Minister of Tourism and International Transport Senator Lisa Cummins is painting a picture of hope for Barbados’ tourism product this coming summer, as the agency tasked with marketing the island ramps up its promotion efforts.
Cummins reported on Friday that as the June to August summer season approaches, bookings were increasing and she expected it to get even better since most people were booking summer trips last minute, compared to more advanced bookings for the winter season.
“The booking windows for Barbados since around 2018, have been significantly shorter than the winter booking windows. So, if you are three, four, five or six months out from summer it looks a little soft and we start to get a little anxious, and we are concerned that we are not seeing a significant amount of traffic. But as the windows get shorter and it gets closer into summer then you start to see the uptick,” explained Cummins.
“I am happy to share that based on the reports from all of our overseas markets we are seeing a very strong summer season being projected. Our airline partners have already indicated, certainly out of the US market, their load factors are running on average around 75 per cent, and in some instances even higher for some days up to summer,” she reported.
Cummins said a similar picture was being painted for the UK market, adding: “We expect with the launch of this campaign as well as the other programmes already running in the various markets that you will see, especially closer to the summer season, you are going to see an even stronger booking pattern evolving.”
Cummins was speaking with reporters following the unveiling of five poster cards at different notable locations across the island – Bathsheba, St Joseph; Hastings Boardwalk, Christ Church; the Grantley Adams International Airport; Holetown, St James and Golden Square Freedom Park, Bridgetown – a major plank of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) summer campaign.
The poster cards are designed to allow individuals to share memories of Barbados, leave a signature, and take photos and selfies to share with their friends and families and the rest of the world.
Done under the tagline Tourism Forward, this is one of the main activities in the wider summer promotion that is aimed at enticing more people to come to the island and take part in activities during the summer months.
A month ago, the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) expressed concern about a bleak summer, while noting that this June to August period would determine if many of them stayed in business.
“Right now, most of us are what you call skint. So, we are going into a summer period where a lot of us do not have the necessary cash reserves . . . and so we are very mindful of the fact that this summer really is going to matter in terms of the survivability of many of our businesses and many of our members, and we take that very seriously,” said BHTA Chairman Renee Coppin.
With cruise ships from one of the popular cruise lines that usually visit the island during the summer months being decommissioned, taxi and tour operators have also expressed concern about the bleak outlook from cruise business.
However, Minister Cummins said there was a need for more confidence in the Barbados brand among local officials, adding that while the anxiety over the performance of the summer season was not new, they should learn from the COVID-19 experience “that even in the toughest of times, Barbados remained top of mind for many of our travellers, especially those who have been in lockdowns and didn’t have an opportunity to travel for the last two years”.
“We are still seeing the extrapolation coming from the pent-up demand where people haven’t been able to travel for the last two years. We saw that in winter and we expect that we are going to see that continuing throughout summer, and the numbers that are coming in to us already suggest that is going to be the case. So we are quite confident in what the summer season will look like,” she said.
Cummins did not provide projected figures for arrivals. However, she added that there were plans by some airlines out of the US market to expand seat capacity to the island in coming months, as well as at least one new flight from a “non-traditional market” to be announced next month.
Two trial flights from Madrid, Spain are also expected to get started in July, helping to beef up summer visits.
In relation to cruises, Cummins said ships that would usually visit Barbados during the slower summer period but were decommissioned have not been replaced. However, she said the 2022/2023 winter season was already looking promising.