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Tourism news: New attraction for Barbados heritage tourism market

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BARBADOS – The Barbados Ministry of Tourism has created its latest venture – the Barbados Slave Route Heritage Trail and Tour, “Freedom Footprints: The Barbados Story.” This is ample evidence of

BARBADOS – The Barbados Ministry of Tourism has created its latest venture – the Barbados Slave Route Heritage Trail and Tour, “Freedom Footprints: The Barbados Story.” This is ample evidence of the government’s level of commitment to the tourism market.

This newest venture is an attempt to hone in on the lucrative heritage tourism market and augment the island’s cultural diversity. It is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Tourism in association with the Barbados Museum and Historical Society (BMHS).

A number of townhall meetings have been held so far to educate residents in the communities about the attraction, garner their support, and identify how they can get involved. The first ones took place on July 22 and August 9, in Sweet Vale and Newbury, St. George, respectively.

The four-hour pilot tour, which is being offered twice monthly until year-end, is being developed around memorable sites on the island related to the slave trade. They are: the Gun Hill Signal Station and Sweet Vale, (formerly Sweet Bottom) in St. George; the Newton Slave Burial Ground at Newton Plantation and Bourne’s Land, all in Christ Church; and The Cage, Bridgetown. Other locations are also being actively considered for placing signs. They include the Emancipation Statue at Haggatt Hall, St. Michael; the Cotton Tower in St. Joseph; the Sharon Moravian Church in St. Thomas; Bayley’s Plantation in St. Philip; and Codrington College, St. John. Self-guided tours are also planned.

Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, described it as “a work in progress,” which was not only a way of keeping repeat visitors coming back for more, but educating locals about their history.

He said: “Our local population [is] somewhat starved of a clear understanding of our Afrocentricity and the whole slavery experience and the significance of so much that has taken place at Bayley’s Plantation.

“For example, the free villages and post-emancipation and the whole experience of freed slaves, and this project is a good opportunity to have all of that in a tidy capsule, that we can have not only for the benefit of our school children, who, of course, need to have that added experience, but certainly adults as well, who may have lacked that clear understanding [of local history].

“And then, of course, for some who have been learning by textbook to actually go and see and feel what these sights are all about. For example, I was in awe to go to the slave burial ground in Newton to actually see the mound where the slaves were buried and then to hear the remarkable history of that being one of the few sites like that anywhere in the world. So this is really a phenomenal project in many respects.”

The need to diversify our product offerings is imperative against the background of the global economic situation and Minister Sealy underscored that visitors were no longer satisfied with only sand, sea, and sun; they want much more and they expect value for money.

This was emphasised by BMHS Curator, Miguel Pena, who pointed out that the heritage tourism market is a growing one around the world for tourists who are interested in having a greater experience and learning more about Barbados’ heritage.

In giving some background to areas selected, he explained that the Newton Burial Ground – which is one of the largest excavated communal burial grounds of enslaved people in this entire hemisphere – was extensively excavated in the late 1960s and early 1970s by historian and archaeologist Professor Jerome Handler. He added that the visit to Bourne’s Land represented a celebration of another sort of survival struggle in Barbados during the slavery period, namely philanthropy.

The curator continued: “And then the tour moves on to the Gun Hill Signal Station, which was erected in 1817; this is after the 1816 slave rebellion in Barbados which shook enslavement to its very core. There were rebellions throughout St. Philip, Christ Church, St. George, and other parishes in the island.

“The signal station formed part of communication that started from the east coast right down into Bridgetown and it was built after the rebellion to inform the Garrison if another rebellion would take place and also to inform Bridgetown of the approach of ships coming up the coast of the island.”

Persons will then travel on to Sweet Vale in St. George – described as the oldest, non-white, free village in Barbados – established in 1777 by Francis Butcher. During the tour, there will be one stop for lunch and residents will have an opportunity to offer indigenous craft, for sale at a selected venue.

The next town hall discussions are slated for St. Christopher’s Resource Centre for residents of Bourne’s Land, Christ Church, and the Lodge Road Wesleyan Holiness Church for persons in the Newton area. The Tourism Minister advised residents to “get on board” since the synergies that were developed from the meetings would bring tangible benefits.

The worldwide web will be one of the avenues used to market the new attraction. Details will be posted on such social network sites as Facebook and Twitter, as well as the websites of the Ministry of Tourism, the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, and the Barbados Tourism Authority. Plans are also in place to target cruise ship passengers.

The Barbados Slave Route Project Heritage Trail and Tour has its roots in the UNESCO/World Tourism Organization Cultural Slave Route Signage Project.

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Editor in chief for eTurboNew is Linda Hohnholz. She is based in the eTN HQ in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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