The Barbados tourism product got a major boost with the opening of the Virgin Holidays Departure Beach lounge at the Copacabana, Bay Street location on Saturday.
The investment, which is upwards of $1 million, is a partnership between Virgin Holidays, Copacabana and the Sun Group.
Copacabana remains open for business.
The departure beach provides a new experience for Virgin travellers who want to eliminate the wait time at the airport.
It provides an avenue for travellers to check-in and collect their boarding passes before making their way to spend the last few hours of their vacation soaking up the sun and spending time on the beach.
Welcoming the investment, Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds said Barbados was “blessed” to have the first-ever Virgin Holidays Departure Beach lounge.
“And we are also richly blessed because we have the association today with one of the most innovative and exciting companies on planet earth,” he added.
“The fact of the matter is, this is a glorious innovation and I am happy to be able to tell you that we already have 5,000 bookings for next year and this is day one. So it is this kind of partnership that is working for Barbados and it is because of this type of partnership we are now having 11 flights weekly,” said Symmonds.
He said Virgin Atlantic represented 42 per cent of the traffic coming to Barbados from the UK and he “suspect strongly that better will come”.
Pointing to the planned Virgin Galactic trips to space, Symmonds said he was proud that Barbados was working with a company that was on the cutting edge of travel and tourism.
“It is that kind of innovative thinking that allows us to be celebrating Departure Beach today, and I want to say to you all . . . that the value added to our tourism product is absolutely phenomenal,” he said.
Scores of local and international high flyers in the tourism industry turned up for the celebration at the picturesque location.
The swanky opening event also attracted a number of popular models and TV personalities from the UK.
The BBC Radio 1 DJ Maya Jama was joined by local studio director Keven Talma, who provided modern energetic music to complete the party mood.
Founder of Virgin Group Ltd Sir Richard Branson said he was proud of the work of the Virgin Holidays company, which he said had managed to increase Virgin flights to Barbados since its introduction some two decades ago.
“I am really proud of what they have been able to achieve since they set up many years ago,” said Sir Richard.
“A place like this is just the kind of thing Virgin would do and should do all the time – always innovating and creating something extra special for the people who love the Virgin brand,” he added.
Officials said the “big investment” was Virgin Holidays’ commitment to Barbados and the region.
Welcoming the new investment from the Virgin Group, Prime Minister Mia Mottley called on all Barbadians to continue to play their part in making Barbados “the cleanest, most friendly and warmest it can be”.
She added that coupled with the retraining of people, “Barbados will continue to glisten among the stars and that today will not just be a singular event, by being the first departure beach, but that we will continue to do like those characters on Star Trek – to go where no man has gone before”.