Over the past several years, Barbados has did not capitalise on the lucrative benefits of heritage tourism.
And if Professor Sir Henry Fraser had his way, more investment can be made to develop this aspect of the island’s tourism product, which he said had great potential to significantly increase the industry’s profits.
On Monday during a webinar to mark the seventieth anniversary of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Fraser said that multiple studies the world over showed that tourists travelling for heritage reasons spent significantly more money and time than the common visitor and he was concerned that Barbados’ wealthy culture and heritage weren’t seen as worthy of build-out.
This fact was being ignored “at our peril”, he said.
“It’s so necessary the economic benefits of heritage tourism . . . and yet for 20 years we (Barbados National Trust) have been preaching this and we’re still not accepting its potential. Let’s say slightly bit in regards to the cultural heritage, the built heritage. These items are so necessary . . .”
Fraser said he was also concerned that the tourism product was not pushed through the consulates, as other countries did, adding that there was room for improvement in the way in which the product was marketed.
“You can’t go to Paris without walking away with a trophy of the Eiffel Tower, you can’t go to New York without something of the Statue of Liberty . . .,” he said.
He was also concerned that Barbados didn’t put value to a variety of historic structures and either left them abandoned or sought to demolish them.
“We have now a world famous lighthouse – the South Point lighthouse- which has been abandoned as a site for storing huge piles of rocks by the Ministry of Transport and Works. I can’t consider a rustic through which a very powerful single structure is treated as if it was a garbage can. We should be ashamed. It’s probably the most obvious, a no brainer for heritage development.
“Every tourist in Christ Church and all those South Coast hotels, all of them see that lighthouse they usually all go there and we’re doing nothing. We’re ignoring the plans that we, the Barbados National Trust, have recommend to Government.”
The previous president of the Trust said he was also disenchanted that Government did nothing to develop the derelict buildings with historic architecture in Bridgetown and its Garrison when it became a UNESCO world heritage site 11 years ago.
“We’ll lose that inscription but it surely won’t matter because we never utilised it. The info suggests that sites, cities or countries, that are given UNESCO world heritage status have between a 30 and 40 per cent increase in tourism visitation and again we (the Trust) have been preaching that but it surely has not been registered.”
The professor added that there was great economic potential where the old Glendairy prison, which was destroyed by fire in 2005, is anxious.
“Glendairy prison is an absolute no-brainer. There are well over 100 prison museums on this planet . . . We could have probably the most outstanding, interesting, fascinating, morbidly curious visitor site within the Caribbean at Glendairy prison. . . It’s sitting there without charge to Government. All they should do is to long lease it to a non-public enterprise.”
Barbados also had potential in medical tourism, said Fraser, because it had a history of being considered a health spa.
“Barbados is entirely, all around the island is a spa with those magnificent breezes. We have now ignored the indisputable fact that it was a spa, considered a spa and would still be considered a spa with an ideal year-round temperature . . . But medical and wellness tourism is again a no brainer.
“We (the Trust) have had two major proposals for state-of-the-art hospitals that fell through . . . a state-of-the-art hospital in Barbados can be an unbelievable source of income coming in.”
He added that 1000’s of individuals travel for surgery and medical treatments the world over. (SZB)