Barbados celebrates record year of tourism, with air & cruise arrivals up for 2017

Barbados celebrates record year of tourism, with air & cruise arrivals up in 2017

BARBADOS — The island of Barbados is enjoying record visitor numbers, with a 5% increase in stay-over arrivals in 2017.

This represents an all-time high for the destination, which Richard Sealy, Minister of Tourism and International Transport attributes to strong marketing.

“It is never easy as a mature tourism 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 2017,” he said.

Over the course of 2017, Barbados’ Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) welcomed 663,441 visitor arrivals, 31,308 more than 2016. The Bridgetown Port Inc. (BPI) also observed tremendous growth, recording 818,752 cruise arrivals over the previous year’s 725,020, for a total increase of 12.9%. Of these cruise arrivals, some 137,541 passengers stayed over in Barbados, above 2016’s total of 130,924.

The United Kingdom was once again the top producer of arrivals to the island with a 33.5% market share. Arrivals from this market were flat compared to 2016, totalling 222,322. The U.S. came in second with 28.4% of business, or 188,970 arrivals for the year, followed by Canada, which contributed 12.8% of business, an increase of 7.9% or 85,209 arrivals

Sealy attributed the destination’s noteworthy performance to a number of strategic and integrated marketing initiatives that were deployed across Barbados’ top source markets. “I must commend our tourism teams both here and in our global offices,” he said, “whose efforts were instrumental in us achieving this record 5% growth.”

Marketing efforts included the launch of two new events created specifically for the softer period of September: the Barbados Beach and Wellness Festival, and the Barbados Cycling Festival. Both events will be returning in 2018.

New air services were also a contributing factor, specifically Virgin Atlantic’s new London Heathrow twice-weekly service that kicked off on Dec. 12, 2017 and will run until Feb. 24, 2018, and Thomas Cook’s weekly flight from London Gatwick, which commenced Dec. 16, 2017 and will run until March 17, 2018.

“One of the key components in achieving positive tourism performance is of course the accessibility of the destination to visitors around the world. Bearing this in mind, we have worked to ensure that we are both maintaining our current airlift while adding new, enticing services to our repertoire,” said Sealy.

As for new accommodations, Barbados saw plenty in recent months, with new hotels like Sea Breeze, Fairmont Royal Pavilion, Treasure Beach, and The House opening ahead of the winter season.

Looking ahead in 2018, Sealy has “high hopes” for new airline partnerships, hotel accommodations and product development, as well as “new marketing activities in which we will be engaging across our source markets”. Part of this will be the National Tourism Programme’s US$20 million loan, which he said will span five years to further develop tourism product marketing and airlift.

“We are also packaging 2018 as the Year of Culinary Experiences and you will therefore see us promoting a lot of the delicious and authentic dining experiences to be had on island, from flying fish to gourmet breadfruit bowls,” Sealy said. “And I am confident that with all we have in the works, we will once again be celebrating a record year come January 2019.”

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