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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) -- Although Barbados experienced an 8.7 per cent decline in tourism arrivals last year, there were no job losses. This was a key point made on Wednesday by Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, as he updated media managers and reporters on the state of the tourism industry.
By Joy-Ann Gill
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) -- Although Barbados experienced an 8.7 per cent decline in tourism arrivals last year, there were no job losses.
This was a key point made on Wednesday by Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, as he updated media managers and reporters on the state of the tourism industry at a breakfast meeting.
Acknowledging that 2009 was "a very challenging year the world over", Minister Sealy said the economic crisis had negatively affected not only tourism, but activity in general. He gave examples of the impact of the Influenza A (H1N1) virus and challenges in the US and UK markets as contributing to "our very challenging period."
Comparing Barbados' decline to the rest of the Caribbean, Sealy pointed out that some countries' tourism markets had been reduced to as low as 25 per cent, something this island had not seen.
He stated: "Our decline for last year was 8.7 per cent and that is a commendable performance by any standard and I salute everyone in and around the tourism sector for doing a good job... The workers, providers of services, the owners and operators of the various tourism-related facilities and the hard-working staff at the Barbados Tourism Authority, who had the responsibility for marketing the destination...have done an excellent job under the circumstances."
Sealy further commended stakeholders for the part played in preventing massive job losses, noting that it was as a result of the working partnership formed. He added: "You would recall the Tourism Ministry Relief Fund, [which is] some $25 million that Government provided with the understanding that you would maintain your employment levels as much as possible, and I am happy to report that from all our investigations ... we have not seen any large scale layoffs in the sector and that is something that needs to be mentioned and I believe that we need to commend all those who have been working with us to make that possible."
The tourism minister also spoke about destinations in the region, including some which had seen growth, which had been "laying off people like crazy and shutting down
entire hotel properties" and stressed it was necessary for Barbados to continue with its partnership of working together, to minimise the impact of the crisis going into 2010.
The factors responsible for the 8.7 percent decline were outlined by Sealy, who explained that Barbados' main market, the United Kingdom, was the biggest contributor, realising a 13.7 percent decline in 2009. He also stated that, in the case of the United States, the fall off was 7 percent; Trinidad and Tobago stood at 6.8 percent, while other CARICOM countries reached a 14.1 percent and Europe, excluding Germany, recorded 7.7 percent.
Notwithstanding the declines in markets, the Tourism Minister disclosed: "Canada has actually seen growth of 11.2 percent and that is wonderful as we have actually broken the 60,000 barrier. We had 63,826 visitors from Canada in 2009 and that is significant because as a new Government we had identified Canada as an area we wanted to concentrate on and it is actually quite encouraging to see that our efforts have yielded some results in some very trying times."
Sealy reminded the media that Canada was once Barbados' number one source market. He declared: "We think we can get it back up... there is a strong connection between Barbados and Canada; there is also the fact that they (Canadian) tend to be very loyal - a lot of our repeat visitors that we speak of are Canadians... so we think that is good business to continue to encourage."
In addition, Sealy spoke about limited growth in the German market, with a 15 percent increase, which he maintained was significant for a number of reasons. He explained Government had taken a deliberate decision to separate the marketing activities of the UK, from continental Europe.
"We have a VP (Vice President) in Europe who is responsible for UK and Ireland, but we now have a separate VP for marketing, who is based in Germany and responsible for the continent ... We are determined to get more of that continental business, and Germany, as the biggest player within the European Union is the natural leader to drive that business and we are quite optimistic about what Europe has to offer going into the future," the Tourism Minister said.