Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Barbados' tourism returns to growth path

Published:Wednesday | March 11, 2015 | 3:00 AM
LIAT aircraft

Barbados' tourism sector has begun to show signs of growth. In 2014, long-stay visitor arrivals increased for the first time in two years by 2.2 per cent to 519,638 visitors, compared to the previous year.

Chairman of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI), Alvin

Jemmott, explained that while there was still some way to go to restore all of the market share lost during the past few years, it was encouraging news for the destination.

"This is admirable considering that our destination is one of the more mature holiday spots in the region, with a very high repeat visitor rate. It also comes against the background that there was a projection of a four per cent decline in arrivals for the year back in December 2013."

Tourism is still the best hope for Barbados' economic recovery, as it generates some 12 per cent of the island's foreign exchange earnings, which are estimated at $4 billion.

There was also a record-breaking number of arrivals in December 2014 when Barbados welcomed 56,132 long-stay visitors, the highest on record in any given month since the April 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup.

increased confidence

BTMI CEO William Griffith explained that the growth in arrivals was due largely to marked economic recovery and growing consumer confidence in the United Kingdom. Barbados' UK arrivals grew by 11 per cent in 2014 to reach 186,858 visitors or 37 per cent of Barbados' total arrivals.

In the United States market, he revealed that visitor arrivals declined by two per cent in 2014. Thus far, the BTMI has been able to replace 82 per cent of the 55,702 seats lost after the withdrawal of the American Airlines service out of JFK. In addition, December was a record month for the US market, with 14,460 arrivals, the third-highest number of December arrivals from the USA to date.

The Canadian market, which was predicted to finish at eight per cent below the 2013 performance, was down by two per cent at the end of 2014.

The Caribbean market experienced a 10 per cent decline in seats via regional carrier LIAT; diminished spending power among potential visitors; and high airfares, which Griffith argued "placed regional travel in an uncompetitive position in some instances, when compared to the cost of international travel." Overall, the Caricom market registered a decline of 9.9 per cent in arrivals.

european dominance

Of note, the European market continued to maintain double-digit growth in 2014. Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium were up 15 per cent, 17 per cent and seven per cent respectively. Italy was also up 13 per cent over 2013. Similarly, arrivals out of Brazil were up by 18 per cent.

The cruise tourism sector registered a two per cent decline in arrivals to reach 557,898 arrivals, and home porting activity was five per cent below the previous year due to a decrease in calls across various lines. However, we welcomed 395 cruise ships, an increase of 21 vessels when compared to 2013. There were 1,164 more cruise stay visitors than in the previous year, with the majority choosing to stay 7-10 days.

2015 Predicted as

'Year of Growth'

Building on the successful growth of the previous year, Barbados' tourism arrivals are projected to increase by five per cent in 2015.

Also for the year, the island has recorded strong levels of visitor arrivals with preliminary figures showing January 2015 being the highest on record for the past 15 years with 56,132 arrivals. The USA grew by 14 per cent to 10,810, the highest on record since 2001. The UK increased by 15 per cent or 2,790 more visitors to a total of 21,355 visitors and Canada made a significant jump of 27 percentage points to reach 10,578 visitors.

To ensure that this growth is sustained in 2015, the BTMI will be combining a new digital marketing strategy and a deeper reliance on research with a new nimble business structure and several collaborative marketing programmes reach their targets.

A new programme dubbed

Brilliant Barbados has been designed "to drive incremental business in the traditionally softer period of the year", Griffith said.

"The battle for growth and sustainability for visitor arrivals will not be won solely by winter performances. It requires greater effort and more targeted marketing activity in the summer and fall months," he added.