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Barbados Minister of Labour: Market the Caribbean as a single destination
Esther Byer Suckoo, the Minister of Labour in Barbados, says her country does not have casinos for the general population, only approved legislation on cruise ships. “It is not for Barbadians, but for visitors to stay longer,” Suckoo said.
“They would walk about town and see more attractions. Tourism is the mainstay of the economy. The vendors on the beaches might get sales. We are trying just about everything we can. We are opening it after 7 pm. Cruise ship business would create more opportunities for tour operators. You can have hundreds of people.”
Suckoo and Cornelius de Weever, St Maarten’s Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, were guests of House Speaker Wade Mark. They attended the debate on regularisation for casinos and the increase in taxes for certain classes of motorists–the Provisional Collection of Taxes Order 2012. It took place in the Parliament Chamber at Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, on October 19.
Opposition MPs who made contributions included Port-of-Spain South MP Marlene Mac Donald, Laventille West MP Nileung Hypolite and Port-of-Spain North/St Ann’s West MP Patricia Mac Intosh. Finance Minister Larry Howai promised to get a handle on casinos which he felt would also contribute immensely to the tourism industry. The Opposition Leader said casinos had to be properly regulated. The bill was passed by 23 votes “for” and “seven” against with two abstentions.
Suckoo said there was discussion and dialogue about whether the move was towards casino gambling. She felt although there were “economic advantages,” government had to gauge the mood of the population. “You have to go to the people and sense their mood.
Everyone is concerned about the negative impact it could have on society. The move to pass legislation on cruise ships did raise the issue about casino gambling. You have to go to the people of the country and determine what the people want. When it comes to casino gambling, we would have to make the decision.”
The tourism factor
Zeroing on the tourism industry, Suckoo felt the Caribbean should market itself as a single destination—especially if they intended to target cruise ships. It did not detract from the fact each island had its unique attractions ranging from architecture, shopping, nightlife, cuisine, flora and fauna.
Suckoo identified the Mediterranean as a major competitor. International visitors can’t resist Florence which boasts sites like Fountain of Neptune in the Piazza della Signoria, the domed cathedral known as the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge across the Arno River. Its most striking feature is the multitude of shops built upon its edges.
Suckoo added, “Some of the cruise lines are going to the Mediterranean. We are trying to get more of that business and redeveloping our ports. We are introducing more attractions on the cruise ships. There is a lot of competition from the bigger countries with stronger economies. They are attracting the business.”
Barbados serves up the “soup bowl” at Bathsheba and its famous Harrison Caves. She felt the islands should move toward creating an attractive regional package. “When tourists come, they would have several stops to make. That’s one of the ways it can be developed. It is not enough for Barbados to be doing something.”
Each island has its unique attractions ranging from beaches, heritage sites to cuisine. Commenting on the debate in which Tourism Minister Stephen Cadiz identified St Maarten as having flourished via the casino industry, Weever said, “It was a privilege to be here and listen to the references to St Maarten.
“We agree casinos are an instrumental part of our development. The people of T&T have to make that decision about casinos themselves.”
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