An inspiring Visit to Barbados
As one of the legions of Barbadians making a life in the diaspora, every trip home is gratifying and a precious opportunity to again breathe refreshing Bajan air, luxuriate in Caribbean sunshine, and return the warm greetings of locals, friends and family.
But this trip to participate in the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s (CHTA) 41st annual Caribbean Travel Marketplace was even more special. It was a joy to see new developments coming to life and to observe the welcoming kindness of fellow Bajans who opened their arms to the first Marketplace on the island.
Kudos to our hosts, the team at Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. and the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, who worked closely with CHTA to deliver a substantive, business-focused gathering, which many participants agreed was one of the best ever.
Of course, a proud moment was hearing our beloved Prime Minister Mia Mottley display her oratory skills, confirming why many see her as the leader of the Caribbean, and why citizens of African countries call on her to be the spokesperson for the global south on the international stage.
The prime minister roused the standing room-only crowd with her challenge as to whether Caribbean tourism stakeholders should be “shapers or takers”.
She asserted that the region had been a “taker” of a tourism system driven by foreign capital, driven by foreign airlift, driven by foreign markets, and generally “driven by things that are exogenous effectively to our development.” She questioned whether such models were sufficient to carry the region to a sustainable future.
“If you don’t summon the courage to claim your destiny, then you will continue to be victims of a globally uncertain world,” she stated.
In a clarion call for sustainability, Mottley said that “if this region does not get on top of its food security and on top of its basic supplies, we are going to pay an awful price when we least expect it.”
She urged the building of more synergies with multiple sectors, including agriculture and manufacturing. “And of course with our artistic community, both performing and fine arts become absolutely critical,” she stated, adding there was “a far greater reliance on tourism, direct and indirect, than we give credit for.”
In a lucid illustration of the climate crisis, she pointed to the United States, which instead of suffering a billion-dollar significant natural event every three to four months was now suffering a billion-dollar loss event every 20 days. “That is the climate crisis, she declared, “not climate change, the climate crisis”.
Summarizing, she declared, “I want to hear that the hoteliers of the region have determined that they will not simply, in a post-independence era, be a taker of circumstances shaped by others to profit others, but that we shall be shapers of our destiny. Or as the national anthem of Barbados says, firm craftsmen of our fate.”
I was overjoyed to behold the commitment of the local Bajan hosts, across the public and private sectors, to deliver not only a productive trade show, but also elegant opening and closing receptions that left delegates with warm memories and a desire to return to the next Marketplace, which will be held in Jamaica. Equally important, they now have a yearning to return to Bim, an island in the sun that continues to punch above its weight.