Sun, sea and sand were traditionally viewed as the major attraction to tourism destinations like Barbados. Times have changed. While those components are still key factors for visitors travelling to the island on holiday, other countries in the region and elsewhere have similar offerings of sunny weather and cool waters. As a result, Barbados and other leading tourism destinations have been forced to differentiate themselves.
This has seen diversification at the forefront of the industry in various ways, including solidification of the cultural tourism niche. While most recent statistics were not available at time of writing, in 2012 Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy reported that 10 942 visitors came to Barbados in 2011 to explore the island’s cultural heritage. He said Barbados was looking to cultural heritage tourism as it diversified the industry. Cultural tourism has various components, including festivals, carnivals, and links to other tourism niche areas including the heritage and culinary aspects. Last year, as Barbados prepared to celebrate its 50th anniversary of Independence, David Comissiong, an attorney at law, and president of the Clement Payne Movement, said “the next phase in the development of Barbados’ tourism industry should be a cultural tourism phase centred on an appreciation for our nation’s unique cultural heritage, and on locally owned hotels and guest houses that radiate the unique arts, culture and sense of hospitality of Barbados and of their Barbadian owners”. “…The entire island of Barbados – its landscape, history, heritage, arts and culture – should be seen as the tourism product, and not merely the traditional sun, sea and sex! “Thus, we should, for example, develop multiple sightseeing and heritage trails (replete with proper signage) that encourage and facilitate tourists to visit and experience the entire island, thereby permitting a wide range of Barbadian product and service providers to benefit financially,” he recommended. “And, of course, the entire effort must be supported by all of the institutions that are responsible for developing and promoting Barbados’ tourism product – our Tourism Authority, the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, and the Barbados Tourism Product Authority. They must, among other things, include cultural and artistic presentations in their overseas promotions and highlight Barbadian arts and culture as an integral part of our tourism product.”