Barbados is losing ground with young tourists, registering a 25 per cent decline in the 36 to 45 age group over the past six years.
At the same time, figures from the Ministry of Tourism indicate there was a 26 per cent increase in visitors who are 55 years and older.
It’s a situation that is worrying Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner, the parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Tourism.
Speaking in Senate today where she disclosed the figures, she said the private sector needs to step up to help take control of the situation.
“This tells us there’s a need for innovation in the type of product which we offer the visitors to this country because when we think about it objectively, when [visitors in] the 55 and over age group stop coming to Barbados, and if we’re losing the younger visitors to this country, what on earth do we do with the tourism product that we have to sell?” she said during debate on the resolution to acquire Sam Lord’s Castle.
“I really do believe that we need as a country, and the private sector particularly to look at visitor attractions. That is not an area that I would wish our Government to get into. I do believe that there is enough capital in this country and enough entrepreneurs and people with creativity to devise, create and market attractions for that age group because we are seeing a steady decrease in that demographic.”
On the issue of accommodation, the tourism official disclosed that the villa market was the fastest growing in the country with the number of visitors increasing by more than 75 per cent between 2007 and 2013. It was the only segment of growth in the area of accommodation in Barbados.
In fact, the destination recorded only one per cent growth in accommodation between 1980 and 2014, well below other regional states, she said.
“We have fallen way below our counterparts when it comes to hotel accommodation and we have not made any effort to increase our room stock while all the others have increased theirs by 200 per cent,” the senator argued.