Chief Executive Officer of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI), William Griffith, said on Thursday that, based on the organisation's review, there was a 5.2% increase in stay-over arrivals in the first seven months of 2019 in comparison to the same period last year.
The disclosure follows the Central Bank of Barbados’ estimate, contained in its review of the economy released in early August, that tourism arrivals had increased by 3.9 percent for the first six months of 2019, for an estimated total of 373,000.
Between January and July 2019, said the BTMI, Barbados welcomed almost 435,000 visitors by air, an increase of 21,345 visitors. In the month of July alone, Barbados recorded an 8% increase over July 2018, mainly due to the Crop Over Festival.
Central and South America recorded the highest growth for the first half of 2019 at close to 18% followed by the United States at nearly 11%. Arrivals from Germany and the United Kingdom increased by 8.5% and almost 8% respectively.
The BTMI’s efforts to boost tourism had been helped by Caribbean Airlines, said Mr. Griffith, which had launched its non-stop service between Kingston, Jamaica, and Barbados in April, and JetBlue, which expanded its seasonal weekly service on Saturdays to year-round service from New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport.
The BTMI’s CEO also noted that a number of new attractions had further diversify Barbados’ product offering, including Festive Fridays, a night market at Pelican Centre, aimed mainly at cruise ship passengers. Barbados also welcomed the St. Nicholas Abbey Heritage Railway, which allows guests to experience a train ride on a restored locomotive similar to the train which once serviced Barbados from 1880s until the 1930s. More recently, he said, Barbados opened its newest all-inclusive hotel on the south coast, The Abidah by Accra, which opened its doors in June this year, offering 44 luxury rooms for adults.
Barbados also won several international awards, including three at the 2019 Travvy Awards, and for the third consecutive year was ranked among the top five cruise destinations in the Caribbean. In July, he said, the island was named one of Cruise Critic’s Best Cruise Destinations in the Southern Caribbean based on consumer ratings.
Mr. Griffith noted that the BTMI is gearing up marketing and communications activities to invite all friends and family of Barbados to the island next year under the theme We Gatherin’.
He added that in October, the BTMI will stage the 10th Barbados Food and Rum Festival, showcasing Barbados’ claim to being the birthplace of rum and the culinary capital of the Caribbean. The festival takes place from October 24 to 27 and will feature local and international award-winning chefs and mixologists.
The Barbados Mindful Living Festival will be held from November 22 to 24 followed by the 2019 Run Barbados Marathon Weekend from December 6 to 8, featuring a fun mile, 5k walk, 10k walk and run as well as the half marathon and marathon.
In terms of the rising long stay arrivals, Mr. Griffith noted that “to continuously record year-on-year growth as a mature destination means that we are moving in the right direction.” But he said Barbados needed to “continue to look for new opportunities to reinvent ourselves and remain relevant in this competitive market, while building the resilience of the sector.”
The tourism agency didn’t provide updated arrival numbers for cruise ship passengers, which the central bank noted had fallen by almost two percent for the first half of the year, due to the return of several cruise lines to destinations which had been damaged in the 2017 hurricane season.
The BTMI only said it was pursuing new cruise marketing and product development initiatives, which had resulted in increased cruise arrivals in some months, and would “contribute to longer term growth.”