Tourism in Barbados today is running perilously on the fumes of tourism of yester-year. Tourism of times past had harnessed fuel in the form of word to mouth, which over the years had encouraged persons from all parts of the world to visit this Caribbean nation.
Persons who had visited the island truly saw what they considered to be a paradise on earth, and would make return visits, and asked others to do the same.
This was due to what existed on the island at that time. They was more of a community spirit on the island. persons cared about each other, total strangers would pass each other on the street and would greet each other, and if they happened to be in each others company for a few minutes they would strike up a conversation with the slightest of ease.
Very few people did without the basic necessities, because there was sharing amongst family, and friends. Most importantly we loved our nation, and most of us did our best and treated it like our very homes, but things have changed.
Things have changed, but Barbados remains one of the most beautiful, safe, and fun places to be in the world. You just have to ask those who have ever left the island for any period of time, or those who have visited. But we have lost some of who we were in the name of *prosperity*.
Who we were, and who we are now, is being influence by big business. Those in big business, who believe they can see the great potential of the island, but lacking understanding have changed the landscape in more ways than one.
As a child growing up I would see yearly thousands of tourist traversing the country-side where I lived. These tourists drove small vehicles called mini-mokes which allowed them to be in full contact with their surroundings. yet others travelled with taxi drivers who seemed to know everyone and everything about the neighbourhoods they journeyed.(I am sure at this point the reader sees where I am going with this one)
The point I'm making here is that tourists who roamed the island in this manner tended to get a more intimate relationship with the island and its inhabitants.
Tourists at that time would be seen stopping at the village shop drinking a Banks beer, and enjoying the company of patrons as they entered and left the establishment. They would stop and try to participate in a game of road tennis being played by the youngsters in the area. Tourist would engage in the taking of pictures of some of the children, and offering money in return. Some tourist could be seen "sucking" a piece of sugar cane offered by the taxi driver who took them around the island.
These are just a few of the things which made tourism, and encourage tourist after visiting the island to return again and again, and urge others to do the same. It wasn't the big business advertising dollars which can bring them once, but never again.
Big business as mentioned before has changed the landscape of our great tourism product because those who now call the shots might be ashamed of what we had, or never really understand nor appreciate what we had, because these figures would have visited metropolitan states for they "education" and now believe the way of the metropolitan states should be the way forward for Barbados.
Big business is now shipping the tourist to the island for a day or two. On reaching the island big buses, and vans are hauling them up, and taking them around the island. Here lies the disadvantage to the tourist, and the tourism product.
No longer does the tourist experience that one on one informative tour he would had gotten from having his own taxi driver, or travelling on his own and gaining knowledge from the people as he move from point A to point B. That tourist is now on a big air-conditioned bus with about fifty other persons, adorned with tinted windows, as though he is on a safari being protected from lions and bears.
This inability of the tourist being able to experience the soul of the nation will prevent them from returning and encouraging others doing so.
Big business has also destroyed the landscape with concrete jungles and golf courses. Big business prefers not to understand this because it is interested in current gratification without understanding the impact of the NOW, on the future, because they will take their business somewhere else, when the tourist arrivals start to trickle.
In essence what is needed in the Barbados Tourism product is for the government to come to an understanding of who we are, and that is basically it. We are not Americans, Bahamians, nor Jamaicans.
Many persons when asked about they visit to Barbados do not reply as a first response about great golf courses we have, nor do they comment on the great hotels and villas, nor do they comment on the cuisine in the places of stay, which is chiefly non-Bajan.
Tourist usually comment on the warmth and friendliness of the people. The relatively clean surroundings, and the relative peace and security that abounds.
This is what separates us from other destinations which also offer Sun, Sea, Sand. Our People. Therefore tourist should be allowed to mingle with Our People as much as possible and not be shuttled into big air-conditioned buses which offers an impersonal touch.