Mia Mottley, the Prime Minister of Barbados, has issued a challenge to the industry to take charge of their future. At the Caribbean Travel Forum at the Sandals Hotel in Barbados, Mottley urged the attendees to stop being takers and start being shapers of their own destinies.
PM Mottley used a well-known quote from Marcus Mosiah Garvey to emphasize her point on encouraging the attendees to build and invest in their countries rather than relying on outsiders to make the difference, “Emancipate yourself from the mental slavery that sees you being a taker rather than a shaper. Nothing should stop you from leaving this country without agreeing to form a major Caribbean tour operator that is capable of marketing the Caribbean.”
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For the Caribbean country, which is the most developed tourist destination in the world, Mottley stated that the citizens must actively participate in shaping our destiny.
She remarked, “For the most part this incarnation of tourism has been driven by foreign capital, has been driven by foreign airlifts, has been driven by foreign markets, has been driven by things that are exogenous to our development.”
Mottley added, “And we can decide if that is important and certainly represents the foundation upon which we stand today but is it sufficient to carry us forward? And if it is not sufficient to carry us forward, at what point do we pause, reset, re-calibrate?”
The Caribbean region is still susceptible to external swings and changes, such as the bankruptcy of a significant tour operator, according to Mottley, who said that the current model has taken us as far as it can.
The best way to mobilize cash and investment in this region, according to Mottley, must be explored.
“Caribbean people remain happy to deposit their money in banks at 0.001 per cent effectively paying more bank fees than receiving any return on the monies invested in banks. Have we therefore exhausted opportunities for the mobilization of capital and the creation of financial instruments necessary to mobilize that capital not only in accommodations but attractions?” she questions.
While the Caribbean is a more developed tourist destination than most, according to Mottley, we lack the same level of cash flow that other countries, like the Gulf States, have, making it difficult to update and guarantee that our product is modernized rapidly and lavishly.
The regional airlines must cooperate and form partnerships, according to the prime minister.
“If ever there was a time for cooperation and partnership across countries, across sectors, across almost every modality of how we function, it is now,” she remarked.
Mottley questioned the notion that wealth exclusively existed in the North Atlantic by taking a look at the region’s source markets.
She asked the area to look at Latin America where, according to her, there are more familial ties than the majority of Caribbean people are aware of.
She stated, “We want others to come to the Caribbean for homeporting and cruising but they can get visas to go through the US or UK yet we continue to depend on them, rather than shaping our own destiny, rather than having the air services agreements that would allow the Middle passage of the 21st century to be shaped by us rather than the Middle Passage to be a scurrilous, awful record of what others did to us.”
Recognizing that the lack of labor is a worldwide issue that has a special impact in the Caribbean due to COVID, Mottley advocated for a national discussion between labor, capital, and hospitality workers.
“The notion of short-term contracts and long-term probation is no more acceptable to a worker in the hospitality industry as is merciless interest rates to the owners of capital. Each of you face challenges and constraints and each of you must find a way of working together to share the burden and share the bounty and it starts first and foremost with respect and tangible sharing in ways that incentivize people to be the best,” she explained.
Claiming that challenging discussions must be conducted in order to reshape the sector, she cited as an example how people of color who travel to the area are still not treated equally to those who are seen as conventional tourists.
Mottley stated, “It comes from the fact that we don’t recognize and accept that the first tourist is your neighbor.”
Mottley, a vocal opponent of climate change, added that collaboration and partnerships are necessary since the majority of the Caribbean would experience severe weather events and water shortages that will have an impact on the services provided to visitors.
The annual Travel Marketplace, which is being organized in Barbados for the first time by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, began with the Caribbean Travel Forum.