Brexit Fears Fail to Halt Barbados Visitor Spending Growth
Barbados reported a 20 percent visitor spending increase in the first quarter of 2016. (Photo by Brian Major.)
While for some Caribbean islands, Brexit fears include a potential visitor downturn among financially wary Brits, the U.K.’s European Union withdrawal has yet to impact Barbados. New spending and visitors data shows the Caribbean nation rode resurgent popularity with U.S. travelers to record substantial year-over year visitor length-of-stay and expenditure increases in the first quarter of 2016.
A Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) report issued this past week found Barbados visitors spent $337 million in the first quarter of 2016, a 20 percent increase over the $280 million vacationers spent in the country in 2015.
The spending increase resulted from longer and more frequent visitor stays, as average daily spend actually fell 5.6 percent in the first quarter, according to the CTO report. A 14.9 percent increase in visitors’ length of stay coupled with an overall 7.4 percent increase in visitor arrivals during the quarter drove the substantial visitor spending increase.
“We continue to be very encouraged by the positive direction in visitor arrivals and, even more importantly, in visitor expenditure,” said William Griffith, CEO of Barbados Tourism Marking Inc. (BTMI).
U.S. visitors paced traveler spending in Barbados during the first quarter of 2016, increasing 42.4 percent over 2015. U.S. vacationers spent $240.78 daily in Barbados during the quarter, a 22 percent increase over 2015. In addition to “an improved US economy and lower oil prices,” CTO officials cited “additional airlift out of Boston and New York” representing 4,800 new airline seats, as behind the increase traveler visits.
Yet, despite the increased first-quarter U.S. spending by U.S. travelers, Barbados’ primary visitor source remains the U.K., with which it remains linked by colonial history and its official status as an independent British sovereign state. Griffith admitted, “The recent Brexit decision in the UK has posed a challenge in our number one source market.”
U.K. visitors accounted for 43 percent of first quarter 2016 visitor expenditure, spending $146 million, a 15.8 percent year-over-year increase compared with 2015. Meanwhile, expenditures from US visitors totaled $83 million and Canadian visitors spent $53 million in Barbados during the period. Spending by visitors from continental Europe totaled $27 million.
Not surprisingly, the CTO report found travelers spent most on accommodations, with 55.1 percent of expenditures going to the category. Lodging was followed by food and beverages outside of the accommodation establishment, which accounted for 18.2 percent of spending. Also “miscellaneous” spending totaled 10 percent, while transportation, entertainment and recreation and souvenirs each totaled below 10 percent of spending.
Despite the surging arrivals and spending growth BTMI officials remain wary of the Brexit’s potential impact on the country’s growing tourism success, said Griffith. Barbados’ rebounding popularity with U.S. travelers and overall visitor growth follows several years of declines in both areas.
“This is just one quarter so we continue to be very cognizant and focused on sustained success in the tourism sector,” he said.
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