Barbados is poised to take greater advantage of developing trends in tourism, coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic which brought the industry to its knees.
Chairman of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Renée Coppin made the observation on Friday, as she pointed to several areas in which the island could do greater business, including health tourism and food tourism.
Coppin, the long-time owner and operator of Infinity on the Beach Hotel and Pirate’s Inn, said while the island has been doing some business across those and other areas, it was time to ramp up efforts given that the sector continued to “evolve and revolve”.
“I believe that Barbados has never been better suited to the revolution. The major trends in tourism right now are seen to be sustainable tourism which is driven by the reality that we are destroying our very climate that we rely on to live in, and people have never been more conscious of the need not only to reduce their footprint but to have a positive long-term impact on the communities that they visit,” said Coppin.
She stressed that while Barbados’ tourism has always been built on sustainable practices and involvement of tourists in communities, a lot more could be done in those spaces.
“Barbados is also well-placed to explore other major trends in the post-COVID world, such as food tourism. We are an island with over 400 restaurants and that does not include the smaller operators. This links back integrally to the agricultural sector and how we create locally-grown food for both locals and visitors to enjoy,” said Coppin.
“The other emerging trend is experiential or immersive tourism. This, too, is not new to us. People have always come here and immersed themselves in this island,” she added.
Pointing to the experience of some of the guests who stay at her properties, the hotelier said visitors were keen on meaningful engagement “with our history, our culture, our people, our food and our environment”.
“The other new drive is towards an area which truly represents the genesis of Barbados’ tourism and that is wellness tourism. COVID created massive emotional, psychological, and financial pressures on people. The focus for many, therefore, has shifted to their health and wellness,” said Coppin.
“The success of our Welcome Stamp was a signal of the importance of this growing niche and I am happy that we are going to be extending that. People want to lead more balanced lives, enjoying more beautiful spaces with the people they love, and where better to do so than in Barbados?”
Coppin was speaking during a media conference at the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) in Warrens as she joined other industry officials in announcing a special Crop Over staycation deal for Barbadians to coincide with the climax of the Crop Over festival.
Under that deal, residents can book at least two nights and get the third free, between Friday, July 29, and Wednesday, August 3.
Minister of Tourism and International Transport Senator Lisa Cummins gave the assurance that authorities would soon give details on the specific areas that were being pursued in an effort to create a more sustainable tourism product.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Intimate Hotels of Barbados (IHB) Mahmood Patel said while he has noticed a “big shift” by stakeholders to look at issues surrounding sustainability in the sector, the time had come for a consensus on what the development of a more sustainable tourism product should look like, as he welcomed the idea of local tourism being a major part of that plan.
“Local tourism is becoming a big plank post-COVID. People are recognising the importance of the home dollar and the initiative by the Prime Minister, the BTMI, Ministry of Tourism, BHTA and IHB to start a concentrated narrative to develop this sector of our industry, which is circular, local, and sustainable, is more than welcomed,” said Patel.