Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tourism anyone?

Today (September 27) is World Tourism Day, and tourist havens such as Barbados will no doubt be feeling proud to celebrate the things that tourism has allowed small countries to do. Not surpisingly, Barbados' local papers have flagged that the country has won several prizes recently for its tourism products. However, I am personally always in two minds about tourism. I welcome the opportunities for new and varied local jobs, higher pay, associated infrastructure developments such as roads, airports and sanitation, etc. I also welcome the opportunities for countries to exploit and showcase to visitors their culture, their environment, and other positive attributes. But there is always a delicate balance to hold and I also get concerned about the "negative" things that tourism can bring, with a faster pace of exposure to certain outside influences, which while common elsewhere are not necessarily in line with the Caribbean outlook. In that regard, I think of a certain willingness to exploit what seems to come once "foreigners with money" start to arrive.

In many senses, I have not found enough effort by those who run tourism authorities, and establishments that are key to tourism to fight some of these negatives. There are usually good measures in place to deal with many things that tourists fear, especially crime. In that regard, things have moved to a certain extreme by having tourists in "sealed environments". These can come in the form of "all inclusive" resorts, but they can also come in the form of highly secure tourist locations, where few locals can venture without serious checks. Other, lesser forms of harassment of tourists is commonplace but also more difficult to deal with. Whether it is the unwanted hair braider, or the drug peddler, or the taxi driver who takes a route that will ring up the costs, it does not matter. Here, I feel there have been fewer efforts to deal with the problems, often in defence of "letting the small people get a chance".

In Barbados, I think there is another issue. I think tourism has brought pressure on local prices (especially food) and I have a feeling (though hard to prove) that some have used the higher purchasing power of tourists to base prices higher than they should be. It may be useful for some of the local economists to try to analyse this impact of tourism. There appears to be much less insulation of tourism from some sensitive aspects of local life. And there may be a vicious circle. Because tourists have been tempted to live in villas and boutique hotels, rather than in large hotel complexes, they have moved more into buying local produce to deal with self-catering, or eaten out in local restaurants more than would have been the case. So, local merchants can charge more than they should for a reasonable profit, and because tourists are a significant part of the market and may be in some sense captive to these prices, the merchants will find that customers are not driven away. This phenomenon might have been going on for some time. Many people living here openly admit that they avoid shopping locally, and rarely frequent many of the restaurants for fear of the high prices. Instead, some people will fly abroad (to Miami, New York, Trinidad, Puerto Rico/US Virgin Islands) to stock up on non-perishables, and even certain kinds of perishables that are very expensive here, such as meat. A lot of talk has been heard over the past months about the high local prices, and the need to take care where one shops and what one buys. But that advice is really a bandage, and cannot make much real sense on a daily basis. Those who can travel to shop have taken this to heart. In fact, they have mounted a sort of boycott of local produce. If more people take the message to heart, it will be interesting to see how merchants and prices respond. For my part, I have kept eating out in restaurants to an absolute minimum over the past few months, and trying to find local places that offer great value. I too will be looking to stock up in a major way the next time I have chance to visit the US.


Anonymous said...

I am a regular follower of your blog, and this post brings up an interesting conversation that my husband and I were just having over dinner. We have been considering visiting Barbados and enjoying the country, however as we are avid internet blog readers we find steady side comments that would lead us to believe perhaps Barbados does not value African-American tourists as highly as other tourist groups. While not at all loud rioting race people (My husband is an attorney and I am an educator) I'd like to show a side of tourism and in particular cultural tourism that I hope you may appreciate.
Case in point being the frequent reference to caribbean Blacks as being separate from African-Americans as a group, (even your own world cup blog which referenced that you mentioned the african-american tennis youth due to her "bahamian" heritage". "Ouch". I have lived in the Bahamas (my mother married into the culture), visited Jamaica many times, as well as St. Marteen. And while I appreciate the beauty of each place I am often bewildered by the level of plain ignorance when African-Americans are compared negatively to Caribbeans. Anyone knows that when a stranger is in your home they behave themselves relatively well, in your presence. As is the case when Europeans, and White Americans visit the Caribbean. Whereas if you forced them to remain in your home forever, and killed many of their kinsmen who tried to escape, the relationship might sour (as is the case for us here in America). Why does the reality that a slave ship dropped one load of people into circumstances where they where the majority and once "freed" had some level of group identity returned to themselves, while it dropped another group into circumstances where group identity is considered a hindrance to national progress, something to gloat about. I wish simply to share with you the obvious. There are over 30 million African-Americans in this country. 10% of our males are incarcerated. The vast majority of the other 90% are hard working, non-criminals most of whom are Christian, many of whome are married (our marriage rates are actually increasing) and have decent morals similar to those in the Caribbean. It is this 10% plus the fakers who pretend to be convicts (stupidity for sure!)
that are publicized around the world and unfortunately even our ex-kinsmen in the Caribbean have bought into the hype. To be fair I frequently educate my students that they cannot trust others opinions of Africans or Caribbeans. Frequently we accomplish this by taking groups to the Caribbean islands, where they return...informed and awakened
As Odel Simmons recently stated

"I think it's unfortunate that most Caribbeans and Africans have a view that is shaped by the negative images put forth by U.S. media," says Simmons. "I feel there is no balance they only show negative and the negative images they show travels worldwide. So people in St. Thomas and Nigeria think we all behave like what they see on Rap City and MTV. Similarly shows like 'Tarzan' and numerous others have shaped the image of primitive Africans in the American imagination."

