Chief executive officer of the Barbados Tourism Marketing, Inc. (BTMI), William “Billy” Griffith, says Barbados ecorded “solid” tourism performance in 2018, revealing that the country enjoyed a 2.7 per cent increase in stay-over arrivals last year, compared to the corresponding period in 2017.
In a statement on Saturday, Griffith said that during the course of 2018, the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) welcomed 681,197 visitor arrivals – 17,686 more than 2017.
At the Bridgetown Port, Inc. (BPI), he said the island’s cruise tourism was “significantly impacted” by the effects of vessel redeployments following hurricanes in 2017.
“This was due to the fact that Puerto Rico, the primary homeport for US-based sailings to the southern Caribbean, was severely affected,” Griffith said. “However, Barbados has been resilient, and through new homeporting business, saw a performance of 826,267 arrivals for both transit and homeporting visitors combined.
“I am delighted by this news and what it says about Barbados’ tourism product,” added Griffith. “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 2018,” he continued.
Of the five markets, Griffith said the United States registered the strongest growth with 8.4 per cent, producing 204,830 visitors to the island compared to the 189,022 arrivals in 2017.
He said other Caribbean islands followed, contributing 4.6 per cent growth of business with 77,149 arrivals for the year.
Visitors from Canada grew by 1.8 per cent to 86,723 arrivals, and the United Kingdom contributed 1.4 per cent growth of the business, recording 225,519 arrivals, compared to the 222,346 recorded in 2017, Griffith said.
He attributed the destination’s noteworthy performance to a number of strategic and integrated marketing initiatives, which were deployed across Barbados’ top source markets.
“I must commend our tourism teams, both here and in our global offices, whose efforts were instrumental in us achieving this record 2.7 percent growth,” he said. “They did a great job individually, and that’s reflected when we look at our overall reporting.
“One of the key components in achieving positive tourism performance is, of course, the accessibility of the destination to visitors around the world,” Griffith added. “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, for example the new Copa partnership.”
The tourism chief said that 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 re-commenced December 2018, Griffith said.
Around the same time, he said Thomas Cook added a new weekly flight from London Gatwick, which also recommenced in Winter 2018/19.
In the United States, Griffith said American Airlines announced the addition of a third flight from Miami, which commenced December 19, and a daily flight from Charlotte also started on the same day.
In flights out of Canada, Griffith said West Jet saw an 8 per cent increase in seats last summer between May and October, and last winter, Air Canada also increased capacity by 75 per cent from Montreal, with a large aircraft and three weekly flights.
“Considering the numerous new and increased services, we also saw it important to ensure that we had adequate and quality accommodations available to the additional arriving passengers,” Griffith said.
He also acknowledged the contribution of the new business that the recently opened Sandals Royal located on Maxwell Beach has already brought to Barbados.
“While we celebrate the numerous successes of last year, we are already full-steam ahead with our plans to make sure that 2019 is an equally promising year of growth for Barbados tourism,” he said. “We have high hopes for our new airline partnerships, new hotel accommodations, new product development, and other new marketing activities in which we will be engaging across our source markets.
“We have packaged 2019 as the Year of Wellness and Soft Adventure, where we will be highlighting the different accommodations, attractions and activities the island has to offer to support the growing and lucrative wellness industry and 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,” Griffith continued.