The Barbados tourism industry has received another major blow, with the country losing almost 60,000 visitors this year, as against 2011.
The news was broken this morning by president of the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, Patricia Affonso- Daas, during her report to the organization’s fourth quarterly general meeting at Hilton Barbados Resort. In detailing the sector’s performance, Affonso-Daas revealed that long-stay visitors for the whole of last month had shown a decline of 1,000 or 5.8 per cent, reperesenting a loss of 27,778 tourists.
“When compared with 2011, it represents a decline of almost 60,000 visitors. This decline is being manifested in the tax collections of Government, a drop in our Tourism Fund revenues and impacts employment,” she added.
“The USA market, followed by Trinidad and Tobago, other Caribbean and Latin America [countries], the UK and Canada, have all registered deep declines,” the hotel leader lamented.
She also pointed to the just completed merger of American Airlines and US Airways, which she noted would result in one less US air carrier operating in the Caribbean, where there are several parallel routes now served by both services.
“Will the number of seats be diminished and if so, how quickly and by how much?” asked the BHTA boss.
“I think Barbados has already seen the answer to these questions, as AA withdraws its New York service to Barbados, effective January 15, 2014,” Affonso-Daas stated.
“We,” she continued, “await the full effect of the loss of the AA carrier from JFK on USA arrivals. The BTA [Barbados Tourism Authority] has been talking to several airlines to get a replacement for this service, and we hope that its efforts will bear fruit.”
However, for the time being, the hotel executive suggested, it is noted that a number of hotels have reported bookings in excess of 80 per cent for Christmas and the New Year, and, in some cases, beyond. She believed this is encouraging and hoped that this pattern is reflective of the majority of properties.
“It is critically important to note, however, that the timing of the destinations’ marketing initiatives is critical to shoring up the end of the winter period and securing a solid base of bookings for the summer.”
But it is not all bad news concerning arrivals.
For example, Affonso-Daas statistics up to August show an additional 36,463 cruise arrivals or a 10.6 per cent increase over a similar period in 2012. She said the Barbados Port Authority is projecting an increase in cruise calls and passengers, moving from 6.5 per cent from 616,317 passengers last year, to 656,083 this year.
A further growth of five percent is forecast for next year, based on current bookings.
“Local cruise tourism officials are working assiduously to push bookings over the 700,000 person mark for 2014,” declared the hotel industry leader.
She revealed that the increase in cruise ship calls is also projected to move from 4.5 per cent in 2013 to 372 and to 395 in 2014, representing a futher rise of 6.2 per cent.
Affonso-Daas said though that travellers flying from Britain will be forced to pay even more APD taxes after the government confirmed that the tax would rise for the sixth time in as many years.
The rise, effective April 1, 2014, will result in a family of four travelling to the Caribbean having to pay 340 pounds sterling up from 322 pounds in 2013.