The minister of tourism for Barbados has called on governments internationally to take climate change more seriously as it future-proofs its infrastructure from future environmental damage.
Kerrie Symmonds, minister of tourism and international transport, said there was a desperate need for governments, the travel trade and the media to put more emphasis on the implications of global warming and climate change.
His plea follows the devastating hurricanes just over a year ago in the Caribbean.
He said: “The Caribbean region is a melting pot of tremendous investment and commercial activity but it all stands to be compromised if there are not, at policy level internationally, decisive actions on global warming and climate change. Internationally we are not talking about it seriously enough. The consequences for some island economies can be devastating. We are not net contributors to climate change but we are starting to feel the consequences more than anyone else.”
The minister said Barbados was currently revamping its town and country planning regulations to ensure its buildings and roads were “climate resilient”.
As part of this, the island also has plans in the pipeline to make the destination more accessible to holidaymakers with a disability or mobility needs. This will mean hotels, public facilities and its seaport and airport having to make provision for travellers with these needs.
Symmonds added: “A community of people have been discomforted for a long time because of our infrastructure. We want to make Barbados the most accommodating of the Caribbean communities for people with a disability. Hotels will have to address this to care for people with disabilities; it will be a work in progress.”
Barbados was visited by 222,322 Brits last year. Its peak in terms of UK visitors was 226,787 in 2000.
Symmonds was “cautiously optimistic” Barbados will have returned its peak level this year thanks to a 17% increase in airlift, equating to 20,000 extra seats from the UK.
The increase is despite the introduction of a new room tax this summer, which was brought in with only a week’s notice to the trade. Symmonds said the tax was urgently needed to help restore the country’s poor infrastructure, including problems with the country’s sewer systems after a period of lack of investment.