Barbados is on pace for a second straight record year in long-stay visitor arrivals, according to Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy.
Sealy today announced that the island recorded an 8.2 per cent rise in arrivals as at the end of April, when compared to the same period last year, setting it on course to easily surpass the 610,000 visitors who came to these shores last year.
He said the performance over the first four months of the year was above the projected figure, and things are set to get even better with the annual Crop Over festival, the Caribbean Festival of Arts and several conferences still to come.
“For . . . 2017 to be trending even higher with respect to arrivals is a good thing,” the minister told reporters today on the sidelines of the 31st annual Sales Congress for the Caribbean Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors at the Hilton Barbados Resort.
Sealy did not disclose the total number of tourists who visited Barbados during the period under review, or which market performed best.
He also did not say whether the tourists have spent more money here this year than they did during the corresponding period last year.
The minister said “arrivals in of themselves don’t necessarily mean economic impact” but he said the sector was moving in the right direction.
“Investor confidence is up – we all know about the new hotel rooms under construction – so we think we can sustain this growth over an extended period and to continue to see the economy grow,” Sealy said.
“Some would like to see it happen faster but it is happening and we have to appreciate that and operate accordingly,” he added.
The Minister of Tourism said while the numbers were rising, it was up to the
various interests in the industry to find
ways of ensuring that the increased arrivals would translate into greater economic impact.
There was an increase of 2.6 per cent in visitor spend during the third quarter of last year, reaching US$182 million, up from US$177.527 million for the July to September period in 2015.
With the 2017 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals right around the corner, Sealy admitted that there were some areas in need of attention, including “making that a little smoother and easier for our investors, foreign and domestic”, improvement of the tourism product and being “more creative in surgical ways” of marketing the island.
Still, he said he was satisfied that the efforts were reaping good results in “far from ideal” circumstances.
“The point is that we still have something special that people want to be a part of,” Sealy said.
Last year’s record visitor numbers came despite a series of uncertainties, including Zika, the presidential election in the United States and the weakening of the British and Canadian currencies.
There have been concerns that last June’s Brexit vote and the continued weakening of the pound, the currency of the island’s primary source market, could negatively impact visitor arrivals this year.