The island’s bread and butter tourism industry is on course for another record year in long-stay visitor arrivals.
Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy today announced that the sector was performing beyond expectation and was on course to shatter last year’s record of about 592,000 tourists.
“Our tourism is in a good place at the moment but we have to make sure it gets to a better place,” Sealy told a breakfast ceremony to mark the reopening of the Infinity on the Beach hotel in St Lawrence Gap, Christ Church this morning.
“The numbers in for November showed that they were 16 per cent higher than last year’s November, and we were talking about 600,000 visitors for 2016. It looks like that number might be closer to 620,000, so we have gone past all our targets by a significant majority.”
Long-stay arrivals last year climbed by 13.7 per cent to reach 591,892 visitors, while cruise visits increased by 5.1 per cent to reach 586, 615.
For the first half of this year Barbados welcomed 320,953 long-stay visitors, 17,094 more than the first half of 2015.
Following a $2 million refurbishment in September and October this year, Infinity on the Beach reopened its doors in time for the busy winter tourist season.
The Christ Church property, which was officially opened in February 15, 2014, currently has 66 rooms and employs 50 full time staff.
“There is a lot that we can learn from what is going on here [at Infinity on the Beach]. I would like for all of us to extract from this some inspiration to plough on,” Sealy said.
Lauding the operators, Sealy said he was happy to see an indigenous property holding its own, and he called on other south coast properties to continue to upgrade if they wanted to remain competitive.
“The determination that you should try to push the envelope a little further is also something that we salute. Many of our modest hotels are in need of some attention on the south coast. I know some have done some work,” he said.
General Manager of Infinity on the Beach Renée Coppin said in the first year of operation the property recorded an average occupancy level of 75 per cent.
She added that this winter season was already better that past winters, with an anticipated occupancy level of over 90 per cent.
“So I think the outlook is good for us in terms of our projected occupancies.
“It is up to us to ensure we are delivering a consistent product, a consistent quality and a consistent service and so that our guests continue to support us and patronize us,” Coppin said.