Set up Official Rum Shop of Barbados brand
While many of us hold no official titles, we have and continue to host, chaperone and entertain many a foreigner.
It is evident that the majority of us have embraced the ethos that “tourism is our business, let’s play our part”, as visitors continue to marvel at our warmth, sincerity and hospitality. Truth be told, this is our uniqueness, our brand, our competitive advantage. It sets us apart from all others and explains why tourists continue to choose Barbados despite its high costs and the options.
Like the sweet aroma that lingers in the back of the throat after a sip of our extra old rums, so too are the memories that are etched into the hearts and minds of those who call Barbados home for a few days. If only we could bottle our hospitality and sell it on the international market, we would have no need for an International Monetary Fund support programme.
Notwithstanding this uniqueness, I sometimes think that our tourism officials need to get out of the office and visit the “speakeasy” or the “hideaway”. Perhaps they would come to realise that it is in the village shop that our hospitality is at its highest level of authenticity. It is here that the visitor gets the “real” local experience, not in the luxury hotels or the pre-arranged tours. They get to be Barbadians for the day, eating Barbadian foods, drinking Barbadian drinks in fellowship with Barbadians who are not paid to be hospitable or friendly.
I have always been impressed with the idea of establishing the “Official Rum Shop of Barbados brand” whereby small proprietors who are willing to commit to the highest standards of operations can be rewarded this designation. Eligible would be shops where tourists can always get a “bread and two”, a ham cutter, cou cou and fish, macaroni pie, a pork chop, and so on.
It is in these shops that lasting memories are made. It is there that tourists will continue to spend their hard earned money to experience what it is really like to be Barbadian. I suggest the authorities take another look at implementing such an programme.