Government this morning unveiled a series of initiatives that are expected to increase visitor spending on the ground, bring thousands more to Barbados and help stem a decline in this country’s main foreign exchange earner.
Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy told a news conference at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre that he had just returned from an official trip that involved positive discussions with key airline and cruise players in Europe and the United States, which should result in greater home porting business, increased sea and air passengers and long stay visitors.
Sealy also reported a measure of success from an $11 million incentive-based programme — Barbados Island Inclusive — which he launched only last month, designed to attract greater interest among tourists to Barbados and to spend more, by offering them money vouchers for minimum lengths of stay.
He said that with a “flat” tourism performance projected for the end of this year, the BII would assist in preventing a further slide. The minister rejected suggestions in some quarters that under this programme, the Government was paying people to come to Barbados.
“The Barbados Island Inclusive package is designed around the whole idea of getting value-added to a vacation, and doing so in a way that sees the spend occur on the ground, in Barbados at the very points where you want the assistance to occur,” he stated.
“We said that lets the players, be it vendors, be it other providers of culinary offerings, be it anyone, that they could benefit by having a properly regulated and carefully audited voucher programme. If you are coming to Barbados and you are staying a minimum number of nights, you would be given a stack of vouchers commensurate with your stay,” disclosed Sealy.
The Cabinet minister assured Barbadians that no one was too small to get involved in the programme, adding that forward bookings were already looking positive. He noted that US Airways had already expressed its desire to sell the BII programme.
Sealy said that of the $11 million which the venture would cost Government, $7 million would go to the direct spend and $4 million for marketing and advertising.
“You will get non-Barbadian Island Inclusive business out of that $4 million as well. That is talking generally about the programme, but you are talking about the destination. You can’t separate the two. So there is benefit there all around. And if that $7 million can stimulate significantly more and is generating a lot of other interests, it is money well spent,” asserted the Government official.
He revealed that a number of tour operators had also been submitting bookings; and they included Virgin Holidays, BA Holidays, Travel Impressions, Expedia and West Jet Vacations out of Canada.
Sealy announced that within the first week of the programme, about 10 local hotels had taken bookings, among them Bougainvillea, Turtle Beach, Colony Club, Silver Point, Waves, Barbados Beach Club, Tamarind Cove and Mango Bay.
The Barbados Tourism Authority’s booking site, he observed, had also taken prospective business.
With respect to cruise tourism, he announced that Barbados had now become the main home porting centre for the Eastern Caribbean, with an undertaking by Carnival UK and P&O to continue doing business with this country. In fact, the minister disclosed that P&O has agreed to increase its home porting vessel to this island from the 2014 season.
Other increases in cruise business, he assured, would also be coming from the British-based Fred Olson Lines, Virgin Atlantic’s tour operating arm, which was now expanding into the cruise sector by offering air-sea packages, British Airways and Condor from Germany beginning 2014.
Sealy told the news conference that Tui would also be, for the first time, starting a service that would bring almost 3,000 visitors out of Hamburg, Germany beginning this November.
Air France, he stated, was talking with Barbados about serving this country with a three times per week air service from the Charles DeGalle Airport.
The minister said low cost carrier JetBlue was discussing the possibility of increasing its flights to this country, and US Airways had committed itself to resuming airlift from Charlotte, North Carolina this winter. Additional home porting and regular business is anticipated, too, from various cruise companies in the US. (EJ)