.

  7. millertheanunnaki

    @ hackoday;
    There is a new type of tourism kid on the block. It’s called by the dear principal on the hill “Educational Tourism”! Now what in tarnation is this? People who come here to study see it as serious business so it should be seen as a form of international business and marketed as such. It is true that international students do make use of the tourist-related facilities and therefore contribute positively to the local tourism industry. But to call the provision of educational services a tourism product is stretching it a bit too far.

  8. 104

    I don’t doubt this story for one second! I know for a fact that another person associated with the BTA and who had sports at heart and who had done a lot for the sector, especially water sports, was also forced out of the BTA by David Rice.

    That person is of course Senator Peter Gilkes who brought the world Fireballs Sailing Championships to Barbados and was integrally involved in trying to bring the world 505s here in a few years.

    Rice never liked the Senator and reports are that they were constantly at each other’s throats.

    Given the Senator;s links with the government and perceived friendship with Minister Sealy, it wast thought that there could only be one winner.

    But alas, Senator Gilkes got no support from the Minister and it was he who had to resign from the BTA Board!!

    Some say Rice may be holding some “leverage” on the Minister, but what ever the case, this guy Coppin never had a chance.

  9. millertheanunnaki

    @ Anonymous:
    In the game of cricket It’s hard to bat against 4 leg slips and 4 balls. Gilkes being an all-rounder should have known this!!