Barbados tourism industry is rapidly putting the years of decline behind it and is on an upward trajectory, according to the state agency charged with promoting the destination.
The Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) today reported visitor arrivals were up 5.6 per cent during the first half of this year when compared to the same period in 2015.
In announcing the industry’s performance for the period January to June 2016, BTMI Chief Executive Officer William Billy Griffith suggested there was reason to be upbeat. And, Griffith promised, this performance was only the beginning.
“All of our major indicators are performing well – arrivals are up, visitor spending is up, property investment among the accommodation sector is up, new experiences are being created for our visitors and that much needed confidence is returning to our industry. In short, we need to keep up the momentum and we need to be relentless in our pursuit for success. Let it be known that we are only getting started in realizing our potential as a destination,” the BTMI boss said.
During the first half of the year Barbados welcomed 320,953 long-stay visitors, 17,094 more than the corresponding period last year.
The United Kingdom recorded a three per cent increase, to remain the primary market with 36 per cent of the arrivals.
The United States, saw growth of 13.3 per cent, providing 24 per cent of the visitors, while both the Caribbean (15 per cent) and Canada (14 per cent) grew by one per cent each.
However, Griffith told journalists gathered at the Savannah Hotel that within the Caribbean market, arrivals from Trinidad and Tobago climbed by 21 per cent, with the rest of the region recording growth of 6.6 per cent.
Griffith indicated that the performance of the European market was a concern, with total arrivals from that market down by four per cent, suppressed by a 7.3 per cent drop in visitors from Germany. The rest of Europe performed slightly better, declining by 3.5 per cent.
He explained that a fall in airlift and security concerns were the major contributing factors.
“This period coincided with a decrease in airlift via Condor, the only airline with direct service from that market. We are also of the view that a general reluctance to travel would have been sparked by political turmoil and unfortunate acts of terrorism,” the tourism head reported.
He announced that efforts were under way to reverse this situation, with new airlift scheduled for November, and new digital marketing campaigns to come.
Griffith also reported that the Brazilian market slumped by a near precipitous 31 per cent, blaming the economic situation and the Zika outbreak for the steep drop. However, he said this was offset by an equally strong 31 per cent rise in arrivals from Columbia, due to a new Avianca service, which began in 2015.
Overall, he said, the Latin America market, which accounts for a one per cent market share, grew by 6.3 per cent.
Quoting figures from the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization, the BTMI executive indicated that first quarter earnings from tourism were better than previously thought, with tourists spending US$288 million here between January and March, up from the US$280 reported earlier.
“So there were more gains recorded after the adjustment in 2015 and that is the first quarter of 2015. This means we did better than previously assessed in 2015,” Griffith said.
The tourism official said the island was anticipating increased airlift for the upcoming winter period, with 42 additional flights – or just over 57,000 additional seats – out of Canada; new services out of Munich, Germany and Paris, France; additional flights out of the UK by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic and an additional flight by Jetblue out of New Jersey.