The Brexit vote in June continues to hit the Barbados tourism sector where in hurts – in the pocket.
Despite a 2.2 per cent rise in stayover tourist arrivals from the United Kingdom up until the end of November, when compared to the same period last year, visitors from Barbados’ primary market are spending less here, a senior tourism executive revealed today.
Outgoing Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Sue Springer did not quantify the decline in spending.
However, Springer told the BHTA’s final quarterly meeting for the year that British holidaymakers were cutting back on their spending here due to the drop in the value of the pound since the June 23 vote by Britons to leave the European Union. The pound is currently worth under BDS$2.50, down from about $3.00 before the Brexit vote.
“The rate of exchange for the pound is beginning to have its effect as we are seeing UK visitors especially, cutting back on tours and their actual spend. This may not have such an effect as we enter into the winter season – we may have a different demographic – but we certainly have seen it through the period of June to October” Springer said in her final report dubbed, Barbados Post 50 – Age of Implementation.
The outgoing CEO said the picture would become even clearer towards the end of January 2017, since the top selling period for British tour operators is the period between Boxing Day and the end of January.
Nevertheless, Springer painted a much rosier picture of the overall performance of the industry, reporting 5.6 per cent increase in long-stay arrivals so far this year, although October grew by a slower 3.9 per cent.
Arrivals from the United States jumped by 11.5 per cent, Trinidad and Tobago climbed 16.2 per cent, while there was a dramatic rise of 27.7 per cent in arrivals from Central and South American markets, although Springer did not say how this translated into actual numbers. The Canadian market was flat, she reported.
The 50th anniversary celebrations appeared to have had positive impact on the industry’s performance, with hotels performing well, the tourism executive said.
“Hotels reported good occupancies for November and for the beginning of the winter season. In fact, November was full during the week of Independence,” Springer reported.
There was a sense of optimism as she spoke of the “incredible” airlift for this winter, with some airlines having as many as 14 flights during the week of Christmas.
The cruise sector also seems promising, with Barbados looking for a share of the US$30 billion in new cruise business globally over the next four years, Springer said.
“The Barbados cruise visitor numbers continue to trend upwards,” she said, adding that a record 14 ships were due to make inaugural calls to the island this winter, and home porting was likely to hold steady.
In parting, Springer left a final warning that while the tourism sector had been growing “on the backs of Barbadian entrepreneurs and international investors”, Barbados could not afford to be complacent.