Nine winters in Barbados, tourist says “a paradise lost if Barbadians don’t wake up.”

For the past nine winters Douglas Edmondson has chosen Barbados as his escape. That makes him a very special friend indeed – especially in these difficult times. He obviously loves Bajans and Barbados, so we should probably pay close attention when he speaks.

Take it away, Mr. Edmondson…

Re: “Tourism’s high end market good area to place focus” of the February 14, 2012 Barbados Advocate.

Many of the leadership in Barbados, like Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, Harold Codrington, are under the illusion that Barbados is known for luxury accommodation. However, a search on shows Barbados rates no better than four and a half out of five stars. By comparison, a bottom end mass tourism market like the Dominican Republic has over a half dozen five-star hotels.

There is a belief among the leadership that the luxury market here will attract high net worth tourists who will spend a lot. But the truth is, this kind of tourist spends most of his or her time within the luxury resort or spa only leaving on occasion for a round of golf, a polo match, a visit to the new Limegrove Centre, or for a change in restaurant.

In contrast, it is the middle class tourist who gets out and visits the Cheapside or Brighton markets, Sunbury or St. Nicholas Abbey, Gun Hill or the Barbados Wildlife Reserve as examples. In so doing, they rent cars, buy petrol, take taxis, shop for groceries, shop for souvenirs, visit local bars and restaurants, and therefore spend and put money into the local economy.

The same is true of the cruise ship market. A wealthy few arrive in their yachts while the middle class exit their cruise ship in large numbers and do their
touring and spending.

“The political and business leadership are also under the illusion Barbados has high quality infrastructure.”

There are individual resorts or businesses that do, but visit any public beach and you will find tired, aging facilities with some toilets or showers that are not working, and picnic benches that need repair or replacement. The coastal roads are potholed, narrow, with open ditches in places. I scarcely dare mention the giant pothole at the parking lot entrance to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. So the completion of the Four Seasons Resort or Beachlands will not only increase traffic congestion and tie-ups on an already inadequate road infrastructure, but will also push property prices further beyond the reach of ordinary Bajans.

Everywhere I see the same lack of upgrading and maintenance to building infrastructure. The Hotel Caribbee and the Empire Theatre are falling into decay, and are only two of myriad examples. Take something as simple as the labeling of plants and trees in the botanical gardens or forests like Welchman Hall, Grenade Forest or Andromeda. As plants or tress have died and been replaced, the labels are not changed to reflect the changed plantings.

The root of it all is not just a lack of money, but a lack of caring by too many people. How else can you explain roadside litter not picked up, fishing in so-called protected marine areas, or a mangrove swamp without access to the ocean.

There is too much of a ‘Union’ attitude here in Barbados where the only concern is better wages or working conditions, but not how to be more efficient and to achieve more with fewer resources so that the company can thrive and grow and ultimately provide more real jobs for Barbadians, and not the underemployment so evident now.

Barbados is known for civil servants who are slow to process paperwork, and business contractors who are slow to complete projects. So slowness and inefficiency are found at all levels of society.

In regard to business and political leaders, it sometimes seems that the purpose of meetings at the various hotels is to enjoy a good meal – as a business expense for businessmen and at taxpayer expense for politicians – rather than to make decisions and take action.

In the words of a Country and Western song, Barbados needs “a little less talk, and a lot more action”.

High end tourism market a dead end for Barbados

To conclude, pursuit of the high end market is a dead end for Barbados in my opinion. With the economic success of Brazil and Mexico in recent years in the Americas, and the huge expansion of the middle class in China and India, it is easy to see that is where the focus should be placed. And a whole new vision is needed for Barbados if this demographic is to be attracted.

I realise that as a tourist who has visited Barbados in the past nine winters, my comments may seem too critical. But it is because I love Barbados and its people that I hope my comments will be seen as a call for improvement. For Barbados is not a paradise, or even a potential paradise, but simply a paradise lost if Barbadians don’t wake up.

Douglas Edmondson

This letter was also published in the Barbados Advocate


Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism

25 responses to “Nine winters in Barbados, tourist says “a paradise lost if Barbadians don’t wake up.”

  1. RC

    A fantastic, factual, preceptive, honest, disturbing, well-written wake-up call for Barbados.

  2. peltdownman

    It’s not funny, but this is something we all know and just can’t be bothered to do anything about it. Politics – that’s what’s important!

