TORONTO — Tourism is on the rise in Barbados, and key members of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. want to keep up the momentum with increased lift, new hotels and a focus on food and fun.
According to preliminary statistics, Barbados experienced a 22.9% increase in arrivals from Canada over the past six months (between Jan. 1 to June 30).
“We’ve done a great job of negotiating increased lift from Air Canada and WestJet,” said William Griffith, chief executive officer of BTMI. “And we are seeing a pleasing development of our hotel product on the island.”
While Air Canada has provided nonstop service from Toronto to Barbados for 65 years, it recently introduced a Boeing 777 on the route, and WestJet commenced service last November with four flights weekly from Toronto.
Sandals Barbados opened its doors in January with 280 rooms and 11 restaurants, but there are several other projects in the works — from brand-new to fully refurbished properties. Sugar Bay Barbados is scheduled to open this November in the Garrison Historic Area, and the Savannah Beach Hotel, which was built in the early 19th century, has recently undergone a full upgrade.
“We’ve got a grand vision of returning over 800 rooms that have been closed for the last 10 years, and we’re looking to add approximately 2,300 rooms between now and 2019,” said Griffith. This investment will total US$1 billion.
“When you match the air seats with the hotel product and mix it all up with activities and events, that’s what really brings it all together,” he said. Signature events include the Barbados Open Water Festival and Run Barbados marathon, as well as the Food & Wine and Rum Festival.
BTMI is also promoting the island as a premier culinary destination. This year, the island is welcoming more than 30 new or updated restaurants, from local Bajan flavours to molecular gastronomy.
Griffith points to the island’s other draws, including a low crime rate. “We have a strong infrastructure (and) excellent road networks,” he said. “We’re really rebuilding our hotel product; we’ve got public access to 100% of the beaches.”
BTMI is the newest division of tourism affairs, along with the Barbados Tourism Product Authority, which were built out of the original Barbados Tourism Authority. A new website that will “showcase the uniqueness of the island” is currently in the works. For more information, go to visitbarbados.org.