Barbados is on course for another record year in stay-over visitor arrivals, and sights are already set on achieving a similar fortune for 2020.
After enjoying a 5.2 per cent increase for the first seven months of this year, tourism officials are hoping that a number of activities in the last quarter of this year would further boost arrival numbers.
In fact, looking ahead, the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) said it was banking on several initiatives geared towards “cementing the island’s record performance for 2019, and in preparation for 2020”.
“The BTMI is gearing up marketing and communications activities to invite all friends and family of Barbados to the island next year under the theme We Gatherin’,” BTMI Chief Executive Officer William Griffith said.
“We are pressing full steam ahead with our deployments and activations in the market as we seek to drive more business to the island. In addition to ramping up efforts for We Gatherin’, we will be opening more gateways to the island. Starting October 28, we will be welcoming the thrice-weekly Lufthansa Group flight directly from Frankfurt Germany, to really boost arrivals from Europe,” he said.
With the 10th Barbados Food and Rum Festival also scheduled for October 24 to 27, Independence celebrations in November, the Barbados Mindful Living Festival November 22 to 24 and the Barbados Marathon Weekend from December 6 to 8, the BTMI official said destination Barbados would be wrapping up 2019 “with a burst of energy as we encourage travellers to ‘Come for the run, but stay for the fun!”
For the first seven months of this year the island welcomed 434,961 visitors through the enhanced Grantley Adams International Airport, an increase of 21,345 visitors over the same period last year.
For the month of July, Barbados recorded an eight per cent growth over July 2018’s figures at the height of the annual Crop Over Festival.
“As the island continues its recovery from the regional fall-out due to the 2017 hurricane season, the BTMI is aggressively pursuing new cruise marketing and product development initiatives, which have resulted in the months of February, March, April and July recording increased cruise arrivals. It is anticipated that these initiatives will contribute to longer-term growth,” said Griffith.
“This news augurs well for the future development of Barbados’ tourism industry. To continuously record year-on-year growth as a mature destination means that we are moving in the right direction [and] we must continue to look for new opportunities to reinvent ourselves and remain relevant in this competitive market, while building the resilience of the sector,” he said.
Barbados welcomed a total of 681,197 stay-over visitors for 2018, 17,686 more than in 2017. Last year the cruise business saw 826,267 arrivals for transit and homeporting combined.
Of Barbados’ major source markets so far this year, Central and South America recorded the highest growth at 17.6 per cent, followed by the United States at 10.9 per cent, Germany at 8.5 per cent and the UK at 7.9 per cent.
Griffith applauded the tourism team in Barbados and across all markets and attributed the island’s favourable performance to their development of strategic initiatives.
He said: “Several of these efforts are bearing fruit and we must press forward in this light to conclude the rest of the year with a solid performance.”
“One of the pivotal elements of guaranteeing the viability of our tourism industry is ensuring that the island remains easily accessible by land and sea. The BTMI has worked closely with our airline partners to maintain, and even boost airlift and this has contributed in part to our favourable increases in arrivals,” said Griffith.
He also pointed out that the island’s deepening partnership with Caribbean Airlines, which launched a twice-weekly non-stop service between Kingston and Bridgetown in April, was bearing fruit.
“This service adds an additional 300 seats for business and leisure travellers and has allowed the island to welcome 3,012 passengers between April and July this year,” he said.
At the same time, American airline Jetblue expanded its seasonal weekly service on Saturdays to year-round service between Newark Liberty International Airport and Bridgetown, which is also bearing fruit.
Acknowledging the importance of providing visitors with new and exciting experiences Griffith said “A number of new attractions have been added to our mix making it possible for us to further diversify our product offering.”
He singled out the vibrant Festive Fridays experience at the Pelican Craft Centre, which was designed to attract mainly cruise passengers from the nearby Cruise Terminal as well as locals and other tourists and the St Nicholas Abbey Heritage Railway, which opened at the start of this year.
He also pointed to new hotel offerings, which have provided guests with new and exciting experiences.
Griffith said he also believed the growing international awards that the island was receiving would also serve as encouragement for continued improved performance.
So far this year, Barbados has copped several international awards including three at the 2019 Travvy Awards – Best Tourism Board Overall, Silver for the Best Destination Overall and another silver for Best Honeymoon Destination in the Caribbean and the Bahamas.
The destination was also ranked among the top five cruise destinations in the Caribbean for the third year in a row, and named one of Cruise Critic’s best cruise destinations in the southern Caribbean, based on consumer ratings.
“These awards will continue to drive us to perform better and better every year to not only meet expectations, but to exceed them. We will remain committed to ensuring that we showcase the best that Barbados has to offer across all markets and to all visitors,” Griffith pledged.