  3. millertheanunnaki

    To Mr. Douglas Edmondson;
    Thank so much, Sir for being frank and forthright with us!
    Some of us here in Bim have been saying much of the same things and have been making recommendations to fix the problems and challenges we know that can be fixed without the usual bogus excuse of the need for money.
    How can something as basic as cleaning up the debris placed on the pavements after the weeding and “de-bushing” within 24-48 hours cannot be implemented instead of the current 3-4 weeks after?

    Sir we thank you and we see you as a genuine friend. True friends tell you when you are heading in the wrong direction. But Sir, we fear that your advice would fall on death ears as far as the authorities at the BTA and other government agencies responsible for the tourism industry and the natural and built environments are concerned.
    We ask you to stay a bit longer with us even if we keep whistling in the wind and the authorities and decision-makers keep spitting in the air.
    But alas it seems that Bim must fall even further before she has nowhere to go but up.
    Pray for us here in this fading paradise!

  4. Marz

    Thank you Douglas and thank you Barbados Free Post. I hope this message and the following comments echo through our land. Wake up Bajans!!!

  5. Green Monkey

    It will be an uphill battle all the way.
    Remember maybe a couple months ago there was a news item that the NCC in an attempt to beautify Bridgetown had put out some plants not far from the central police station only to have within a few days some of them stolen and the rest vandalized almost under the noses of the cops.

  6. Arthur Wobig

    We have been timeshare owners in Barbados for over twenty years. In that time we also have seen a degradation of the amenities and attitudes. We have been told that no more repairs other than the bare basics will be done to our resort.( DIVI HERITAGE in St James). We are expected to live up to our contracts, but not them!! We will not be back, nor will many of our fellow owners. Much lose of mmoney in one small segment. Multiply that by who knows and you can a bad picture looming.

  7. NYC/BGI

    It is a crying shame that from the PM on down to the inept BTA cannot realize and accept that a new playbook is needed to not only preserve the BGI heritage but to step into the 21st century, BGI lacks and is suffering from the global growth and influence that has affected everyone. Hotels are crumbling and offer low occupancy, prime tour operators carry only a few hotels and cruise ships have cut back on arrivals because of rip off behavior of those involved in Tourism .

  8. 2323534.8

    Today’s newsp. sports a headline “$800,000 cost for Royal visit!”
    -like if that money is being paid to them directly. lol

    That $800-K is the cost of sprucing up the island to the standard it should have been kept at all along
    but we now begrudgingly have to spend it ‘because of the Royals’
    not because of US or because of the TOURISTS!

    Isn’t it a shame that we couldn’t get away with forever spending little
    and yet raking in millions, nuh?
    We are spiralling ever downward.

    ATTITUDES are our one biggest single national problem
    because all other national problems spawn from our poor attitudes.

  9. Why build more?

    @ NYC/BGI

    The comment that the hotels have low occupancy if that is so could someone one explain why there are all these plans in line to build more accommodation here? if we cant fill and maintain at an acceptable level what we have then what are we always looking to get more? the tourist need more that just a bed. they need things to do see and enjoy. not much investment goining on there. that will be to our down fall.

  10. Clueless

    Divi south winds in not much better either. The management and profitability properties like these seems to be lacking. these dumps are giving the place a bad rep.

  11. Wily Coyote

    Well written article, I could not have expressed it any better. Unfortunately it’s to late for Barbados to recover, too many, know it all politicians with their hands in the till, anarchy and bankruptcy are just around the corner.

  12. Stand by BDF

    I like that last apocalyptic line

    Anarchy and Bankruptcy are just around the corner
    but don’t say a thing.
    When it pop it gyne pop SUDDEN, particularly the Anarchy bit.

    Stand by BDF,

  13. gee

    Think he’s said it all, I have been to Barbados 40 times and love the island, however I agree with all that has been said, accommodation is way over priced for what is on offer, Barbados is a beautiful island in desparte need of a good clean up. As for the greeting you get on arrival at the airport from most of the staff , well its not exactly welcoming, a smile isn’t much to ask for,and they are so so slow , major airports in UK clear thousands more visitors in much less time, but its still my favourite place on this earth.

