Barbados does not intend to stop wooing travellers from the United States in favour of trying to get more visitors from the expanding Latin America market.
But acknowledging the potential of that source market, chief executive officer of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) Dr Jens Thraenhart says visitors from that country could be targeted to fill voids left during the low season.
“I think these other source markets may be looking at different products and experiences than the traditional source markets that come in the winter…. So I think there’s definitely potential there,” he told Barbados TODAY during the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) Caribbean Travel Marketplace which was held in San Juan, Puerto Rico this week.
“There’s a lot of opportunity, especially going into what we call the low season because I think what we’re trying to do – and the potential is there – is to really make [Barbados] an all-season destination, and we’re looking at source markets like South America, or even Africa or parts of Europe.”
Thraenhart said airlift is an important factor and the Copa Airlines flights from Panama which started mid-year served as “a great connection” to South America.
He added that the BTMI’s Director of Latin America and the Caribbean Corey Garrett had been working very hard in moving into that market.
However, the BTMI boss stressed that the US market would remain a major focus for the island.
“The US, I think, is a huge potential market and I think we have good airlift out of the US which can be strengthened and there’s a lot of discussion around that,” he said.
He was speaking to Barbados TODAY after Olivier Ponti, Vice President, Insights at ForwardKeys, the CHTA’s data partner, suggested that while the US was leading tourism recovery in the region, it was time for Caribbean countries to tap into the Latin America market which had significant potential.
Ponti said this was particularly crucial given that source markets in Europe while, still important, were facing recession and feeling the shockwaves from the Russia-Ukraine war which, in turn, was having a negative impact on demand for travel.
“Latin America is a great business opportunity for the Caribbean,” Ponti told a CHTA press conference during the 40th Caribbean Travel Market, the first since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the region.
He suggested that the latest statistics pointed to huge potential from the Latin American market, and tapping into that segment rather than depending solely on the traditional source markets could help the regional tourism sector’s efforts to build resilience.
“It’s always good not to put all your eggs in the same basket. We’ve seen that the US and Canada were providing the bulk of visitors to the Caribbean so those markets are, of course, extremely important, but it’s very important as well to start diversifying your origin markets,” he said.
CHTA president Nicola Madden-Greig expressed a similar view.
She also noted that the Dominican Republic, Curacao and Aruba were strongly going after that market and were seeing the returns.
Madden-Greig had earlier indicated that countries in Latin America were among the fastest-growing origin markets for premium class arrivals.
She disclosed that premium class arrivals had recorded a 27 per cent increase over the 2019 pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels, while economy class travel only went up one per cent, indicating that more affluent travellers were coming to the Caribbean. The fastest-growing origin markets for premium class travel were Argentina and Brazil, which increased 154 per cent and 137 per cent, respectively.
Two other South American countries, Chile and Colombia, were also in the top 10, at sixth and eighth with increases of 26 per cent and eight per cent, respectively.