Remember before there was a Bahamian heritage or a Barbadian or Jamaican heritage there was first an African-Heritage

My husband and I enjoy bringing our 6 children and others to the Caribbean to witness "People of our Heritage" running their own countries,and welcoming us to their shores...Yet besides wanting our all mighty american dollar bill...are we really welcomed????

I hope to one day be a tourist in Barbados. I'd like to taste the food, soak the sun and worshsip with the citizens. If, when I arrive, you only see me as money..how much different is that then how the slave master saw me??

Anonymous said...

Thought the following link might aid in separating the hype from the truth~ and highlighting this good opportunity in tourism~


Dennis Jones said...

If you look carefully at the comments about the tennis, I focused on people from the region (black and white Bahamians; Mark Knowles is the most famous player from there, and Ahsha Rolle hails from both Bahamas and US, and is black. For me the connection was my wife, who is Bahamian and knows both families. Ryan Sweeting is also Bahamian by birth but has chosed to represent the US, where he attends university; heis white. She too has relatives in Bahamas and US. I also celebrated black US players, such as Donald Young; as as there are few black US players doing very well I thought in the context of celebrating Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson that he was a good player to focus on. He did great! So, colour and race were not my main point of focus, but I sought connections.

I agree with your sentiments. We are all probably connected to people all over the region and we do not know our true family origins and connections. I commented to someone in Barbados just yesterday that it is not sensible for us to take positions against other black people because of where they happen to be located now. We can see some clear ethnic differences from pure Chinese, Indians, Europeans etc. But there are many mixed races in the Caribbean and families can be all sorts of colours and ethnic strains. Given that many of the blacks came from particular regions in Africa but were then distributed around the US and Caribbean region, including South America, we had better alll think we are related. DNA testing would help us find some of our regional heritage. But like you, I think we should think of ourselves coming from "one pot".

I lived in Guinea for 3 years recently and when my father visited from Jamaica, he said he felt that he had "come home"; something felt very familar, he said. Many of the Guineans looked at me as said that I had features like one of the main tribes.

Those who have tried to follow their family trees can go back 200-300 years but then it's all fog. We ahve names that were given so we really dont know to whom we were and are related!

I really don't make distinctions except to point out a georgraphical point of reference (because I know it), or a cultural connection (because I have lived it). But having been born in Jamaica, grown up in the UK, lived and worked in the US and Africa, I know that labels for black diaspora are not helpful and can divide, even when not meant to. I think we are close to being one people. But I also want to celebrate all the people in the countries where we were born and live because (good and bad) they have made our lives.

Keep doing your visits and making the connections. Anyway, if you want to visit Barbados, let me know and you will have to stop being "Anonymous"!

Therese Turner-Jones said...

Depending on which Caribbean country you visit, as a black person you may, or should I say, you are likely to get differential treatment for all of the reasons you stated. However,we have found in many cases where we felt this happenned, that it has also to do with a lack of training,and unprofessional behavior rather than any deap-rooted racism (albeit black on black). Caribbean tourist workers tend to view tourists as being of certain ethnic backgrounds based on the traditional development of the industry in the region. Mostly "white" people from the UK, US etc. Industry owners are behind the curve in recognizing that tourists come in all shades in modern times, especially with global travel becoming cheaper for many people. Training needs to catch up so that all people get treated with the same respect no matter where they go, or where they are from. Many Caribbean people still, unfortunately equate service with servitude rather than professionalism.

Mama C said...

Thank you for your response...Actually I wonder if Ryan Sweeting is related to my old school master Rev. Sweeting of Queens Collge, Nassau. I believe he lives on Harbour Island now..

That's one of the things I love about living on an island..you usually can get to know most families that live there, one way or another. Of course this can be negative if you ever make a mistake..everyone you know will probably hear of it..lol

Yes I do hope to one day visit Barbados. If only to put a face on the mountan of opinions I have collected from Bajans. Last year I met a beautiful Bajan woman at a praise dance conference in the Bahamas. She invited my husband and I down with all 6 kids in tow..We appreciated the offer..still later we met one of her relatives, and lets just say ..they were not nearly as welcoming..so as is everywhere, not all people are the same..not even black people~