Commentary: Tourism Matters: Let's make the dream a reality

Commentary: Tourism Matters: Let's make the dream a reality

By Adrian Loveridge

Every time I drive through Oistins and pass the now demolished former District Hospital and its environs, from a tourism perspective, it’s difficult not to think what an incredible opportunity we have missed.

Adrian Loveridge has spent 46 years in the tourism industry across 67 countries, as a travel agent, tour director, tour operator and for the last 24 years as a small hotel owner on Barbados. He served as a director of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, and as chairman of the Marketing Committee. He also served as a director of the Barbados Tourism Authority and is a frequent writer on tourism

While the Fish Fry over the years has become one, if not the most visited island attractions, but there is so much more we could do to enhance the area.

An extended and widened pier; a restaurant village overlooking the bay with its incredible natural breezes, perhaps imitating the one at Marigot on the French St Martin part of the island; a coastal water taxi to help minimise car parking requirements and give both visitors and locals alike a great alternative to current transportation options.

While Oistins currently provides a value-for-money dining options, not everyone wants to eat out of Styrofoam containers, especially now considering the greater environmental concerns.

And to add to our title often called ‘culinary capital of the Caribbean’, a greater restaurant choice would raise the overall earnings for the area and in my humble opinion drive even more visitors.

The existing bus ‘terminal’ could easily be moved across the road and the present toilet facilities serving the fish fry, enhanced and better monitored from a hygiene perspective. Even if this means imposing a small charge to staff and clean modified versions.

Such a concept would also greatly enhance our struggling fishing industry, that are currently struggling to compete with the increased volume of imported refrigerated containers, full of tax and duty-free frozen food.

This situation will be dramatically aggravated as the scheduled hundreds of additional all-inclusive rooms come online in December, further pushing up our import bills and foreign exchange requirement.

While government is under severe fiscal pressure, this is perhaps when the private sector has to step up and assume, at least the conception, implementation and construction lead. It was interesting to read recently about the formation of Williams Caribbean Capital.

Just maybe the timing is perfect, when our existing traditional banking sector seemingly is being more than cautious about supporting new tourism investment facilitation, some new funding competitive options may aid and stimulate the only sector that can take the country out of our economic malaise.

I will always cherish the memories of at least two former ministers of tourism, Sir Harold St John and Peter Morgan and, as everything seems to come down to partisan politics, two outstanding people who were poles apart, from a party standpoint.

Both however, possessed the incredibly important virtue of listening to people, whether they were humble or elevated in status.

Even if neither ended up following any advice proffered, they listened and that is all most of us can reasonably expect.

Sir Harold and in fairness, Lady Stella, had a dream for Oistins, or Oistins Town as he would frequently refer to it.

Let us not forget that ‘dream’ and help make become it a reality.

Empty derelict buildings and idle abandoned land do not generate taxes, employment or attract investment.

Government has clearly demonstrated, at least in certain selected instances, that it can fast-track ‘big picture’ projects from a planning perspective.

Could Oistins be one of these targeted areas for augmented development?