Government is embarking on a tourism recovery plan with industry partners that will see the island going after more business from the luxury travel market segment.
This was outlined by Minister of Tourism and International Transport Senator Lisa Cummins, who said diversifying the tourism product was more critical at this point as the country continues to seek ways to recover from the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
She was addressing the third quarterly general meeting of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), which was held virtually on Wednesday under the theme Adapting to the Changing Tourism Landscape.
Cummins said that in addition to increased meetings with stakeholders to constantly find solutions to issues as they arise, Government was keen on rolling out several projects and policies by January 2021 that would position Barbados as the southern hub for air and sea travel.
She said part of the forward planning was for the establishment of private hanger services and an overall new business strategy at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) to attract new business, increase air traffic and “benefit from the high-end luxury segment”.
“It was a source of concern to me, from a competitive advantage perspective, to know that there were other destinations in the region whose tarmac at their international airport was full of private planes and their hotels were full with luxury clients because they had developed an aggressive marketing plan to go after that segment of the market,” said Cummins.
“We here in Barbados are creating a new business plan to be able to attract that business here into Barbados.”
She explained that in order to position Bridgetown as the southern hub for air travel, there would be deepening and expansion of partnerships and relationships in existing markets, as well as the formation of new partnerships in new markets.
In addition, Cummins said the island was on its way to becoming a cruise hub, pointing out that local authorities were currently in negotiation with cruise line partners to make Barbados a homeport for southern Caribbean traffic.
To that extent, she said, new itineraries have been developed that would see cruises beginning and ending in Barbados when they resume.
“More importantly for the hotel sector, we have integrated a pre- and post-stay into the marketing efforts around that new product that we are negotiating,” she added.
A major part of the overall tourism recovery plan will be the forecasting of international air traffic and trends in order to come up with models for worst- and best-case scenarios so that proactive steps could be taken.
This, she said, would allow for better planning and authorities being able to instil greater confidence in would-be travellers.
“We have begun a considerable body of work which has brought in the Central Bank of Barbados, the University of the West Indies using big data and analytics, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Financial Corporation of the World Bank along with the national tourism programme of the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, supported by the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI),” Minister Cummins explained.
“We are hoping that we should be in a position in the next two to three months to share that kind of projection data with you,” she told the BHTA members.
The international trade specialist said officials were presently “redesigning the private-public sector partnership approach for the BTMI so that when COVID-19 is in our rear-view mirror, we have an opportunity to emerge with a marketing institution that positions our destination, attractions, our accommodation sector and all that Barbados has to offer on the international stage in a completely reimagined and competitive way”.
Cummins also disclosed that officials were closer to choosing an operator for the Caves of Barbados, pointing out that four bids were received and assessed, and recommendations would be made to Cabinet this week.
She said work was also being done to develop a virtual tourism market for those who are unable to come to the destination; further develop and expand heritage tourism offerings through partnerships; capitalise on opportunities for eco-tourism; “retirement tourism”; and help industry officials upgrade their skills through partnerships with international training institutions.
Chief Executive Officer of the BHTA Senator Rudy Grant reported that the marketing and product development committee had come up with four key initiatives to help market and sell the destination – increased social media presence, business generation strategies, beautification and sustainability policies and deepened partnership with the BTMI.