Last updated: 03:00 PM ET, Thu May 28 2015

Barbados' Land-Based Visitors Up Sharply as Cruise Guests Decline

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | May 28, 2015

Barbados' Land-Based Visitors Up Sharply as Cruise Guests Decline

Photo: Barbados’ St. Lawrence Anglican church. (Photo courtesy of BTMI).

Barbados appears off to a better start on land than sea as the destination seeks to revitalize North American tourism to the country. Land-based, overnight arrivals for the first quarter of 2015 totaled 171,471 visitors, a 15 percent increase over the same period in 2014, said Barbados tourism officials Thursday.

In a statement, the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) officials described the increase “the highest performance in any comparative period in 25 years.” During the period overnight arrivals from the U.S. increased by 27.7 percent; Canadian arrivals grew by 28.4 percent.

“This was a very strong winter season,” said Alvin Jemmott, BTMI’s chairman. “The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has predicted a five percent increase in long-stay arrivals for the region for the year. We believe our performance in this first quarter bodes well for us to comfortably exceed that target.”

BTMI officials attribute the improved 2015 overnight arrivals to “increased airlift capacity; healthy economic conditions in key markets, a commitment to developing new source markets [and] promotional strategies.”

However Barbados’ cruise business continued to struggle in the first quarter of 2015, as arrivals declined by 6.1 percent to 217,139 passengers. The island nation’s cruise arrivals also slipped in 2014, declining 2.2 percent to 557,898 from 570,263 in 2013. That followed a steep 16.4 percent cruise passenger drop for all of 2012 versus 2011.

Nevertheless William Griffith, BTMI’s CEO said the cruise visitor decline is off-set by “a welcomed increase in home porting, which sees ships purchase goods and services from local dairy, retail and other suppliers.” 

Despite its cruise sector struggles, Barbados’s tourism officials are beginning to charts signs of success in attracting more land-based vacationers from North America. The country recorded 519,598 overnight arrivals in 2014 according to Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) data, a modest 2.2 percent increase over 2013.

Even that performance was an improvement over recent years. In 2013 Barbados hosted 508,520 overnight travelers according to CTO data, a 5.2 percent decline from 2012. The country’s 2012 overnight arrivals also fell by more than five percent.

Now Griffith is predicting the overnight arrivals numbers will continue to increase in 2015. Barbados’ total airline capacity between May 1 and October 31 will increase by 3.6 percent said Griffith, driven by “additional flights and the use of larger aircraft” by airlines flying to Barbados. Jet Blue recently announced it will launch direct flights between Boston and Barbados beginning November 7.

Last year Barbados re-organized its tourism marketing and promotional efforts, creating BTMI and the Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA) as replacements for the former Barbados Tourism Authority. BTMI is tasked with marketing Barbados while BTPA focuses on development of the island’s tourism attractions and infrastructure. Griffith, most recently director of tourism for Bermuda, was named BTMI’s CEO.

He predicted a successful summer period for Barbados, adding “there is increasing alignment between our internal operations and structure, and our global strategic marketing efforts.”

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