Barbados works with partners to make sure new fees don’t put a damper on bookings
Bottom Bay, Barbados

Barbados works with partners to make sure new fees don’t put a damper on bookings

This story originally ran in the August 23, 2018 issue of Travelweek magazine. To get Travelweek delivered to your agency for free, subscribe here.

TORONTO — Will Barbados’ new US$70 per person Airline Travel & Tourism Development Fee (ATTDF), coming into effect Oct. 1 and following on the heels of two other fees introduced earlier this summer, put a dent in bookings to the Southern Caribbean island?

There’s hand-wringing from some corners of the industry that destinations with too many fees risk pricing themselves beyond their core markets, but at least in the case of Barbados, front-line travel agents who know and sell the island say they’re not worried.

Thanks to its positioning as a high-end vacation spot, Barbados-bound clients are less likely to experience sticker-shock with the ATTDF than with other destinations, say agents.

And Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. is all too aware of the price-sensitivity of the Canadian market, and is working to get the right messaging out to its industry partners.

“We appreciate that an increase in prices is a sensitive matter and that’s why we’re working closely with all of our trade partners through this process,” says Peter Mayers, Director, Canada for Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.

The fee, pegged at $70 per person for international travellers (and $35 for CARICOM travellers), will be blended into airfares, so it will be less noticeable than a cash-in-hand surcharge.

Some Barbados-bound travellers might not even notice the difference. In St. John’s, NL, Travel Time TPI Owner Lois Barbour says that in her experience, airfare to Barbados is relatively inexpensive. “So that will probably just bring it on average more in line with [airfare to] other destinations. I do not see it affecting bookings.”

Barbour, a member of the Chairman’s Royal Club for Sandals Resorts, sells a lot of Sandals vacations to Barbados. Many of her clients are booking their Sandals stays and their air separately using points or miles “so in those cases I don’t see that amount making a difference at all.”

Mayers says Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. is working with IATA to ensure the fee is in all of the airlines’ ticketing systems by Oct. 1, so that the new fee will be folded into the ticket.

Like many other destinations around the world Barbados also levies a departure tax ($27.50). And on July 1 hotels and resorts on the island began charging a Room Rate Levy worth between $2.50 and $10 per room, per night. There’s also a new Product Development Levy calculated at a rate of 2.5% on direct tourism services, e.g. car hires. The new taxes stem from an austerity budget tabled by the island’s new government.

Mayers says Barbados’ Ministry of Tourism and International Transport has formed a public-private sector committee to manage the communications and, to some extent, the execution of the changes mandated by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley. “Through that committee we’ve been reviewing and responding to partner queries and concerns and working to make sure the changes are implemented as smoothly as possible,” he said.

Recently Barbados has been seeing record visitor numbers, with a 5% increase in stay-over arrivals in 2017.

Over the course of 2017, Barbados’ Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) welcomed 663,441 visitor arrivals, 31,308 more than 2016.

Cruise arrivals were also up, with 818,752 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.

And 2017 visitor stats for the island put Canada in the #3 spot, after the UK and the U.S. Canada contributed 12.8% of tourism business to the island, up 7.9% for 85,209 arrivals.

Peter Cerda, IATA’s Regional Vice President, The Americas, spoke out against the proliferation of airfare surcharges and fees specifically in the Caribbean at Aviation Day Caribbean this past June. “While there is no denying the budgetary challenges facing many governments in the region, imposing heavy fees and taxes on aviation and air travel negatively affects levels of tourism and business travel – the very things required for a vibrant economy,” said Cerda.

But the Caribbean is not alone when it comes to airfare surcharges and certainly not alone with hotel taxes – or resort fees for that matter, which are rampant in the U.S. According to August 2018 stats from, the top 5 cities for resort fees are Miami ($25 fee/night average at 146 properties), Orlando ($14 fee/night average at 141 properties), Las Vegas ($29 fee/night average at 107 properties), New York ($28 fee/night average at 92 properties) and Oahu ($25 fee/night average at 64 properties).

Even though resort fees are tacked on by the hotels and resorts themselves, not governments, they all add up to a more expensive vacation.

Sandra McLeod with RedDoorTravel in LaSalle, ON says, “My view on these additional fees is pretty simple. If you want to go, you pay.”

McLeod adds: “Many places have ‘local taxes’ with various names. I find it is also positioning with the clients. Often when you explain the fees are for development of the area they usually understand.  Departure taxes are sometimes added to the flight cost so get rolled in. If not, the clients usually accept it as a cost of travel. Hotel taxes called various names such as local taxes are charged in many cities/countries already.”

McLeod says she’s watching to see if any new fees are applied to the cruise lines. “This is the area that could hurt them if the cost is too high. Cruise lines may decide to go elsewhere. As it is now, there are not many cruise lines/itineraries that include Barbados.”

Ultimately, she says, “higher-end clients usually understand and recognize there is a cost to travel to better areas. I don’t think it will make a huge difference for those travelling to Barbados.”

One major stakeholder in Barbados, Sandals Resorts, isn’t concerned either. Sandals spent $65 million on a refresh for Sandals Barbados just a few years ago, while the all-suite Sandals Royal Barbados opened next to Sandals Barbados in December 2017.

“We’ve enjoyed steady occupancy levels since opening our two Sandals resorts in Barbados,” says Maureen Barnes-Smith, Director of Sales & Marketing, Unique Vacations (Canada) Inc.

“With the strength of our brand, as well as the Barbados brand, we don’t anticipate that these fees will have an impact on bookings.”

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