  14. michele

    After visiting this Paradise Island for the past 26yrs-I must agree!!Please,Please – do something before ALL is lost!Stop the building of countless Condos,Spruce up your Hotels & lower the prices to attract the middle-class!The Boardwalk,in particular,needs attention-all those decaying ruins along the way…why are they not a government concern,why doesn’t the government repossess them & sell them economically to Bajans willing to revive such a charming island with small hotels,small bars,nice restaurants=all facing that beautiful Caribbean Sea.The potential is incredible,why can’t they see that??I return each year,with a posse of friends & find it ever more impossible to impress them…My numbers are dwindling & I’m trying to help..Hopefully this article will find it’s way to government and something will be done-QUICKLY!

  15. Green Monkey

    Went for an invigorating walk around the cliffs at Bottom Bay / Harrismith this evening. Some disgusting individual(s) has left a big pile of garbage on the pasture just off the end of the paved road they put in (presumably for future housing) just 200 ft or so to the west of the public access steps down to Bottom Bay beach. It’s a spot where many chose to park their car on an evening if they want to go for a walk along the cliffs (and maybe later at night for other purposes – can’t speak to that myself).

    I usually find some litter strewn around this area, e.g. empty drink bottles, fast food containers etc. This evening however broke the record, garbage wise – a big, nasty, stinking pile of garbage in all its glory. For the 45min while I was in the vicinity, I saw two H vehicles (one a van with about 6 or 7 occupants) come by and park at the end of the road just yards away from the open garbage pile. The occupants could hardly have failed to notice as they had to walk right by it on the walk over to the cliff edge. Too bad a tour of Bottom Bay was not scheduled during their Royal Highnesses’ state visit, so the offending garbage pile could have been removed before it offended Royal sensibilities..

  16. BAD Guvment

    Green Monkey,

    Litter is part of We Culture!
    Dis be WE country now and we cud do whuh we want widdit.
    And eff we chose to mashitup,jes prior to de next riots, dah is we choice to mek!

    Doan say nein…but dis Guvment gone tru de eddoes!
    As bad as Owen is, he cud only be better than this inactive lot!
    Is to change them every FIVE years now, no more two terms.
    ONE term and wunnuh gyne get change…both sides!

  17. yatiniteasy

    I agree with most of what was said by Mr Edmudson, but consider this:
    Trip Advisor just released interesting Hotel Rankings.
    Top 25 Luxury Hotels IN THE WORLD…Sandy LaneHotel (no 23)
    Top 25 Luxury Hotels in the Caribbean..Sandy Lane Hotel …NO 1 !
    Also, Mr Edmudson should be aware of the fact that in Barbados there is a very large pool of 5 star Villas that are rented by wealthy folk, who not only pay top dollar for such accommodations,and stay on the island for weeks, or months, are big spenders in the local economy, and who also provide direct employment for hundreds of people, from housekeepers, to in house chefs.

    There is hope for the Industry. Government needs to get the Gems Hotels back into private hands…they have proved to be unable to successfully run a decent, profitable hotel, even on a small scale. I agree with another blogger that they should somehow force the hand of the owners of the derelict hotels on the South coast to at least keep them up to the point that they are not an eyesore, and perhaps even a health threat.(there is a stagnant pool at the old Caribee) We know who the owners are, and they profess to be such community minded citizens, etc…and still will do nothing with their derelict properties.Same goes for the old Courts store in Oistins, empty now for several years, and where two guys have taken up residence in the front of the building, complete with suitcases,and other mess and debris. And this, right next to Chefette, a Restaurant!
    How can we be serious about tourism when we allow situations like this to continue ? Paros and homeless people all over Bridgetown.What a nice Port of Call for Cruise Ship passengers we are trying to attract by officials attending Cruise Show and Tourism events in Miami, UK, the Bahamas etc.What a joke!
    The Paradise is still here…but just barely.

  18. fred

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  19. watcher

    Barbados….the land of unfinished projects, overpriced accomodation, smoke belching vehicles, traffic chaos, expensive rum, dirty beaches, grafetti walls, slowest immigration lines in the world, $12 US a gallon milk …and you thinking it paradise. Get a grip Barbados….it is almost getting too late to turn it around. Need a national clean up program.

