More Barbadians are vacationing at home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, creating much-needed business for struggling hotels over the past few months.
However, tourism officials are leaving nothing to chance as they embark on plans to ramp up their staycation marketing campaigns.
The tourism industry has been one of the sectors most impacted by the pandemic, which started to affect the island in March and resulted in the grounding of flights and stagnation in the industry for several months.
While travel has resumed with various protocols in place, this has still not led to any significant increase in visitor arrivals. Additionally, several source markets continue to experience an upsurge in COVID-19 cases, further limiting travel outside those countries. Cruise tourism has also been put on pause.
This has led to local tourism businesses, including hotels, to depend more on locals and visitors from the region.
There has been a noticeable upsurge in staycation specials since the country emerged from lockdown in June. And Chairman of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Rudy Grant said the response to the annual staycation programme, which is usually done during the slower summer period, has been “extremely good”.
He was speaking during one of the BHTA’s quarterly media briefings, which was held virtually on Thursday.
“This has become an important component for hotels over the years. What we have been observing is that more Barbadians have been taking the opportunity to have a vacation in Barbados,” he said.
“In fact, only about three weeks ago, there was a party of 12 persons coming into Barbados and they wanted to stay at a specific hotel, but for the period of time they wanted to stay the rooms were not available, and the rooms were not available because of Barbadians staying at the property.”
Grant said many BHTA members have been reporting “very good responses” to the staycation programme, adding that this was a glimmer of hope for the industry which was suffering from cancellations from the UK and some source markets in Europe as a result of lockdowns in those markets.
He said it was helping to keep people employed and providing “some measure of income to the hotel and allows the opportunity for Barbadians to explore our product”.
However, not satisfied that residents are taking advantage of all the island has to offer, Senator Grant revealed that the BHTA would be working closely with other stakeholders to encourage residents to visit more attractions and other tourism-related services.
“This is a time when many Barbadians would not want to travel to the traditional places they would go, particularly the United States and United Kingdom, so we are looking now to see how we can encourage them not only to stay at hotels but to visit our different tourism enterprises – attractions, go to the restaurants and continue to facilitate the industry,” he said.
Chairman of the BHTA Geoffrey Roach said work was advanced on a revised staycation programme that should be introduced “shortly”.
He said it would “look at staycation from a much broader perspective, so it helps to promote not just a staycation as a stay at a hotel for a long weekend, but incorporate the attractions and all the things you can do across Barbados”.
Recently, the Ministry of Tourism in association with the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI), embarked on a series of meet-and-greet with some tourism operators in an effort to help better market them to both locals and visitors and find solutions to their concerns.