By the time this publication hits the streets we will be half way through this year’s Tourism Week and I, among several persons have been privileged to join the Starcom Road Runner on Monday morning 26th September. Not only is it a great opportunity to spread awareness of the upcoming Restaurant Week which is actually scheduled over two weeks from 22nd October and the re-DISCOVER dining programme, but to better explain the critical linkages between tourism and commerce generally.
The Barbados Tourism Product Authority has put together what I consider a perfect blend of heritage and opportunities for small businesses. The itinerary includes the Nidhe Synagogue, Glass Creations at Pelican Craft Centre, Magnolia Chocolatiers, the newly opened Caribbean Wax Museum and ends with a visit to the organic J and P Farms in St. George.
We often forget the critical role that a relatively small Jewish population played in the early development of Barbados. Without the technology of the giant windmill, it is even doubtful whether we would have had a sugar and rum industry at all.
After speaking to literally thousands of visitors both here and numerous travel trade events overseas it is also abundantly clear that when guests come to Barbados they don’t want to return home with cheap factory made ‘foreign’ trinkets, but literally take back part of something they know contributes directly to economic growth of the country and employment. With the increasing extra airline charges and restrictions associated with checked baggage, it is also that our craft people and artists bear in mind that souvenirs are small and light enough to not to incur additional charges.
The last stop on the agenda is also of special interest. There has been an increasing interest by our visitors to eat healthier foods from a well being and sustainability point of view. Over the years I have followed with admiration, the passion of an independent Senator championing the need for more tourism businesses to source local products and produce and I totally agree with him. But there are clear challenges, until we can find a better balance of supply and demand. For our smaller tourism partners it is easier, because we frankly don’t have the luxurious option of bringing containers into the island, so at least to a degree, we are forced to source locally.
If you have 200-300 rooms of course it’s a different story, you simply cannot accept that, as an example, there are no tomatoes available this week. For our distributor’s, it is also difficult to always calculate anticipated demand and when stocks are exhausted, the replacement time is frequently prolonged even without custom clearance delays.
There is also need for better communication. Our local suppliers should not wait for the phone to go. Be more proactive, let the entire tourism industry know what you can supply, have an up-to-date website where prices, availability and sizes can be checked. And with all the demands on time, create a portal where it’s possible to order and pay online.
Many of us, I am sure, genuinely want to buy more locally, but you have to make it easier and less labour consuming.