  20. millertheanunnaki

    @yatiniteasy: February 24, 2012 at 8:46 pm
    “I agree with another blogger that they should somehow force the hand of the owners of the derelict hotels on the South coast to at least keep them up to the point that they are not an eyesore, and perhaps even a health threat.(there is a stagnant pool at the old Caribee) We know who the owners are, and they profess to be such community minded citizens, etc…and still will do nothing with their derelict properties.”

    It would be most informative if the names of the owners of these derelict properties with their public health hazards can be established. A bit of naming and shaming might just do the trick especially with the Internet being such a powerful tool (a few pictures with the names and, if available, photos of properties and owners might just do the trick of naming and shaming them into much needed clean up action. Even the BTA and the relevant government agencies might rise from their slumber.

  21. yatiniteasy

    @millertheanunnaki….True…it took over 2 years for the Port Authority to remove a yacht that was beached at Browne`s beach,,(about 2 miles from the Bridgetown Port,) on the most popular public beach on the Island….they claimed they were only “made aware of it” a few weeks ago! What a bunch of idiots.

  22. yatiniteasy

    Caribee Hotel…owners …Haloutes
    Courts Building Oistins. owners…..Haloutes

  23. Anthony Brathwaite

    I am a Bajan and a very proud one, but comments like this is very true. I have worked in the tourism industry for over 40 years including 5 of the better hotels on the island, and in five other countries including the UK, USA, Canada, Bermuda, all depends heavily on the tourist dollar as like Barbados. I saw a deepening trend as far back as the late 80’s when I would hear people working in hotels discussing that the tourist had to come to Barbados because Barbados had the best beaches, roads, services, and food. I would stop and think just how much travel has some of these workers done. I wished they had visited some place like Aruba and Bermuda they would have seen how wrong they were. Of late I see the crime situation becoming a very big problem, the mini bus culture is another, how can we expect visitors to use the public transport, when most locals find it a terrifying experience, and run down hotels and public areas such as Mr. Edmondson has mentioned in news letter. These are very serious issues for the island leaders to address (yes! I know about places like Jamaica, but I care very deeply about my country and not any other place).
    Two or three luxury medium size hotels (I do not count our hotels as large, when you see what size hotel some countries have to offer, then you would agree with me) does not make and industry.
    Yes Barbados does have plenty to offer the tourist, but Barbados now needs to take stock and see what direction the tourist industry is moving into, at present Barbados is lagging in some key areas. The government has to get cracking and stop looking at the past, this also include everyone on the island, they all depend on the tourist dollar, and especially those working directly in the tourism sector, With the changing world, tourist need only to look at their computers to find destinations offering better prices and amenities for their dollar than Barbados

  24. Pingback: DLP – BLP legacy? “Twenty years ago we had everything going for us and we blew it.” | Barbados Free Press

  25. Mrs & Mrs Brown

    Have just read this commentary on the current state of Barbados and felt the need to add my thoughts and recent experiences. We have just returned from our family holiday to my Husband’s homeland. We are successful London professionals who are the people with money the Island needs to attract. We were greeted at the airport by surly overly aggressive female (mainly) officials. The luggage handlers and porters were excellent and very efficient. We picke up our rental car and headed off to our accommodation. We always book our own as the Hotels are too expensive and do not offer the service and standards we are used to in London.
    The beaches we visited with our children were as described by , they were dirty, had no useable facilities and the people on the beach were selling aggressively. This may be due to the economic climate? But it was bordering on begging this trip.
    On shopping trips the cashiers were blatantly rude and unhelpful, as independent travellers we will buy our groceries, fuel and gifts ourselves and in doing so spend a great deal of cash on the Island. The young people we encountered, 20 something’s were abusive and actually said quite upsetting comments about us as visitors and general comments on attire and appearance.
    This will be one of our last trips to the Island as the whole experience felt like a visit to a crumbling mess with people who do not care about their country’s future and the visitors who keep the Island economically viable.

    Please, please Barbados! Don’t follow the path of Jamaica, losing your culture and worldwide reputation as a holiday destination for the discerning traveller.

    We were actually considering returning to Barbados with our family and money, as residents but that is no longer an option for us as we know it would be professional and personal suicide. Unless Bajans change their attitude very soon, the Bajans who have aspirations and careers will move away leaving the beach bums and the like to a deserted third world country.

    We love Barbados and find it heartbreaking to see it in this predicament, hopefully the wonderful people who still care will set things right and turn the tide on the current downward spiral of decay and apathy within the country.