Barbados’ tourism industry is on a strong growth path with 2015 being a record year.
Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Richard Sealy, in an update on the state of the industry, noted that 2015 was a “turnaround year” with many of the vital signs showing steady improvement.
Long stay arrivals grew by 13.7 percent to reach 591,892, the highest on record. The UK remained Barbados’ no. 1 source market contributing 37 percent of business with a year on year increase of 14.1 percent. The USA market, which represented 25 percent of international visitor arrivals, grew by 25 percent. The Caribbean & Latin America and Canadian markets, which equated to 15.9 percent and 12.6 percent of total long stay arrivals, grew by 13.1 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
Barbados’ growth strategy focused heavily on the diversification of their source markets, including establishing new gateways out of Boston via JetBlue; Bogota, Columbia through Avianca; and a new Thomas Cook service out of Glasgow. The island’s tourism industry also benefitted in 2015 from the introduction of a twice weekly Delta service out of Atlanta and New York, and the switch by Air Canada to a B777 aircraft.
In addition, Barbados shone in the region as the first international destination to receive JetBlue’s new Mint Service, which has since been extended to a once weekly year-round service. The island also copped best destination awards from Expedia, Caribbean Journal and the Telegraph.
The minister also revealed that the new all-inclusive Sandals Barbados, as well as the new Sugar Bay all-inclusive resort, contributed approximately 380 more rooms to the island’s room inventory during the year and contributed in a great way to the increase in new long stay arrivals. The Sandals property is set to construct an additional 220 rooms in 2016, while the new Beaches resort will commence construction at the site of the Almond Beach Resort later this year.
On the cruise front, Barbados registered a 5.1 percent increase in arrivals or 71, 408 to reach 586,615.
There were 394 cruise calls or one less than in 2014. This growth was driven by some 16 new cruise ship calls including visits by mega players, Mein Sheiff 3 and Carnival Britannia. These ships were accommodated following a recent expansion project at the Bridgetown Port.
According to the Central Bank of Barbados tourism’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $133 million in 2015, an increase of six percent and one of the largest increases registered in recent times. Minister Sealy indicated that efforts to increase visitor spend were underway including the development of new attractions and community tourism events.
The minister revealed that in 2016 several plans would be implemented to ensure this positive progress continues, while joining in the jubilee celebrations to mark the nation’s 50th anniversary of independence. Of mention were the establishment of a new European division of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI); the imminent launch of a new destination website; the hosting of Barbados’ leading global tour operators during Connect Barbados 50; and marketing efforts targeting the Diaspora. He added that they would seek to leverage the World Heritage ranking of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison during this historic year with activities that would target cruise passengers in particular.
Sealy also stated he was satisfied with the progress being made toward taking a sustainable approach to tourism, particularly through the island’s participation in the Sustainable Destinations Alliance of the Americas (SDAA).
“With our strong performance and our plans to maintain this growth comes a heightened sense of responsibility to our environment and to ensuring the wider disbursement of the benefits of the sector among the people of Barbados. We also recognized that visitors more than anything want authentic local experiences and this will be a top priority as we develop the sector going forward.”