The number of tourists coming to Barbados by plane is up so far this year, but the same cannot be said for those calling on the Bridgetown Port.
Between January and March, the island recorded a total of 171,471 long stay arrivals –– that’s a 15.1 per cent increase, the highest on record for a first quarter in 25 years.
However, total cruise passenger arrivals were down 6.1 per cent, which is 14,005 visitors less than first quarter of 2014. The number of cruise ship calls also fell by eight to 182, with the island welcoming only two mega ships during the period.
Still, Barbados recorded a total of 217,139 cruise visitors for the first three months of this year –– the majority of whom had an average stay of between seven to ten days.
And given an expected increase in airlift for the 2015 summer period, tourism officials are very upbeat about the rest of the year.
They are promising to up the ante when it comes to marketing the island, in an effort to keep the momentum going, and improve areas that have witnessed less than favourable performances.
Delivering the performance review for the period January to March 2015 this morning, the Chairman of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) Alvin Jemmott, said the overall increase was the highest on record for the first quarter in 25 years.
“All three months recorded double-digit increases in arrivals, with the month of February recording the highest increase with 20 per cent,” he said.
“January recorded 56,209 arrivals, February reached 57,815 and March realized 57, 447 visitors. This was a very strong winter season,” the BTMI chairman added.
Jemmott also said while the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) was predicting a five per cent increase in long stay arrivals for the region for the entire year, he was confident that Barbados could “comfortably exceed that target” given the first quarter performance.
Visitor arrivals out of the United Kingdom, which is the island’s main source market, accounted for about 37 per cent of the long stay visitor arrivals. This represents an increase of about 12.5 per cent to 64,795 visitors.
The United States market also increased by 27.7 per cent to 37,492 visitors for the period under review, when compared to 2014.
Canada, which was the fastest growing market during the quarter, recorded an increase of 28.4 per cent to reach 30,937 arrivals. The Canadian and UK markets also benefited from an increase in airlift for the period under review.
However, other markets fell on account of a reduction in airlift capacity. This was the case in other European markets, where a reduction in the value of the Euro was also blamed for a 27.3 per cent decline in arrivals, which totalled 8,753.
In terms of the Caribbean and Latin America, arrivals were generally looking up.
Collectively, the number of visitors from the region spiked by 10.6 per cent during the first three months of this year. However, Trinidad and Tobago proved to be somewhat of a downer, as arrivals from the twin island republic dipped by 2.4 per cent to 5,376 visitors.
The rest of the Caribbean, as well as Latin and South America collectively grew by 8.8 per cent, accounting for 2,656 arrivals between January and March.
Brazil and German markets also registered significant increases in the order of 10.6 per cent and 23.6 per cent respectively.
While welcoming the growth, Chief Executive Officer of the BTMI William Griffith said the BTMI would not be resting in its laurels.
In an effort to better the first quarter performance, he said the island’s main tourism promotion agency would be undergoing a culture change within the organization, as well as a policy change.
While jobs were unlikely to be affected, a number of specialist positions would be filled.
“I am pleased to say that we have begun the process of updating a number of critical policies in the areas of human resources, marketing and finance in our commitment to increasing employee engagement and productivity; maximizing our returns on marketing investment and achieving greater results in fiscal prudence including in the area of sponsorships,” said Griffith.
“A premium will be placed on how these changes are being communicated to ensure all internal teams are involved and on board with this very important process,” he added.
And without mentioning all the policy adjustments, Griffith said going forward the global marketing strategy would be guided by a number of principles.
“We will be constructing our marketing plans around our competitive advantage as a destination. All projects will carry key performance indicators (KPIs) to maximize the return on investments,” he said.
“The BTMI global team will embrace a culture of communication and collaboration to maximize our effectiveness. Proactive efforts will be made to shape and manage our reputation as a corporate entity and a destination,” he said, adding that greater emphasis would be placed on digital and social media marketing.