Tourism has been one of the sectors most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This once-in-a-century event has generated the worst demand shock in tourism’s recorded history. One year into the pandemic, demand for hotel rooms and cruise trips are yet to recover.
In tourism-dependent countries like Barbados, companies are struggling to survive.
The length and depth of this crisis forces policymakers and industry stakeholders to consider not only what to do now, but what to do in the future. Stakeholders want to see a revival of tourism as soon as possible, but they will reap greater benefits in the long-term if this is done in the most sustainable and innovative way possible.
It’s not about building back, but about how the country can build forward better. Barbados acted boldly in its post-Independence period to nurture and sustain a vibrant tourism industry that became the driving force of its economy. Now regarded as one of the Caribbean’s mature destinations with a strong international brand, the country is being challenged to act boldly once more in preparation for the post-pandemic period.
The Barbados Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank, confronted tourism’s big questions during the Re-Imagining Tourism in Barbados online consultation March 29 – 31, 2021.
“Resetting a sector that is the central pillar of the national economy seems a daunting task, but it is essential. In some respects, important groundwork has already been laid. The National Tourism Program in Barbados, financed by US$20 million from the IDB, is now poised to be an emblematic project for the country, given its objective of increasing the resilience of the tourism industry,” said IDB Representative in Barbados, Juan Carlos De La Hoz Viñas.
He added, “The IDB remains a strategic partner in accelerating the transition towards a more resilient, sustainable, and innovative tourism sector. Through this important consultation, we continue on this path by creating a space for key stakeholders in Barbados to come together.”
De La Hoz Viñas joined Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Senator the Hon. Lisa Cummins, in welcoming stakeholders to the invitation-only consultation, which brought together participants representing a wide cross-section of businesses – large and small, financiers, civil society, state agencies and institutions and more. They contemplated critical questions on issues such as:
- Travel and tourism trends in COVID-19 times and beyond
- New challenges for tourism investment
- Inclusive, community-led and owned tourism
With keynote presentations by Travel and Tourism Consultant, Douglas Lansky; Miguel Angel Figueroa Calsina, UNWTO Investment Principal; and Founder/President of Countrystyle Community Tourism Network/Villages as Businesses, Diana McIntyre-Pike, participants were inspired and challenged to bring their best ideas and insights as they map out new tourism frontiers.
Barbados is keen for its tourism industry to be reset and reactivated. And this starts by re-imagining all that it could be.