Facing fierce competition from other destinations, local tourism officials are pledging greater support for developmental and marketing projects to boost Barbados’ competitiveness.
Chairman of the Tourism Development Corporation (TDC) Martin Ince said the funding agency was about to pump more funds into new projects aimed at bringing more visitors to the island.
The TDC invests approximately $1 million in marketing and developmental projects each year.
“Just a couple of days ago I had a conversation with the head of our product assessment committee, and we are going to look to shift some funds to the improving of the Barbados product because there are a number of areas that have been brought to our attention,” Ince told the TDCs annual general meeting today at the Accra Beach Hotel.
He said heritage and sports tourism projects were two of the major areas identified for greater focus over the coming months, stressing that the TDC would work with the ministries of culture and tourism on these projects, which include the refurbishment of a number of the monuments across the island.
Describing the TDC as one of “the best kept secret” of the tourism industry, Ince said his agency would continue to search for projects that it could fund, taking the pressure off other agencies established to finance the tourism sector.
Last year was a record year for the island’s tourism, with long-stay arrivals growing by 13.7 per cent to reach 591, 892 tourists, and cruise arrivals jumping by 5.1 per cent to reach 586,615 visitors. Tourism officials also expect a six per cent rise in long-stay arrivals this year and a four per cent increase in cruise arrivals.
“The TDC has helped in our own way in achieving these increases. Our airlift continues to be very strong and this coming winter we have a number of new routes and increased airlift from our key markets,” Ince said.
However, he urged people working in the industry not become complacent, pointing to fierce global competition.
“There are countries that are going through some very difficult times and they are putting some amazing deals in the market that are very, very attractive and we are competing against that,” he warned.
Ince also mentioned the changing tastes of travellers and the impact of technology and the sharing economy on travel and tourism, as well as the vote by Britons to leave the European Union, as factors of which Barbados must be aware.
“We have things like Airbnb that is a major factor in the Barbados landscape and it is gaining momentum [and] the mobile search engines . . . compounded with all that is going on the UK with Brexit and the value of the pound. So there is a lot of activity happening [and] as everyone is aware the Barbados economy has a number of challenges in a number of areas,” he stressed.
During today’s meeting, Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association Sue Springer was given special recognition for her contribution to the sector over the past 15 years. Springer has indicated she intends to quit by year end.