Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
BARBADOS — The sun-soaked island of Barbados has reported a 2.7% increase in stay-over arrivals in 2018 compared to 2017.
According to Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI), the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) welcomed 681,197 visitor arrivals, 17,686 more than 2017. Cruising also saw a boost last year, largely due to vessel redeployments following the hurricanes of 2017. Through new homeporting business, Barbados saw 826,267 arrivals for both transit and homeporting visitors combined.
“I am delighted by this news and what it says about Barbados’ tourism product,” said William ‘Billy’ Griffith, CEO of BTMI. “It is never easy as a mature destination to maintain growth at these levels in the competitive business landscape in which we operate, but I am pleased that through strategic marketing efforts we have once again proven Barbados’ value as shown by the record number of arrivals at both the air and sea ports throughout 2018.”
Of the island’s top markets, the U.S. registered the strongest growth with 8.4%, producing 204,830 visitors to the island compared to the 189,022 arrivals in 2017. Other Caribbean followed, contributing 4.6% growth with 77,149 arrivals for the year, while Canada grew by 1.8% to 86,723 arrivals.
Here are top highlights from the year:
WestJet saw an 8% increase in seats last summer between May and October, while last winter Air Canada also increased capacity by 75% from Montreal with a large aircraft and three weekly flights.
In the U.S., American Airlines announced an additional third flight from Miami, which commenced Dec. 19, plus a daily flight from Charlotte, also started on the same day.
Barbados’ new partnership with Copa Airlines saw a twice-weekly Barbados-Panama service commence last July 17. IN Winter 2017/2018, the BTMI also joined with GAIA in welcoming Virgin Atlantic’s new London Heathrow twice-weekly service to Barbados, which recommenced December 2018. Around the same time, Thomas Cook added a new weekly flight from London Gatwick, which also recommenced in Winter 2018/19.
A number of hotels were refurbished and reopened ahead of the 2017/2018 Winter season, including Sea Breeze, Fairmont Royal Pavilion, Treasure Beach, and The House.
Griffith also acknowledged the contribution of the new business that the recently opened Sandals Royal, located on Maxwell Beach, has already brought to the island.
Among Barbados’ new attractions are Nickki Beach club, opened at Port Ferdinand, and Virgin Holidays’ Departure Beach, the first-of-its-kind, beachfront departure lounge that opened last December. Most recently, the island welcomed the new Heritage Railway, which offers rides from St. Nicholas Abbey to Cherry Tree Hill.
According to Griffith, 2019 will be the ‘Year of Wellness and Soft Adventure’, during which Barbados’ different accommodations, attractions and activities will be highlighted. “I am confident that with all the new festivals and events centered around health and wellness, we will once again be celebrating a record year come January 2020,” he said.
Up next for the destination is the annual Connect Barbados B2B conference, which sees tour operators from around the world converge on the island to learn more about its many offerings. The conference is scheduled to take place from May 1-4.