The Super Eight fixture slated for Sunday at Kensington Oval was tipped to be one the biggest games of this World Cup. The ICC had identified the teams in a schedule of matches on its website well in advance and took the names off only after realising it was premature because even the group leagues were yet to start at that time.
Little did they know it would spare them some embarrassment. The island of some of the giants of West Indies cricket is set for a Bangladesh-Ireland showdown and not many from these countries must have thought their teams would feature in what was expected to be a clash featuring India and Pakistan.
It sure did not strike the tourism department of the Barbados government, which had gone on a promotional overdrive including trips to New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai in February. They were eager to explore the avenue of attracting Indians as tourists, having heard impressive details of their spending prowess and addiction for cricket.
“We worked out a sport tourism package and this was a fantastic opportunity to get the Indians over,” said Petra Roach, vice-president of the Tourism Authority of Barbados. “We were ready for at least 4,000 (from India, not UK or US) and looking at the situation as the opening of a new market. Cricket was a good vehicle in that regard.”
Despite being way ahead of other cricket-playing Caribbean nations in literacy and employment rates, Barbados is as much dependent on tourism as all, though its sugar industry is not dead yet. They are now trying to look at the positives to have emerged from all the hard work.
“Working with tour operators in India is one. We as well as they know now that this is a package worth offering to the potential tourist. Then, Air India is likely to try out a direct fight from Mumbai with a technical stop in France from May-June every fortnight on an experimental basis for a couple of months,” Roach reckoned.
The first flight is expected to reach on April 22 after the one slated for April 9 was cancelled when it became clear that the Rahul Dravid’s team would take an early flight home. Roach informed that special measures like arranging Indian food or separate prayer rooms had also been taken.
“This was our chance to diversify our tourism business and achieve other goals. There were talks of getting Hero Honda to open a franchise and inviting Indian schools to the Garfield Sobers competition (teams from England and South Africa take part in this event). But tourism is a fluctuating business and we’ve to build on what we’ve got.”
She was blatant in her admission of predominantly targeting Indians. “We sure did take into account the distribution of wealth in the two countries and saw that even a small percentage from India can mean a sizeable number.”