TORONTO — Barbados is seeing a 12% jump from Canada so far this year, for a total of 59,896 visitors from this market in the first eight months of 2017. Staying on course to meet last year’s numbers will require a strong October and November, says Peter Mayers, Director, Canada for Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., “but we’re on track”.
Canada is the second largest market for Barbados, just behind the U.S., which posted a 16% increase in the first eight months of this year with 133,063 visitors.
Mayers hosted trade and consumer media as well as dignitaries including Consul General of Barbados, Haynesley Benn, at an industry event last night at Woodbine Racetrack.
Barbados “didn’t see any major fallout” from the recent hurricanes, except to say that some travellers making winter vacation plans are confusing Barbados with Barbuda, which suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Irma. “We think this is a wonderful opportunity to get the message out there that the Caribbean is still open for business, and that includes Barbados,” said Mayers.
As the Caribbean’s easternmost island Barbados is outside of the typical Atlantic hurricane belt.
Mayers had some news and updates about Barbados. Here are the highlights:
- Access: Air Canada Rouge’s winter service to Barbados starts in late October with daily flights out of Toronto. Then starting in mid-December the frequency bumps up to double-daily, through April, out of Toronto plus there will be flights out of Montreal. WestJet’s winter service to Barbados includes four weekly flights. “Accessibility is very much in our favour,” says Mayers.
- Culinary offering: A lot of Caribbean destinations lay claim to culinary capital status. But Mayers is emphatic on this point: “We remain the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean.” Barbados is home to The Cliff, one of the best reviewed restaurants in the Caribbean, plus many others.Mayers says Barbados will be amping up its culinary product for 2018, including the debut of the new ‘Sugar & Rum Season’ kicking off this December and running through April, and featuring everything from cooking demonstrations to food-themed tours. “All authentic Caribbean experiences,” says Mayers. Barbados is also the birthplace of rum and home to the famous Mount Gay distillery. The Barbados Food & Rum Festival takes place Nov. 16 – 19.
- Accommodation: Barbados has a little bit of everything when it comes to accommodation, says Mayers. Top properties include Hilton Barbados, Colony Club by Elegant Hotels, Fairmont Royal Pavilion (reopening following a reno in November 2017), Sandy Lane, Sandals Barbados (soon to be joined by Sandals Royal Barbados), Almond Beach Resort, Mango Bay, Turtle Beach by Elegant Hotels and Sea Breeze Beach House.“All the categories are very well represented”, from high-end to all-inclusive to new villa destinations including Port Ferdinand and Saint Peter’s. Big-name brands like Sandals Resorts “are brands that are easily identifiable, and that helps us because we can use their marketing muscle,” says Mayers. “The quality of their offering is raising the overall standard of the island.”
- Romance: Destination wedding couples “can arrive on the 2 p.m. Air Canada flight and have a sunset wedding that night,” says Mayers, adding “it’s a recession-proof niche.” The destination wedding and romance market will continue to be a focal point for BTMI.
- Activities & Attractions: Aside from its beautiful beaches – from the rugged Atlantic/East Coast, to the South Coast and West Coast, to world-famous Crane Beach, Barbados is also home to authentic local experiences like the Oistins Fish Fry on Friday nights. A lot of hotels are now incorporating a trip to Oistins into their excursion product, notes Mayers. Barbados’ Island Safari tours also attract big numbers and give visitors the opportunity to see the island’s hidden gems. Barbados’ event calendar is also chock-full, from the Naniki Barbados Music Festival in January, to Crop-Over in the summer months, to Run Barbados in December.
- Friendly people: This is one of the island’s biggest selling points, says Mayers. “There’s the sense on Barbados that you’re in an environment that’s embracing you” as a visitor, he said. “We recognize the importance of tourism.”