The Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) has issued a strong warning that if the ongoing sewage crisis affecting the south coast is not quickly remedied it could prove disastrous for the island’s bread and butter tourism industry.
As such, BHTA Chief Executive Officer Rudy Grant is calling for “a senior Government official to take the lead in terms of the day-to-day management of this crisis”.
For more than a year the sewerage system along the south coast, the island’s major tourist belt, has been spilling effluent.
Despite several assurances from the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) that the problem was either being addressed or was close to being resolved, the situation has been gradually deteriorating to the point where it is now eating away at the road infrastructure, especially in the Hastings, Christ Church area.
While several businesses, including a number of food establishments have chosen to remain open in the sewage-plagued area, the Chicken Barn in Worthing, Christ Church has closed after losing the battle against the effluent water that has inundated its compound.
“The BHTA is extremely concerned about the ongoing challenges with the South Coast Sewerage Plant and particularly the negative impact on many of our hotel and restaurant members. This specifically relates to those located between the stretch from Lanterns Mall, Hastings to Worthing, all of whom are at their wits end about the increased overflows from manholes in those areas,” said Grant in a statement this afternoon.
He did not say how many affected BHTA members there were or if any of them were considering closing operations until the problem was rectified.
However, he said the BHTA believed the situation had deteriorated to the point where it was “imperative for Government to view this as a national crisis as it is affecting residents, schools, businesses and visitors to the island”.
“In this context, we also believe the time has come for a senior Government official to take the lead in terms of the day-to-day management of this crisis. It is also important for the BHTA to be in a position to be able to respond to the concerns being expressed almost on a daily basis by our trade partners,” Grant said, without specifying which official should be put in charge.
“The BHTA fears that if these challenges are not remedied soon, the end result could prove disastrous for the future of the industry, as well as Barbados as an attractive and desired destination,” he warned.
And even though the BHTA remains in “frequent” dialogue with the BWA on what it is doing to rectify the situation, Grant said “it would appear that there are a number of additional factors and challenges that are inhibiting them from successfully implementing identified solutions”.
He therefore pledged to continue to work with the relevant authorities in order to find appropriate solutions.
Authorities are yet to entertain the idea of having businesses in the affected areas closed until there was a solution, with Minister of Health John Boyce insisting last year that there had been no health issues as a result of the recurring sewage spills.
However, the Ministry of Education has closed the St Lawrence Primary School “as a precautionary measure”, in light of the problem, which is also occurring on the school’s premises.
This is not the first time the BHTA has called on authorities to urgently address the problem.
On the eve of the busy winter tourism season last December, Grant had described the situation as “unacceptable” and “untenable”, while warning that the current image of the south coast was not the one that Barbados would wish to present at this time.
The situation has also resulted in the island’s main source markets – the UK, US and Canada – issuing travel advisories to their residents, urging them to be cautious when visiting the area, with the US going as far as to warn its staff here that the tap water in the area is not safe, despite repeated assurances from health officials to the contrary.