As the world around us transforms and pivots post Covid-19, so too must Barbados – our 166 square miles of beautiful people and landscapes. This change must no longer be one that is led but be one that leads the way into the future for our people. Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Mia Amor Mottley is quoted saying

“regardless of the obstacles and the challenges that face us, we shall remain focused on achieving what we must achieve as one of the smallest nations of this world but as one of the proudest and most capable nations of the global community.”

This is why I consider the next 10 years ahead of us to be the “Decade of Change”.

Embracing Technology and Data

Investing in the way we analyze the business of tourism and the opportunities that are on the horizon is key to informing the way we develop our infrastructure, our source markets and marketing. Understanding the type of traveller, their push buttons, our strengths, and areas for improvement is critical as we map out our way forward. Across the various tourism entities and partnering sectors, we shall continue to deep dive into the data to see what truly sets us apart as we seek to broaden our reach, increase the average spend on island and diversify the type of visitors we are attracting.

Investing in Our People

The ongoing work to diversify our tourism offering is much more than just tweaking the product or how we market it. Instead it’s about how we invest in tourism sustainability through our people. Continuously educating and opening avenues for their development at a faster pace than we are accustomed to so that they become leaders within our workforce and most importantly, becoming Owners of Capital. Diversifying our leadership and ownership portfolio aids in sustainability by the true essence of why Barbados is loved. It is our people that make this island sparkle in the eyes of dreamers. The culture, the history and the Bajan vibes make people fall in love. Angela Davis beautifully expressed:

“We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society”.'

She is right. We must liberate our people beyond a tunnel vision approach to our economy but towards how we can form linkages and remove the leakages, and how we can diversify our offering within those industries and how do we become leaders and owners of our fate.

Diversifying Brand Barbados

The opportunity to diversify the tourism industry over the next 10 years is here. The creative mindset towards the infrastructure build out must take us into the future and not just for the moment. Using green and sustainable methods while pushing the envelope in terms of creativity and offering is essential to position Barbados for the next 50 years. Special Interest Tourism broadly speaks towards what Barbados truly has to offer. We can explore niches such as Health & Wellness, Adventure, Dark Tourism, Food, Spiritual/Religious, Rural, Sport etc. Three examples of opportunities are:

  1. Dark Tourism. Let’s not shy away from educating people about our history.We can tell the story of slavery and, for instance, Glendairy Prison in later times
  1. Sports. Youth and masters’ categories in sports and beach sports can be explored. These are the most frequent events throughout the year which attract families and communities and utilize our natural resources – the sea and sand.
  2. Health & Wellness Tourism. This is in high demand as people are searching fora better way to live their life physically, mentally, and emotionally

The above are distinct types of tourism targeting unique demographics but still connect with our History, our People, and our Surroundings. They also have the potential to increase revenue.

New Zealand’s rally superstar Hayden Paddon won the 2023 edition of Sol Rally Barbados in front of record crowds.

Expanding our Reach

Barbados has begun looking at non-traditional source markets such as Latin America, Gulf States and Africa. With the Latin America focus, it makes geographical sense as they are our neighbours with a shorter or potentially shorter direct trip than some of our traditional source market cities. We now have direct flights to Latin America and there are discussions underway to establish air-links with Africa. Building out the linkages between those regions and Barbados is key to how we transform our economic performance through tourism to be a high performer 12 months of the year. Creating Seasons of Experiences that entice different demographics throughout the year is essential over the next decade, should Barbados wish to remain a leader in Tourism. For example, we should be attracting visitors from Latin America during our summer months, which is their winter. The financial power within these three nontraditional source markets is paramount in our future and there is an appetite for Barbados.

As Tourism Leaders we must continue to work together stronger, share data and engage alongside each other more. The opportunity over the decade ahead will allow for our future generations to reach beyond their dreams. Madam CJ Walker exclaimed,

“Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them”.

Use these next 10 years to invest analytically and financially in this next wave of “build out” of our people,

product, and paradise destination.

For those looking in at Barbados, it is much more than just the Gem of the Caribbean Sea. It is the most beautiful place to invest your efforts, time, and financials as it is rich with culture, history, energy, and drive to become the leader in not just the western hemisphere but in the world per capita. For those who doubt us, remember that over the last 50 years Barbados has created many great leaders from Sir Garry Sobers (Cricketer), Rihanna (Entertainer/Entrepreneur), Prime Minister Hon. Mia Amor Mottley (Leader of the Bridgetown Initiative) and Alan Emtage (Inventor of the First Search Engine).

The great Nelson Mandela mentioned,

“It always seems impossible until it is done”.

The Decade of Change starts now.