Article taken from the Midweek Nation – Wednesday May 18, 2022
MINISTER OF ENERGY and Business Development Kerrie Symmonds has called the vision of Barbados’ private sector into question with regard to ideas for the enhancement of projects such as Harrison’s Cave.
He expressed disappointment yesterday at suggestions presented by Barbadian businesses which responded during the tendering process for the operation of Barbados’ leading tourism attraction, describing ideas put forward as “mundane.”
“We would have been some of the happiest campers in the world if when tenders were opened, we had seen stuff other than that which was mundane. We would have been the happiest campers in the world if we were able to open tenders and find that the imagination of the private sector in this country was such that they were saying that they would do more than some adjustments in the roof of the waiting room. That is disappointing,” Symmonds said.
The Jamaican company Chukka Caribbean Adventures won the bid after presenting “a concept that was almost irresistible,” according to Symmonds, who also reiterated that Barbados has retained ownership of the cave.
Speaking while leading off debate on the Caves (Amendment) Bill 2022, he revealed that Chukka Caribbean Adventures had been selected to operate the attraction following “a public tender process to participate in this economy and to make investment in Harrison’s Cave by way of product enhancement; attraction management; improving the heritage tourism product of the country and to help us drive commercial revenue”.
How residents can benefit
In addition to meeting all these requirements as set out, he said Chukka Caribbean Adventures had reached out to residents of neighbouring St Thomas communities and had been discussing ways in which those people could benefit with their operation of small business ventures around the cave.
Symmonds suggested the private sector similarly did not see the value of getting crafts people involved in the development of a mall-type operations at the Grantley Adams International Airport for which there was a worldwide search for an operator.
“There is a concern that we have to have about how our private sector approaches in these matters. It is as though it is the most difficult thing for us to use the creativity of our people for them to be selling those things that they make,” the St James Central MP said.
“Whenever we have taken the step of bringing the working class of Barbados to the table and allowing them to unleash their potential in these spaces, you get a transformational change. But the reason why we have remained virtually frozen in time is that we have contented ourselves in getting off an American Airlines and walking through a mall experience in somebody else’s country and spending money, but it is not to happen in Barbados because we ain’t ready for that yet.”
The former Minister of Tourism added: “It was the blinkered vision that stymied growth in tourism here.” ( GC)