Local hoteliers are already salivating over the prospect of a bumper tourism yield next year, as they relish what is expected to be another record year in 2017.
There was no mention today of the vexing sewage problem on the south coast and its possible impact on the industry as the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) announced increases in both stay over and cruise arrivals, as well as hotel occupancy.
Chief Executive Officer Rudy Grant told the association’s fourth quarterly meeting at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre this afternoon that the island welcomed 31,916 more air passengers between January and October this year, than it did for the corresponding period last year, a 6.46 per cent increase.
At the same time, cruise arrivals and calls both grew by over 18 per cent, while hotel occupancy rates clawed back from a five per cent drop during the first quarter of this year to register a 1.7 per cent rise.
Grant said growth was achieved despite some challenges, which he did not list. And he predicted even better days ahead next year.
“Despite the challenges we had to confront and of course, challenges [that] lie ahead of us, we are very confident that our performance in 2018 will be better than the performance in 2017,” the chief executive officer projected.
The tourism belt on the south coast has been plagued by perennial sewage problems dating back more than a year, as raw faeces can often be seen floating on the road, particularly after heavy rainfall.
This has made it uncomfortable for residents and those traversing the area, as well as businesses and visitors.
It was just last week that some tourists complained to Barbados TODAY about the problem and demanded that signs be planted in affected areas to warn unsuspecting pedestrians of the effluent flowing onto the streets.
This sparked further fears that tourists would begin to avoid Barbados, dealing a debilitating blow to the all-important tourism industry.
However, while imploring the Barbados Water Authority to urgently fix the problem, the BHTA today presented a more optimistic view, including projections of a further increase in occupancy next year.
Delivering the administrative report, Grant said 533,296 tourists visited the island during the first ten months of the year, putting it on track to shatter last year’s record 610,000 arrivals. In 2015, the island welcomed 592,000 visitors.
There was reason to celebrate the performance of the United States market, which recorded a 14.2 per cent increase, and Canada, which grew by 9.86 per cent.
However, Barbados’ perennial primary market, the United Kingdom, showed little signs of progress, with a mere 0.7 per cent increase, with only Germany, which was down by 7.5 per cent, performing worse among the European markets.
In the Caribbean, the numbers from Trinidad and Tobago were positive, with that market registering 7.3 per cent growth, while the rest of the region also performed well, with arrivals up by 4.9 per cent.
The same could not be said for Brazil, however, which sank precipitously by 58.3 per cent, falling from 2,778 visitors in 2016 to 1,159 this year.
Despite the strong performance, including the 1.7 per cent increase in occupancy, BHTA member hotels had little celebrate in terms of room rates, with the average daily rate, lumbering to a near invisible 0.9 per cent increase.
The rise in occupancy was a major reversal from the first quarter drop of five per cent.
When Grant presented the numbers in late April he blamed the decline on “adverse factors” such as Brexit and rising interest rates in the US. He also said then that holidaymakers who normally visited here in the winter were opting for summer holidays instead because of the lower and more affordable hotel rates. Hence, he had predicted higher hotel occupancies this summer.
And while the BHTA chief executive did not provide an analysis of the numbers, this would likely explain why the increases in arrivals and occupancy were not reflected in the average daily rates.
Meanwhile, Grant also announced “admirable” performances by the cruise sector, with the number of passenger visits rising steeply by 18.2 per cent, outdone only slightly by cruise calls, which vaulted by 18.9 per cent.
This means Barbados welcomed 483,711 cruise passengers from 339 cruise calls during the first ten months of this year, compared to 409,346 from 285 calls in the same period last year.
Despite the favourable numbers, the former parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Tourism said there was reason to be concerned, particularly with the processing of passengers when they land here.
Grant did not go into details, but he warned that first impressions could be lasting.
“While we are very satisfied and happy with the increasing numbers, we continue to be concerned with the passenger facilitation [process] when persons arrive at the Grantley Adams International Airport. There have been some improvements but we need to do better. The first experience people have when they come to Barbados is the experience through the airport,” he cautioned.
Grant did not reveal how much visitors to the island spent during the period under review, but he said the luxury market continued to witness an increase in business, following a brief period of decline.